James Wickes is the chief executive and co-founder of CCTV data management firm, Cloudview. Here, he speaks to GrowthBusiness on how he grew the business to turn over £2.5 million in five short years, with 80 per cent year-on-year growth.
What does your business do?
Every day the world’s CCTV systems process over 800 petabytes of data. That’s about 15 times the amount that Google processes, yet only around 2 per cent of this data ever sees the light of day. Cloudview consolidates visual data from CCTV systems, encrypts it and stores it securely in the cloud, enabling users to easily see and manage it and creating the potential for new, useful ways to apply it.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It was personal experience – after an attempted break-in at my home I found that, although many neighbours had CCTV and the housing estate where I lived had CCTV at the entrances, it was incredibly difficult to access footage and piece together the sequence of events to help the police identify those responsible. We take the ability to access and share photos and video for granted these days, but with regular CCTV it’s either cumbersome or downright impossible. I decided it was high time CCTV technology joined the Internet of Things.
How did you know there was a market for it?
As vision is our most used and effective sense, it’s surprising that we don’t use this data more in management and decision-making. Visual data accounts for 70 per cent of traffic across the internet today so it seems obvious that the prevailing ‘off-line’ nature of CCTV is unsustainable.
How did you raise funding, and why?
I initially used my own capital and raised capital from friends and family. We’ve used it to technically develop the service, with particular focus on the boring stuff such as scalability, reliability, performance and security.
Describe your business model in brief
Our business model is quite simple. We provide a cloud-based subscription service that is a significant improvement on conventional CCTV and offers our users additional business advantages through enabling them to make further use of their visual data. We constantly improve the quality and features of the service to give our customers a good reason to stick with us.
Your lowest point was…
Unsurprisingly, the CCTV industry and many users are very resistant to change. My lowest point came after being told by a large corporate that they would standardise on Cloudview, when the decision was reversed after their head of security threatened to resign unless the status quo continued.
Your highest point was…
As I write I am yet to reach it but a big marker was a prospective client scolding me for using the acronym “CCTV”. He said, “I am not interested in CCTV, I want to know how you can help me exploit my visual data.” That was music to my ears.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
It’s important not to over-intellectualise your opportunity as you’ll find a reason not to act on it – best just to get on with it. There’s lots of young talent bursting with new ideas but many lack the confidence and belief in themselves to take the plunge. Plenty of people will tell you why something isn’t possible, and we often use their comments as excuses, or as evidence to shore up our own fears. My advice is to get on with it. Surround yourself with a strong team, including creative people, legal advisers and accountants, as well as good mentors who can keep you going when times get tough. Being a leader means getting your team to share your vision and delivering it together.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
The company has grown exponentially since we launched but from past experience it doesn’t work well to fantasise about the future! I hope Cloudview becomes the de-facto standard for anyone that needs easy, secure access to any or all of their visual data from any location on any device – in other words, we become extremely big.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…
A shepherd. When some land next to my home in Surrey came up for sale, I bought it as I didn’t want to see it built on, and thought that if I bought a few sheep they could do a lot of the maintenance. I now have a small flock who are utterly indifferent to me. Britain’s good fortune is built largely on the back of sheep and we should try not to lose this strong tradition.
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
In the early Cloudview days, I was suckered into the collective misapprehension that somehow CCTV was outside IT. This blinkered my view of the huge opportunity represented by visual data.
What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?
I’m here by chance. I’ll keep on taking them.