Founded in Manchester and New York, Northern Tech Awards winner RealityMine provides information to companies on how customers use their mobile devices and what fuels their buying decisions.
Set up in 2012 by Garry Partington and Rolfe Swinton, the company’s products are used in more than 20 countries worldwide. RealityMine employs around 90 people and further expansion is the key goal over the next few years.
We spoke to CEO Garry about his ambitions and why collaboration in the digital sector is playing such an important role in putting Manchester on the tech map.
What’s the RealityMine startup story?
I was CEO of another company, Apadmi, that I founded seven years ago. During that time, I bumped into someone looking to commission a project around developing a solution for a market research project. I thought that ‘actually, this is very interesting, let’s create something more meaningful out of this, that we can turn into a product’. We ended up turning it into a company and building RealityMine.
My co-founder Rolfe Swinton is in New York and I’m based out of Manchester, so we attacked both sides of the pond. Rolfe is Canadian and went to college in Cambridge and Yale.
I still have the other company that I started with three co-founders, and I’m now its chairman.
What challenges did you face starting out?
It was building the technology platform with a very limited number of people and doing that in a way that met the needs of our early customer base.
We had so few people and we were starting from nothing, and we were building something new here so we had to solve problems all the time.
There were lots of long hours and thinking outside the box – how can we do things differently and create a solution that gives us the data we need in a way that’s scalable?
There was a lot we had to do in terms of processing the data and being clever about the way we were building things into the platform to collect as much data as possible.
Recruitment wasn’t an issue back then and it’s not been a big issue to date.
We’ve won a few awards and we are doing things around data and mobile in multiple countries, which is quite sexy to a number of developers.
Some other companies I know do have that challenge around recruitment.
The number one business problem is having the right people on the bus. Usually it’s because of the recruitment process and that’s something I’ve worked on for 10 years to hone.
We know what we’re looking for at every stage – we interview by telephone, face to face and carry out aptitude testing. We have questions to find out whether people have got the right attitude as well as the skills
What are your main challenges now?
Now the challenges are about running multiple country operations and sales teams in these different markets.
Today the company has offices in Australia, Toronto, Manchester, London, California and New York.
The challenge is to keep the team together and focused, working to the same common goals, and aligned in strategy and communication.
We’ve invested in communication tools – we use video conferencing a lot, the phone, and we meet up as regularly as we can justify.
What are the key drivers for growth in your sector?
There is a change in the way data on behaviour is being collected for research and we’re at the forefront.
We are providing tools used by the biggest players in the sector as well as the data sets.
Growth around the sector itself is growing by a smaller amount, but our digital data collection is growing very fast – $42 billion is being spend in our area and we’re playing very, very strongly and trying to take a bigger big share.
We will have £10million in revenues this year so there are a lot of growth opportunities.
Why did you choose to start in Manchester?
Manchester is a great place to recruit developers. The cost base is good, I’ve been based here for a long period and it made perfect sense.
I’ve been running companies in Manchester for 17 years now.
There were no negatives.
What’s the digital tech scene like locally?
It’s improving massively. In some parts, that’s due to events like Business Rocks, and the Northern Tech Awards.
There are lots of community events and small networking events for tech businesses and the challenges people have.
The sector is hotting up, the scene is definitely getting more interesting with people wanting to collaborate and not complete. That’s really good and will make a lot of difference.
We should stop looking at differences within Manchester – our competitors are not the people around us, and we should collaborate. The exposure for Manchester could be huge.
We’ve talked about the importance of collaboration. How does this help RealityMine?
We try to work with local companies; it’s always good to meet people and work together.
If you share what you’re doing, the likelihood is that you can create better solutions through collaboration than what you can do on your own.
That’s where we’re focused.
You won the Judges’ Award for Innovation – what does that mean for the development of RealityMine?
That’s a great accolade for us to receive. All our business is based around technology innovation, so for that to be to be recognised by our peers and the industry is something we’re really proud of.
Are events like the Northern Tech Awards important for the digital sector?
The Northern Tech Awards are a great event for the sector to bring people together to network and talk.
There are multiple companies at different stages in their journey. We see ourselves at the next stage of our journey but there were also companies there with $1 million turnovers. It’s amazing to see them and meet people who have been through challenges and are going through challenges.
Life as a CEO can get a little lonely so it’s good to get advice from people around you and offer advice to people willing to listen.
What’s the next step for RealityMine?
The next step is to continue the growth of the business. We took on a lot of people last year and we’re now in a position to take advantage of them.
We’ll be expanding the product base into more countries, and formulising the growth and focusing on product areas where we have unique differentiators.
So we’ll be focusing on growth for the next three years.
We’re very appreciative of winning the award and what is being done by Tech North to assist the sector; it’s great for the future of Manchester and the North.
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