Interview with Nigel Davies (Claromentis)
Claromentis is an intranet/extranet, process management and web development service.
I interviewed Nigel Davies, Claromentis founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and fourteenth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Nigel!
How would you describe Claromentis in under 50 words?
Claromentis is a dedicated business combining 17-years of experience with a start-up mentality to produce a significant intranet software platform with business-essential functionality. Striving to always be innovative while offering genuine software solutions to businesses on a global scale.
How did you meet Michael Christian?
I was introduced to Mike while he was basically a young fresh architecture graduate in Indonesia – where I lived for 6 years. We had a perfect balance in that I was experienced in business and software sales whereas Mike was dedicated to design and information architecture. We haven’t looked back – Mike and I are the only Directors and we have the same technology versus business expertise as we always had.
What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch Claromentis in 1998?
In the early days we were experimenting with consultancy and websites like a lot of small tech companies – trying to find our way. Then we started building the Claromentis product line mainly because the existing intranet software products were so over priced and clumsy – it just seemed like there was a gap for fresh young software that didn’t cost the earth but still served that corporate market.
How long did it take to put together the initial version of Claromentis?
We really grew Claromentis organically with no outside investment of any kind – we still take the same approach, through all the boom and bust cycles and all the hype between 1998 and now – we have never even had an overdraft! For that reason we didn’t make the first really significant product sales until about 2003, at a guess…
How different is the current version to the one developed 16 years ago?
It’s a completely different world! In terms of the interface, responsive design and mobile apps but importantly the extensive business functionality we’ve spent years building.
Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?
Although we work for a complete spectrum; from the smallest to the largest organisations, I would say that as soon as you have 50 staff or multiple locations then we become a well-suited business platform. A large section of our customers are located in fast moving service sectors with 100 or more staff. There is no upper limit, we are lucky to work for many significant companies that have tens of thousands of staff.
Do you have any features in the pipeline?
Always! We are just about to release a great Digital Asset Management app, an Expenses Module and an updated collaborative Knowledge Base – and we are working on the prototype for a combined project scheduling and time-sheet application that I am personally very excited about. We really want to use that intranet app ourselves actually as our recent growth means we have many projects running simultaneously and our existing approach to using 3rd party products is not holding together well enough. There’s something great about building software to help fix your own problems and improve efficiency as we know that it will also help many of our customers.
On the mobile side we are just starting to work on a new application to push all intranet notifications to phones – both on Android and iPhone.
When did you start to see positive feedback and growth?
That’s actually interesting – we had obvious surges in growth when we first took the product to market – and although there have been a few pauses for breath we have just kept on growing. I can honestly say that our current growth rate of 25% a year is bang on with our business plan, which is probably more by luck than judgement.
Tell us a bit about your background before Claromentis.
I was fortunate enough to travel the word, living in 5 countries including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA and that has given me a huge perspective on some issues that are really invaluable. All of that was in the software industry, but always on the business side rather than writing code.
But yes I did write some code – one of our developers told me that there might still be a line or two of mine in there somewhere, but I think he was just being polite!
You have over 85,000 users worldwide, what has had to change as you’ve grown?
More than anything our internal processes and we have well over 350,000 users now. Of course we use our own software extensively, the scalability of our actual workload was massively important. On the more technical side we recently migrated all of our code to GIT to help, which has worked well for us. To build our intranet platform with the functionality needed to be an essential business tool – like adding a Learning Management System and Business Process Management Module – we had to expand our development teams.
You employee over 10 people, have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers and managers?
Actually we have 4 more joining in the next two weeks which takes us to over 20 employees! Yes – we do find it a challenge. We are lucky as Brighton is a tech hub and that really helps, and a place where young people want to work so that really pulls us along – although of course that also means it’s very competitive.
We are just planning more changes to our work practises to make sure we retain talent as much as we can.
You have offices in Britain, USA and Australia. How difficult is it to manage the different time-zones?
That to be honest it is my personal nightmare – I am sure that some time ago I used to have a life!
We have great partners in both Australia and the USA – and currently looking to extend that to the Middle East.
Where do you see Claromentis in another 16 years time?
I honestly can’t see that far out, although of course it’s always fun to imagine.
We are half way through a 6-year plan that takes us to 30 staff and the kind of financial performance that means we can have meaningful conversations with the investment community – so that’s the current operational focus for the team up to 2016.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Gosh – so much to share – I like business models that naturally grow as your customer base grows – so for example in our case: support contracts, custom development work or SAAS fees give us a model that means we are always starting from a higher baseline each quarter.
And worry about the product – it’s so fashionable to talk about all kinds of marketing and management styles but at the end of the day if the customer loves what you produce, life is a lot easier.
Of course we all say it but people are just so important. We have a great team and that’s what makes coming to work each day so much fun. And it should be fun – shouldn’t it?
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Learning Tango! Just coming up to the end of my first year – it’s such a challenge it makes running Claromentis feel like a walk in the park.
Finished reading? Check out Claromentis!