Q&A: James Henderson from Zephr
by Ellen Corsie, on 3 June, 2020
As part of the research into the 2020 UK Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, we reached out to some of the UK's key marketing technology vendors.
We chatted on what makes them tick, what makes their companies successful, and gained valuable insights to the current & future state of martech.
James Henderson, CEO: Zephr
In one Tweet (now 286 characters) describe your company for anyone not familiar?
Zephr allows any business to create highly personalised digital experiences entirely code-free. Products and packages can deployed in minutes to give every customer the perfect offer, just for them.
Can you tell us a little bit more about you and how the business came about?
Zephr was founded in 2018 after incubating within my first business. We realised that many of the firm's customers were struggling with the same thing - trying to create optimised pathways for their many different types of audience - and spending millions a year to build bespoke tools. Zephr was created to solve that problem - better value and much faster.
What do you think has been the driving force behind your growth to date?
Our product is truly a step above what is available on the market today. Our focus on delivering a no-code user-experience coupled with edge-side technology means we are far faster to implement, far easier to use, far cheaper to run and far simpler to get value from.
What have been some the toughest moments with the business?
Launching Zephr out of the incubator in 2019 was tough and scary when you realise it's time to go it alone! But since then, it's been a wild and brilliant ride.
Bootstrapping SaaS is seriously tough, I would only recommend it for those who are laser focused. Our first global customer was pretty scary as there was only a few of us in the team, thankfully we have built a super resilient infrastructure now and can handle any size or scale customer. From an organisational perspective, spinning out one company from another is extremely hard, you have to be really particular about the process you take to be fair to everyone involved and to lock in the future viability of IP and contracts, I could talk for hours on that process! Finally, raising money from the right VC is tough. I believe to adequately scale a SaaS organisation you need this external capital but you have to be strategic about how you raise it and not be tempted to take easy money. Signing with a VC is like getting married - the process needs to be tough to ensure you make the right decisions.
What books, publications or individuals do you take inspiration from?
Ben Thompson is an absolute hero of mine, he has an incredible subscription newsletter; Stratechery and a great Podcast called Exponent. I love Principles by Ray Dalio as it forces you to strip back to what’s really important. For any founder of a business I would recommend The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, there is something comforting to learn from that even the best entrepreneurs find it tough!
What's the best advice you've received for scaling your business?
Never let yourself be diverted by what you wish to beleive. Think only and solely, what are the facts? - Bertrand Russell
Finally if we fast forward 5 years where will Zephr be, and how do you think the marketing space will have evolved?
We expect to have blown past £100M in annual recurring revenue, with major footprints in SaaS, media and telcos. The marketing space will be one where 1:1 personalisation of products will be the norm, where every consumer gets a unique, specific experience built just for them. This won’t just be a business imperative but a newly empowered consumer will simply demand more from there business they choose to engage with.
Get your high resolution version of the UK 2020 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic here