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P | P | P – our chat with Seek Software

We caught up with Adrian Mitchell, Founder and MD at Seek Software, a Bristol-based tech start-up developing their first product “Brijj”, a workflow tool for Analytics & Insight Teams.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success this far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Alex @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?

Adrian: I am the CEO of Seek Software and Creator of our first product Brijj.io, a workflow management software for Data, Insight and Analytics Teams. The purpose of any Insight or Data project is to deliver positive change for the organisation, and Brijj ultimately provides functionality which significantly improves project success throughout the process. From Initial Requests, Gathering & Validating requirements, Modelling, Insight Delivery, all the way to Action Tracking and Outcome Assessment.

A platform like ours is hugely valuable because project success depends firstly on improving connections between technical individuals who create Insights, and business decision-makers who consume them. And secondly, having a process in place to track and manage the Insight delivery lifecycle from start to finish. This is what Brijj does, and we believe it’s the first such product on the market dedicated to delivering this for organisations of any size.

Alex @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and Service / Product?

Adrian: I’ve been in Insight for around 15 years. I went from a self-taught Data Analyst to a Divisional BI Development Lead with stints as a Head of Research & Reporting, Customer Analytics Lead, Data Manager and everything in between. I’ve been lucky enough to work across multiple sectors in varying degrees of technical maturity from purely Excel-based Analytics, all the way to organisations experimenting in Machine Learning and Streaming Data. Regardless of where I’ve been, throughout, there have been two consistent themes. Firstly, the best Insights rely on the connections between who builds Insights, and those who use them. And secondly, implementing systems and processes that help manage and improve the delivery of Insights, but which don’t create tensions in those vital connections is extremely difficult.

I’d been looking for platforms which could help gather requests, build requirements, deliver, and track the business actions and outcomes that resulted from my team’s efforts for years. I couldn’t find a platform that too many of my customers wouldn’t try to avoid, like say JIRA, or wasn’t prohibitively expensive to roll out to the entire organisation. That’s something any solution must have because the one thing you don’t want is to limit your team’s exposure. The alternative, just managing through email and spreadsheets, wasn’t a viable long term and robust solution either if I wanted to establish best-in-class performance.

So as is often the case for many tech start-ups, because I couldn’t find it…I decided to build it! Because Brijj is a specialist platform, rather than a general product like Monday.com, it allows our development team to focus on solving the problems Data, Analytics and Insight Teams face. Happily, this also means it can deliver instant value at an extremely cost-effective rate.

Alex @ ADLIB: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?

Adrian: Our biggest challenge so far has been sourcing the right development team. At this stage of our journey, we made the strategic decision to use an external agency to do the bulk of technical development, allowing us to focus on Product Design.

We spoke to a total of 11 agencies based in the UK, Europe, the US and India, and it was a difficult and arduous process for sure. For us, it’s clear that there is so much technical talent out there, that it’s often challenging to differentiate between different suppliers and talent pools. Once we established a baseline of ability, the difference came down to subjective criteria like cultural fit, flexibility and understanding of our vision. For me, the same has been true when hiring during my Analytics career.

Establishing whether a person ‘can do the job’ is easy. The key is asking ‘will they do the job’. Do they have the values you are looking for? Are you both willing to flex to deliver under your unique circumstances, do they get what you are trying to achieve? Do they have the innate will to help you make it happen? We feel that so far, we’ve found the agency which will deliver for us.

We understand though that the transition from an external supplier to further building out our internal team is going to be a vital stage of our development. That’s a decision for the future, but I’ll use my previous outlook as a basis for those decisions, and I’m sure I’ll learn an awful lot along the way.

Alex @ ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit or sales cycles?

Adrian: Luckily I have quite a bit of experience in research, so the basis of our understanding market fit has been around two research projects we ran. Firstly, we surveyed ~700 “office-based workers” to find out what is important to both Insight Creators and Consumers and to see where organisations can improve the most. Some fascinating facts came from this research, and it formed the basis to us understanding how vital the connection between people truly is. For example, one of the most critical factors for consumers is being updated on the status of their work. In contrast, it’s a factor they identify as needing the most improvement. It seems like such a simple and obvious thing, however worryingly, Insight Creators didn’t realise there was such a problem in this regard. That’s one gap of many we intend to bridge with our product.

After some product development, we also convened some panel research with 12 “Insight Leaders”, ranging from CIO’s to various Analytics & Data Directors / Managers from the UK, Europe and the US. They helped us assess the viability of our product and provide us with feedback on how it can improve. As an example, how important our low flat pricing model is, allowing access to the platform for the entire organisation, was validated from these conversations.

Alex @ ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Service offering with potential?

Adrian: For us, it’s been keeping our ambitions in check. While we’re lucky to have funding which allows us to go further than some start-ups, we still have so many ideas to include in the product that we’ve had to think hard about what we release first.

Our development partner has been great for us in this, helping us to build an initial product that will provide our customers with true value. But with a roadmap that will help them to realise the true potential in their data for years to come.

Alex @ ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Adrian: Luckily for us, my Co-Founder is an expert in Finance, and has been involved in funding his own businesses in the past. Still, the truth is I would have never won his confidence in our vision and plans if I hadn’t have had a plan with revenue and profitability at its core. He has helped keep us grounded and focused on the importance of achieving self-sufficiency and profitability as quickly as possible. In my conversations over the years of planning this business, sometimes it appears that “growth comes first” and you work out how to make profit later.

Now, I understand that often works, but for us, we plan on a different approach more akin to the way it appears that BaseCamp and Aha! have grown. It’s a founder and CEO’s job to have an ultimate vision, an objective to make a big impact. For us, it’s to build products which help organisations realise the true potential of Data and Insight, with a vision to become the standard in data, analytics and insight workflow management. But the reality is we need profits to make that happen.

I think if Founders articulate not just their vision but a profitable vision from the very beginning, funding often follows.

Thank You for sharing!