INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Simon Shaw of Fifty Technology Ltd Tells Us How Technology Gave His Startup a Sporting Chance to Succeed
We talked to Simon Shaw on how Fifty Technology Ltd is a technology company focused on large scale analysis of Social Media data to fundamentally redefine how organizations understand and engage their customers.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simon Shaw: Juggling two very small children and a remote workforce has been challenging but also enlightening. To establish that the company can go from being office-based to 100% remote within 24 hours, without losing effectiveness was exciting.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Fifty Technology Ltd.
Simon Shaw: My background is as a professional sailor, having won 7 individual and team gold medals at World Championship level. Understanding how boats go fastest involves crunching a lot of data – a bit like Formula 1. I was interested in this data and found ways to visualize the results to allow my team to make gains over our competitors. I then turned my attention to using big data analysis to find sailing fans to support the professional teams. We found that we could use the same approach to help brands understand their audiences better – and that’s how Fifty got started. The company is named after the approximate Latitude of Cowes – arguably the home of sailing in the UK.
We’ve come a long way since Fifty’s founding in 2015. Using our Fifty insights platform, we can now seamlessly build custom audience insights and segments, which are beautifully presented in our online dashboard, as well as activate that intelligence to inform media buying – all at the click of a button. That is the magic of Fifty.
How does Fifty Technology Ltd innovate?
Simon Shaw: We have the word “innovation” as one of our core values. This gives us a big responsibility to continue to innovate and not just the technology team. We are constantly looking for ways to work better or smarter and are early adopters of applications to help us to do this. For example, the way we manage our growing team is via an HR application called “Charlie,” which was only beta testing when we adopted it. Our mission statement is to “transform” how our clients understand their audiences, which gives us a pretty strong incentive to keep pushing forward. If our client experience is no longer transformative – we will have failed, and we are not prepared to allow that to happen.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Simon Shaw: Aside from the need to work remotely, some of our clients have been hit dramatically by the pandemic, and this has meant that we needed to refocus on some other industry sectors. For example, pre-COVID, we were very successful in Travel, Cruises, Theatre, and Live Events, and clients in these sectors have had to effectively pause their businesses. While we hope to work with clients in these sectors again when things start returning to normal – we have opened relationships with new clients in businesses who are less affected by the pandemic. We have been able to help D2C businesses, in food and beverages, for example, to grow their businesses dramatically in 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Simon Shaw: At the start of the pandemic, we were uncertain about how long it would take to recover lost ground, so a third of the company were furloughed, and everyone took a salary cut. We felt that it was most important to get through the year with cash in the bank that would help us grow quickly again after the crisis eased and that this would be more beneficial for our team in the long term than the effects of a short-term sacrifice. By August, I’m pleased to say that all staff had returned from furlough and we were able to re-instate full salaries.
The pandemic’s disruption was a real test for the entire team, but one that they passed with flying colors. Sport teaches you to rally together through tough times, and this period has definitely tested our resolve. We were forced to adapt and look for new types of clients in new growth sectors – and do it quickly! And as a result, company growth (as measured by new clients through the door and their spending with us) is now considerably higher than it has ever been. We haven’t just dealt with the knock of COVID-19, and we have emerged from it stronger.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Fifty Technology Ltd in the future?
Simon Shaw: We all experience stress and anxiety and at all levels through the company. We have become accustomed to making regular “check-ins” with our team to ensure they are coping, and our career reviews are now done on a quarterly rather than an annual basis. I think we have learned from this that the personal circumstances of each team member are important. Whether they live alone or have suitable facilities to work at home are key considerations. Our HR system, “Charlie,” also provides access to online guides and support for mental and physical health.
This year we have increased our visibility externally. We realized that our work could reveal fascinating insights into consumer behavior. While our clients were receiving this data as part of our service – we have been publishing consumer trends more widely, via LinkedIn, for example. This has opened up new audiences for the Fifties of companies looking for ways to unlock their businesses’ growth.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Simon Shaw: There are a number of companies who aim to help clients target their digital media more effectively, but the biggest barrier to using our services is often inertia; companies choosing to plan and buy their campaigns the way they always have.
Breaking this inertia is made possible by transforming how potential clients understand their audiences and showing them something they didn’t know; in a way, they have never seen before. This is the beauty of our technology.
Going forward, we believe our privacy-by-design, cookie-less targeting solutions will become the benchmark for the way brands manage their digital campaigns.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Shaw: You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.
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