First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tony Meyers: We are all fine. I follow stoic philosophy, so when the initial lockdown happened, I basically stopped working on the business for a couple of months to re-evaluate the situation. My focus was on adjusting to the new normal as well as trying to take advantage of volatility in the markets. I did well and made a great return on my investments. The staff carried on running the business.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stock in the Channel.
Tony Meyers: In my last year of university, I started my first company. By age 23, I knew I would never get a job. My first business had recurring revenue. That became a common factor for the rest of my life. In those early days, I made myself a promise; every 7 years, I would start again. In 1997 I started up an eCommerce software company. We also floated a vertical portal on NASDAQ.
By 2007 I decided to “get big, get niche or get out,” So we got out of the eCommerce software market (customer stayed until 2018) and established.
How does Stock in the Channel innovate?
Tony Meyers: It started with blue sky thinking – the IT industry needs its own search engine was the premise. We wanted to unlock data held in corporate databases and thus inaccessible to Google. The idea had to be validated, so we approached 11 target customers and engaged with them on a qualitative basis trying to understand their pain points. On the basis of their feedback, we decided to go ahead. After the initial launch, the point was to move laterally in the market and welcome micro-niches into our model and thus build our users.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tony Meyers: Naturally, all staff now work at home. Initially, with the lockdown, searches collapsed. By late April, there was a boom to catch up on what was missed, and also, the move for everyone to work from home made the IT business super busy. In May, searches settled down at about 30% less than normal. Predictions suggested that 25% of the customers could go bankrupt – but the IT industry does not sit still, so by July, things were back to business as usual.
Cloud adoption accelerated hugely, and on the back of that, we started to develop services to assist the IT industry in dealing with supplying these services to their customers. This should be a massive new business area for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tony Meyers: There were no difficult choices. We just carried on.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Tony Meyers: Studying Stoic philosophy. The lockdown caused me to give up the day job for the first couple of months, as mentioned above. I have 5 kids, and with none of them at school, my wife went crazy trying to get them to study. My approach is to move more slowly and reflectively on a personal level as this enables long term change. Hence, those who adapted quickly to the home-based life may have had more bumps on the road as time passes.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tony Meyers: We are unique. Competitors who come into the market as me twos or even me threes and basically copy our model will always be behind. If they were truly inventive, they would not just copy our model. Only if they are truly inventive will they be able to see the second bounce of the ball. Hence the fall by the wayside. If anyone were ever to start making a success as a competitor, we have planned actions to undermine their success. Half our money comes from selling advertising; hence we can still live even if we don’t charge for subscription services.
Your final thoughts?
Tony Meyers: We are converting our office to a collaborative workspace. The staff will likely continue to work from home as a permanent change. In our recruitment, we will no longer discriminate against someone due to their physical location. We accept applications from anyone, anywhere. If this non-discriminatory approach becomes widespread and tech companies employ more staff in the developing world, a more equitable society will result.