#NorthernStars: Interview with Simon Brown (skignz)

27 Oct, 2015

Competing alongside 10 other local startups, Simon Brown cofounder of skignz took to the stage at a busy Sunderland Software Centre and won over the audience landing his company a joint first place.

With a busy schedule ahead of him Simon shares with us his journey so far, including insights into the North East tech industry and his company’s plans for the future.

Can you give me some background on you and your company?

I’m the cofounder & CMO of skignz, a geo location based augmented reality platform that helps place the world’s information around you, when and where you are.

My background has been predominantly in Creative and Brand, having set up and run my own agency for 10 years before exiting through a management buyout. I’ve been described as the archetypal entrepreneur having started over 15 businesses in many different sectors and with varying success.

What are you working on right now?

We are currently delivering a pilot project for the Global travel company TUi group, on the Balearic island of Majorca.

By constantly revising and improving the skignz offering, we have a number of large changes in the pipeline that will significantly improve specific areas of the skignz app.

We are also engaged as an Alpha company for this year’s Websummit in Dublin (2nd-6th November), so a lot of the team’s focus is around preparing for this event in order to maximise the opportunity.


Northern Stars Sunderland-150Where did your idea come from?

skignz (originally Aardvalk) came from a conversation between myself and my Co-Founder Gary Baker, with whom I’d had a working relationship with over the previous 15 years. Gary showed me a few things he’d been playing about with and from that conversation we just seem to keep on going.

Within the first 9 months we secured some POC and beta testing work with Teesside University, before expanding to commercial clients and taking on a small round of investment in order to increase our opportunities for growth.

Explain your business model

skignz is based upon a user acquisition model where we are focussed on constantly increasing the amount of users of skignz. In addition we also work with global brands to provide POC projects with a view to seeing how our technology can be rolled out on a much wider scale.
We recently completed two projects for Diageo, the global drinks brand, which focussed on two of their core brands, Guinness and Smirnoff.


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What’s been the single biggest highlight for your business?

When Mark Zuckerberg quoted us as one of the future companies of AR. That doesn’t happen every day. Also seeing people use skignz for the first time, the wow factor you see and the range of emotions they go through is always a pleasure to see.

Has there been any businesses or entrepreneurs that have inspired you?

I think the people who have most inspired me are Alistair Powell (Cleveland Cable Co.) Steve Gibson (Bulkhall & MFC) and my own father Malcolm Brown (TEAM Services).

Alastair and Steve have proved that regardless of your location, background you can make a truly global business from Teesside. Both of them have gone on to achieve wonderful things and put an awful lot back into the local community.

My father set up his business in 1978, so I’ve lived through all of the ups and downs of a family owned business. Most of all though it’s the reputation he has built for over 40 years that’s stood the test of the time.

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What does success look like for your company?

It’s the clear ambition of skignz to have the business in a position to IPO within 5 years. Whether we go through with an IPO, trade sale or focus on a future growth strategy, either way skignz will be an established global business.

In 5 years we would like to be able to say that skignz is the default AR browser of choice. For skignz to become a ‘verb’, much the same as Google and Hoover.

Want to learn more about skignz?



Written & edited by Noel Peatfield, copywriter specialising in tech. Based in Manchester (UK)
twitter: @noelpeatfield