In this series, we’ll meet the winners of Northern Stars 2017. What makes 10 of the best startups from across the North of England tick? Let’s find out…
This time, we meet Michael Common, CEO of Nivo.
What’s your company’s elevator pitch?
Nobody likes sitting on call waiting. We provide a messaging solution that prevents people from ever having to phone service providers like banks, lenders, insurance companies, utilities, telecoms, healthcare providers and public services again. It delivers trust and convenience, where the current messaging options available only have one or the other.
How did the company get started?
We’re the first, early stage intrapreneurial spin out from Barclays Bank. Whilst working for Barclays, we won an open banking competition (the world’s biggest fintech hackathon) where we’d demonstrated the power of messaging in revolutionising how people engage with service providers.
Off the back of that victory, we successfully applied to be on the world’s premier fintech accelerator (Barclays Techstars), built our proposition and agreed with Barclays to spin our multi-award winning team out as an independent company.
Now we’ve successfully closed a private seed raise, we’re well on the way to doing just that.
What are you looking to get out of Northern Stars?
With Barclays signed up as our first customer, and our second customer now agreed, we’re looking to get even more clients up and running on our solution.
We’re hoping Northern Stars will spread the word about our company as well as being another endorsement of the strength of our products. It is also a great way to connect with other technology businesses in the North so that we can work together to make the North of England an even stronger place to build innovative tech.
What’s your biggest business challenge?
Whilst everyone understands the ultimate potential of our products, many industries we’re selling into tend to be quite conservative and risk-averse. This means many decision makers follow trends rather than setting them.
Our biggest challenge is to identify the decision makers who aren’t afraid to be the first into something. We need those people to work with us in the early days, to use our product, to help us shape it and prioritise the features that will have the highest value for them.
Through that relationship, we can really reward their faith in us by ensuring they are the first to benefit from the increased customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and growth opportunities our products can deliver.
What was it like to pitch in the Grand Final?
Fantastic. It was such a great venue and such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere amongst the companies, the organisers and attendees (even the judges managed to avoid being intimidating).
The Tech North team had clearly put in a huge effort to ensure everything ran as smoothly as it did and getting such a fantastic set of companies to pitch. It was definitely nerve wracking (as pitching to big crowds always is) but I was really pleased with how things went and I was buzzing when I came off stage. Winning obviously was the cherry on a fantastic day.
Where do you see your company in two years’ time?
I think there will be a turning point for us in that time period. At the moment, the challenge is bringing on early adopters. Once we have those, I think we’ll continue to be kept busy working with them to embed and develop our products.
After those early adopters are driving significant value, the next phase of the business will begin. We’ll start to see a lot of inbound demand. I’d hope to be at that point within two years, and our problem then becomes how we cope with that demand, and scaling our team and products across other industries and around the world.
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