Month: May 2014

Quill ranks 20th in Startups’ list of 100 most exciting and innovative companies in the UK

Hot on the heels of being shortlsted as a Rising Star at GP Bullhound’s Media Momentum awards and included in the Santander Breakthrough50 list, we’re thrilled to announce that Quill has been ranked 20th in the Startups 100.

The Startups 100 is a list of the UK’s most exciting and innovative high-growth start ups. This year, the index saw more applications than ever before. You can view the winners here.

Smedvig Capital invests £3.5m in Vive Unique to accelerate growth

by Jordan Mayo

Smedvig Capital, the London-based venture capital firm, has invested £3.5m of growth capital into Vive Unique, the specialist home rental company which offers a fully managed service for London homeowners to rent out their homes whilst they are away. The average London home owner using Vive Unique’s service has received more than £1,000 per week.

With Vive Unique’s service, homeowners in London can now effortlessly earn extra income from their homes whilst they are away. Vive Unique manage every element of the process, from housekeeping to property management and around-the-clock customer service. Bespoke insurance is also included as a standard for homeowners.

For guests, the service is popular with families and business travellers who want a more homely experience with the convenience and comfort of a professionally managed service – a cost effective alternative to staying in a hotel or serviced apartment.

The market for short lets and holiday rentals in London is growing rapidly and is likely to account for a significant portion of the city’s large hotel market. Vive Unique has already shown impressive growth since it was launched in 2011 by co-founders Claire Whisker and Jonny Morris, and has already signed up hundreds of homeowners.

Smedvig Capital’s investment and hands-on support will accelerate Vive Unique’s plans to build out the existing team and to expand both homeowner and guest marketing activity. The team hope to grow quickly the number of homeowners and guests using the service.

Jordan Mayo, a Managing Director at Smedvig Capital commented, “We have been impressed by the rapid growth of Vive Unique, and the outstanding level of service delivered to both homeowners and guests. Following our previous investments in Streetcar and Zipcar, we are excited to be backing another business within the rapidly growing collaborative consumption space. We look forward to working with Jonny and Claire to reach their goal of becoming the number one short let and holiday rental provider in London.”

Jonny Morris, Vive Unique CEO, commented, “We are delighted to welcome Smedvig Capital as investors and see them as the ideal partner for our business. We are impressed with the success they have achieved at comparable technology-led service businesses and are excited by the expertise they bring with them. We are keen to invest in our technology and operations as we strive to bring outstanding levels of service and complete convenience to the home rental industry. We look forward to working closely with Smedvig as we pursue our vision for growth and innovation at Vive Unique.”

Quill named one of the UK’s top 50 most exciting fast-growth companies

We’re thrilled to announce that Quill has been named one of the UK’s top 50 most exciting fast-growth companies in the Santander Breakthrough 50 Awards. Selected from a number of competitive entries, the Breakthrough 50 is comprised of businesses that are finding new ways to transform established industries.

Quill’s vision goes beyond the definition of content marketing as they look to build the first genuinely agile, global content creation capability. Their goal is to lead the transformation of the media landscape by enabling businesses to become better publishers and they’re delighted to have been recognised as one of businesses that is pushing the UK economy forward. You can view the full list of winners here.

B2B sales: Not just about great salespeople (though it never hurts!)

By Johnny Hewett, CEO Smedvig Capital, originally posted on

Creating a successful sales team goes beyond simply finding those that can sell fridges to Eskimos.

Inevitably, and correctly, there is a lot of focus in earlier stage businesses on the nature of the product or service.

Is it better, different, cheaper, easier etc than its incumbent competition and/or is it truly disruptive? Equally importantly does the customer agree, or as Rob Ryan puts it in his book on entrepreneurship, ‘Does the dog like the dog food?’.

However, even if some or all of the above attributes turn out to be true and the dogs do indeed love the dog food, the success of the company will be critically dependent on its ability to introduce effectively the product or service to its potential customer base – this is where sales and marketing need to earn their spurs.

Whilst marketing has an equally vital part to play, particularly in defining clearly what the core company message is and ensuring that every element of communication and collateral reinforces it, for the purposes of this piece, I am going to focus on sales.

We have all met great salespeople with the magical ‘can sell fridges to Eskimos’ skill, and they are very valuable. However, finding them is non-trivial and even if found, they and all other merely mortal salespeople can be made vastly more effective by the correct preparation, structured approach and data driven oversight and support.

There are a number of steps in that process that represent a lot of work, but is time very well invested. Many of these things will sound obvious but it is surprising how often the desire to ‘get out there’ dominates comprehensive sales force planning. It is also interesting to note that the best person to deliver this analysis and implement highly effective sales force management is often not the best salesman, and may even be non-revenue generating directly – a tough decision for an earlier stage company.

The first step is developing a full understanding of the optimal target customers. In essence this is an exercise in understanding the trade-offs between the scale of the opportunity and the likelihood of winning business. The former is generally easier to assess than the latter and should be done initially at an appropriately high level – such as by industry vertical and geography rather than individual company basis.

Likelihood of winning is harder to assess in most situations given the large number of elements to consider including, but by no means limited to: relative product/service attributes; nature of competition; relative price position; brand sensitivity and ease of switching – but a structured and thoughtful exercise allows some bucketing of likely success.

The output of this exercise put simply: the key target universe provides the core data for the subsequent routes to market analysis to establish the best way to approach those targets. This in turn helps define the appropriate sales structure both in terms of number, role and relevant experience. Even with this in place, there is much to do in system terms to drive the team’s effectiveness.

Ensuring all the relevant data is collected to allow clear KPIs to chart performance by individual beyond simply revenue generated will help identify early who and what is done well with appropriate focus on, or change for, what is not. It will likely include number of leads generated, ratio of meetings held, sales generated, sales growth from existing clients over time and so on.

With the right metrics established, it is then important to review the compensation system to ensure that it drives the desired behaviour. This may be as simple as sales revenue booked – but margin achieved may be relevant as will other factors such as how revenue involving more than one salesperson is handled, as this will be vital to deliver strong team dynamics and mutual support.

None of the above replaces the need for careful hiring of the right sales personnel, marketing delivering the right materials or indeed having the right product, but it will go a long way to making any sales force more effective – even if they can sell fridges to Eskimos.