At Tech City News, we’re always keen to shine a light on those who make up the UK’s thriving technology community.
This week, we spoke with Jamie Evans-Parker, CEO of wayve, a UK founded AdTech startup.
He shares his views on the UK’s venture capital investment scene and the challenges he faced when he first founded his business.
Tech vertical: AdTech
Staff count: 18
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Location: Central London
Q: Where did the idea for wayve come from?
The idea first emerged as a solution to common advertising production issues I’d noticed over the years working in the digital creative space. The process of taking multiple design units and translating them into ads was the norm, but it was also very time, and labour, intensive — especially when working with tight budgets as many agencies do. To address this, I started to think about ways in which technology could be used to streamline the process, which would ease workload pressures, and cost.
Q: What’s your background?
I started my AdTech career at digital ad company Tangozebra, where I worked in the technical team before switching focus to help the business enhance its creative capabilities with rich media advertising. After Tangozebra was sold to Google’s DoubleClick in 2007, I started digital creative agency Kodu, where we developed content solutions forbrands including Castrol, Bacardi, Jaeger Le-Coultre, Motorola and VW. When the business was sold to a media group in 2012, I took the opportunity to take some time out and decided to go on my own adventure by creating wayve.
Q: How is it going? Can you share stats on number of users/revenue?
Despite only launching in 2013, we’re already working with some of the UK’s top publishers. We’re now looking to expand into the programmatic space through partnerships with DSPs and agency groups such as Havas and Group M.
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Q: Tell me about your fundraising journey. What challenges did you face when talking to investors and how did you overcome them?
What’s interesting about the UK VC investment scene is how different it is to the US. In the US it’s not unheard of for a startup to have a concept, but no product, and still get funding. In the UK you not only need a product, but you also must be able to demonstrate a strong business case for your technology through active client partnerships. So, there was a lot of work that needed to be done before we could even broach potential investment. We put in the hours and it paid off; we raised our first round in October 2015 from Mercia Fund Management’s SEIS & EIS fund. Right now, we’re pitching for Series A funding and our ability to demonstrate commercial traction makes the process easier. But, there are still more hoops to jump through than in the US, so the journey isn’t over yet.
Q: What advice would you give to companies looking to raise funding?
Stick with it. It’s not easy; there is a lot of work you must do behind the scenes before you can raise funding, and at times it will feel like you’re never going to achieve it. But if you keep at it and focus on your vision, you’ll succeed.
Q: What has been the most challenging part about setting up your company?
For me it was the first part: taking the idea from my head and translating it into a fully-fledged, successful company. I could see an incredible opportunity with wayve but I needed to convince others that it was a great idea in order to build my team and client base. Once you’ve secured that first client deal it gets easier and easier from that stage.
Q: What has been the most enjoyable part about setting up your company?
Watching it grow. Looking around the office the other day, I saw so many dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled people. It doesn’t seem so long ago that it was just me with a pipedream, working out of my bedroom.
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Q: Have you had a mentor? If so, who and what did they do for you?
I’ve been very fortunate to have a fantastic mentor in James Booth, founder and CEO of Scoota. I worked with James at Tangozebra, where he was co-founder and CEO, and I truly believe he is one of the greatest internet pioneers of our time. He sits on wayve’s board of directors and has been brilliant in both advising, and reassuring, during tough times. He’s someone I can always bounce ideas off and it’s great to have him involved.
Q: What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Breaking into the US market is our key focus for the next year, and we plan to be there from early 2017. There are also lots of things we want to do from a product development perspective, so we have several exciting projects on the horizon.
Q: In terms of advice, what do you wish someone had said to you before you first founded wayve?
Don’t do it! [laughs]. This probably sounds generic but just take it one step at a time and not try to do too much in one go. Before you know it you’ll have a couple of years behind you and will be amazed at what you’ve achieved.