A Q&A with 4th Aspect Sales Director Neil Jolliffe. The Tyne-and-Wear, UK-based startup has built a cloud-based online marketing tool for in-house teams in mid-to large-sized companies and closed a £400,000 second round of funding earlier this month. Investors include Angel CoFund, Rivers Capital Partners and Tweed Renaissance Investors Capital. It was founded in 2012.
SUB: Please describe 4th Aspect and your primary innovation.
Jolliffe: 4th Aspect was formed to address a particular gap in the market, namely easy-to-use online marketing tools. The companies selling SEO services often stated that they offered a marketing service, but when asked to demonstrate the tools, they were either not there or no more than data taken from Google Analytics. So, we designed and developed a cloud-based marketing tool that allows in-house marketing teams to run, manage, and report on their campaigns. Our product reports on the performance of your site, helps manage social media feeds, links to blogs and forums, keyword management, and APIs to other useful tools such as shopping cart abandonment.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Jolliffe: Our prospective clients are those companies that have an ecommerce presence—they will be the mid-range and larger corporate organizations.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Jolliffe: No single company appears to have a product that has such rich functionality as our own, but we do come across Salesforce Radian6 and Moz.
SUB: What differentiates 4th Aspect from the competition?
Jolliffe: Our software is available as a service that we run on our own cloud or as a product that the client can purchase and run in-house. We are also happy to develop APIs to other tools and data sources.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps took in establishing it?
Jolliffe: The company was founded just over a year ago, in the last five months we have brought on board the team who will drive the company forward and establish our future strategy. In the UK, funding for tech startups is still difficult to find, so getting the right experienced team onboard to satisfy investors is paramount.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for 4th Aspect? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Jolliffe: The three directors of the company had all previously been involved in web development and SaaS [Software-as-a-Service], none of the tools we had looked at for our own use seemed to fit the bill, so like all good entrepreneurial spirits we developed our own. So I suppose it was more a gradual approach to get the company and product to where we are now.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Jolliffe: Initially, we viewed the product we wanted would have four individual functional elements—data analytics, site performance reporting, SEO services, and a project management tool. The product we now offer has become much more functionally rich and covers more than just four elements or aspects. But we can’t keep changing the company name, so 4th Aspect it is.
SUB: You recently closed a £400,000 funding round—your second. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Jolliffe: Outside investors appear to be more optimistic than they were a couple of years ago, online business is still increasing, and we have an ambitious business plan, so to achieve our goals we believed additional investment was required now.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Jolliffe: Like all software products, they need to meet the needs of the market. The online market moves incredibly fast so we are constantly looking at new functionality and ways in which we can present marketing data. We are also embarking on a new direct and channel sales strategy, so the funding will support more product development and increased sales effort.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Jolliffe: No, the funding we have already received will meet our needs. Additional growth and developments will be funded from revenues.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Jolliffe: I have to say we really haven’t had any major obstacles, but I think that’s largely because we have a well-defined business plan and good people to execute it. Having said that, dealing with investment groups can sometimes be a challenge.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Jolliffe: We have two clearly-defined market segments and know who our prospective clients are. We sell a service to mid-range companies who don’t have the in-house facilities to carry out online marketing campaigns; to larger corporations we sell a product that allows them to manage their campaigns in-house.
SUB: What are your goals for 4th Aspect over the next year or so?
Jolliffe: Like all companies we have our plans and goals, but when you’re a startup and running at 500 miles an hour these plans are constantly reviewed. This year is the big year for us—we need to deliver on our sales plan and make our revenue targets from our UK business, then next year it’s time to look for partners outside of the UK, particularly in the U.S.
4th Aspect – www.4thaspect.com