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What is Skimlinks? How would you explain the business model?
Skimlinks then earns a revenue share on the commissions we pay to publishers.
How have you found starting your own business? What have been the biggest surprises?
It’s been a massive yet rewarding challenge, every step of the way. When you are small you are focused on building big enough to attract investment, but when you grow there are new challenges in terms of scaling and coordinating a larger team of people. The biggest surprise is how enjoyable it is, especially when you are surrounded by a team of enthusiastic passionate people who believe in your vision.
How did you go about fund raising? What was the most difficult aspect of the process?
When we started fund raising we had a very different business: it was a social bookmarking site, and it was hard to raise funding for this sort of site as there were so many competitors and you needed to prove traction with users before a VC would consider investment. As soon as we changed our business to the Skimlinks solution, VCs were much more excited and in the end we had multiple options to consider.
The most difficult aspect of the process is trying to balance the work required to close a funding deal (all the legals, due diligence, negotiations, etc) with continuing to run the business. It’s a very stressful and challenging time.
Skimlinks is seen as a very innovative and exciting new business. How did you come up with the idea and what were the first things you did to get the brand out there?
The Skimlinks technology was originally built as an internal technology for monetising our own user-generated content on our social bookmarking site. When the recession hit, and I realised it was going to be even harder to close a funding deal, I made the drastic but life-saving decision to stop working on the social bookmarking site, and instead commercialise the internal technology so other online publishers could use it to monetise their editorial and user-generated content. Thus was Skimlinks born.
It was such a novel concept that our brand got out there purely by word-of-mouth. Our customers were our best advocates, and we grew quickly just by delivering a great service with flawless service around it.
You have said you think Skimlinks can become the ‘Adsense of Affiliate Marketing’. What does the competitive landscape look like for you and why do you think Skimlinks offers a better solution?
I call Skimlinks the ‘Adsense of Affiliate Marketing’ because we want Skimlinks to be as ubiquitous and mainstream a revenue model for publishers in the same way that Adsense is ubiquitous and mainstream. There are new competitors out there, but with our headstart and coverage, we have an operational and scale advantage. Our product roadmap will no doubt focus on different elements to our competitors.
At the moment what do you think is the most challenging aspect of creating a successful business in your area of the market?
For our publishers to earn more revenue, they need to have a higher quantity of relevant links on their site. Our recently launched SkimKit (www.skimlinks.com/skimkit) aims to address this challenge, and we are working on other ways we can help publishers add more relevant links to their site. Designing innovations that work perfectly in tandem with how publishers operate is the challenge that we have always been great at addressing.
I hear that a big share of your revenues already come from the States. How have you managed to tap in to this market already? Isn’t it even more competitive out there?
Skimlinks technology can work in any geography, the fact we are based in London makes no difference to our ability to scale and to work with international clients. We are liked by our clients because our technology is reliable and been used successfully by thousands of clients for 18 months, and we are regularly in the US meeting with current and new clients all the time.
How big is your team currently and what has been your hiring strategy to date?
We are a team of 22 and we have hired in a combination of ways: from head-hunters and recruitment agents, to putting up our own ads, to word-of-mouth. We hire people when we see people with the ‘fire in their eyes’ – that intelligent passionate spark – which means the whole Skimlinks team are energetic and hungry to succeed.
Outside of your own market, what do you think is the hottest emerging trend or technology right now?
I am fascinated by dynamic banner ads based on behaviour targeting, like Criteo. It’s freaky when you first experience it, but its actually very clever and I imagine very effective.