I’m writing this from my hotel in Bali. A week ago, the Indonesian Government banned all domestic and international flights until the end of May so I’m here in self-isolation for another few weeks. As my unsympathetic family has told me ‘you managed to get stuck in a nice place’. Sometimes things just roll your way.
Self-isolation gives you a lot of time to think (and surf if you happen to be in Bali.) I’ve been thinking about the meandering journey that began when I created Engaging Networks, the technology business I still own and lead today. How exactly did we make it this far?
My undergraduate degree at university was in the social sciences. I remember spending a disproportionate amount of my time on campus developing a vibrant social life when compared to the time spent reading, debating, thinking, or studying. The herculean effort it took to graduate made the thought of any post-graduate study in business absurd. To make matters worse, when I started the company in September 2000 I had no engineering background either.
It occurred to me that, despite my lack of any professional qualification, there has always been a single unifying force, like gravity, leading us to success. This force is really more of a motivation. A motivation that helped me get through untold challenges, navigate difficult decisions and plot a good strategy to create something truly special. This motivation makes us unique amongst our competitors.
Our company is driven by an all-consuming passion to constantly innovate. This is the story of Engaging Networks.
In the early days, we were the first commercial application in several countries to help nonprofits engage their supporters with online political activism. At the time, many politicians didn’t use email at all so we created a hybrid email-fax solution (yes, I know, fax.) It sounds ridiculously basic today but this was pioneering stuff at the time. We were doing something unique and this motivation alone helped me to overcome rejection by organizations that couldn’t understand why they should buy a subscription to something they didn’t think they needed.
Entering the US market ten years ago meant radically increasing our investment in the platform which led to the development of our remarkable page-builder technology. Year in, year out, we release new technology every 6–8 weeks.
This commitment to our product, and the motivation to constantly innovate, drives everything: engineering (of course), marketing, sales, account services, and client support. It’s our DNA. We need to be successful financially so that we can continue to innovate through investment.
Other companies view financial success as the end goal. They lose sight of what they should always keep at the heart of all decision-making: the product. Many of our competitors are owned by private equity investors or public markets. Their products are often left to atrophy while they invest in hiring more salespeople.
What we are doing today is never enough. Two years ago we started the development of a pioneering Machine Learning business called Accessible Intelligence that runs truly revolutionary marketing tools for nonprofits. This technology has the potential to transform the way in which nonprofits communicate with their supporters. It launched this year. Stay tuned for more.
Engaging Networks is a company that employs over 40 people in three offices with clients around the world. Our strategy is simple: follow our motivation.