Imagine you run a small B&B in a British seaside town. You know that each day potential customers are searching ‘seaside towns to visit in the UK’, ‘accommodation’, ‘B&Bs’ and more. So how can you grab their attention before your competitors do?
There’s a lot to be said for always following your gut. From hiring staff, through to expansion decisions, your instinct never lies!
The answer lies in search retargeting. As online technology has advanced over the last few years this advertising method has become increasingly popular. It works by identifying users who are searching relevant terms to your business. Advanced cookie technology then recognises these users as potential customers even if they have never heard of you or visited your site before. They will then start to see your branded display ads linking through to your website when they are next surfing the web, reading blogs or visiting social media sites.
Two young British entrepreneurs, Adam Ludwin and Dominic Joseph, were quick off the mark in seeing the potential for search retargeting and set up their business, Captify, in 2011. Since launching they have gone from strength to strength. This year they went up against hundreds of new British businesses in the Startups Top 100 Index (an annual list of the UK’s 100 most exciting new companies) and came out on top.
Co-founder, Adam Ludwin, tells us how Captify has gone from a small tech startup to a business with global potential.
Where it all began
“Captify was formed in 2011 by myself and business partner, Dominic Joseph – and both of us have a pretty unconventional past.
I set up my first business – a performance marketing network/agency – at the age of 21 from my mother’s hallway after dropping out of university to pursue a career in the city. Growing that business led me to meet Dom, who was running the sales team at a leading UK advertising network after a previous career touring as a drummer in a band.
We both spent several months studying the market and saw that there was a massive opportunity within search retargeting. We agreed that this was where we should be focusing our attention. From there we pulled together our business plan, accumulated our money and invested in the launch of Captify.”
How Captify works
“Captify offers advertisers a way to serve banner adverts to the most relevant audiences by using clever technology to identify the search intent of users online. We have put a lot of time and energy into developing our technology to ensure we have the most cutting-edge form of this type of programmatic display advertising online. Our hard work has paid off and we are now an award-winning business at the forefront of search retargeting in Europe.”
Growing the business
“Since founding the business over three years ago, we now have 48 staff, along with offices in London, Hamburg and Kiev.
As a young startup, we found that the key to business growth success was sourcing venture capital funding. Once we had funding under our belt we could afford to hire many of the ad tech industry’s well-respected names who are experts in their fields.
Having these seniors on board offered the younger and more inexperienced of us the opportunity to learn directly from the best in each department. As founders, this also helped us to constantly challenge our ideas to ensure we are always making the best decisions for the business.”
Winning the 2014 Startups 100 Index
“This year we were honoured and delighted to be awarded top spot for the Startups 100 Index. Every year, the award seeks to create a definitive list of the UK’s 100 most exciting new companies with the biggest growth potential. We were up against a record number of entrants so it was a great achievement for us: to be recognised for this award was testament to all the ‘Captifyers’ that have gone above and beyond to make the company the success it is today.
The accolade has also helped with our brand recognition. As a B2B business it has given us better opportunity to attract more qualified job applicants and compete with renowned brands such as Google or Amazon due to our increased profile.”
Tech startup challenges
“Launching a tech startup comes with challenges in all shapes and sizes. The nature of these challenges usually evolves throughout the business cycle. The first challenge we encountered was finding the right developer with skill sets that we felt could manage such an innovative product build.
This challenge was then followed by the cost to develop the technology which, from the start, was self-funded by Dom and myself. As we continued to grow rapidly we had to fund the cash flow by setting up an invoice-discounting facility which, being a tech startup, was not straightforward.
One of the biggest challenges we had to face was the fact that we were competing with US businesses that were heavily backed by venture capital firms with deep pockets. For us, sourcing venture capital funding was crucial to our fast growth.
Finally, as any fast growth business will tell you, recruiting the right people is always a tricky challenge. We knew that we needed experienced people so we were keen to hire non-corporate senior staff who would fit in with the teams and have enough passion to be hands-on.”
Reaping the rewards
“We have had so many rewarding experiences since launching. For me personally, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing all of our loyal staff that have grown and continue to grow with the business. After only three years in business it’s great to see them establishing good names for themselves within the industry and progressing their careers as experts in search retargeting.”
“We are extremely excited about the future of Captify. More and more opportunities are opening up to take our search retargeting technology further afield. Whilst we are currently search retargeting leaders within Europe, we want to focus on expanding and going global within the next few years. We already have two offices overseas along with our head office in London, and have many more international plans, along with the continued rapid UK growth.”
3 tips for early tech startups
“As a tech startup there are so many things to consider, from funding to employing the right people. If you’re thinking about launching a tech startup I would say it’s important to keep these three things in mind:
- Always hire for passion and enthusiasm. These factors along with the eagerness to learn is how we’ve obtained some of our best and most loyal staff.
- Make sure you have a board of people around you that can add value. For us, as young entrepreneurs, it was vital to have people involved that have experience. Some grey hairs go a long way.
- There’s a lot to be said for always following your gut. From hiring staff, through to expansion decisions, your instinct never lies!”