In a nutshell: Describing itself as ‘the world’s best user experience for extracting insights from written information’, KiteEdge is breaking the mould when it comes to enterprise search. Basing results on professional relevance rather than popularity, and using a different approach to metadata to most of the big players, KiteEdge helps finance professionals to get to the information they need quickly. According to James, KiteEdge helps users find what they’re looking for, but also related information that they might not even know they need to know.
Argella: What’s your background – how did you come to be working in enterprise search for financial professionals?
James Flavin: Via a music degree of course! From music I moved into photography, and having travelled the world with my camera I went into marketing and sales, ending up at a macroeconomic research firm.
It was during discussions around the implementation of MiFID II that I realised the technology existed that could fix the problems of the £20bn investment research market. So, in 2016 I took the potentially foolish decision to chuck in a decent salary when I had a young family and take on the uncertainty of starting a new business.
Argella: What makes you tick as an entrepreneur?
James: The challenge I’ve had with any formal job is that I’ve always thought I could do better! For example, I used to work for a media monitoring agency that measured marketing effectiveness. I realised that there was technology out there that could do the job more effectively, so I convinced the board to give me some money to build and launch a new product. Experiences like that gave me the confidence that I knew what I was doing, and that I understood the potential of cloud technology to take down barriers and make life easier.
Now I run my own business, I have autonomy and accountability and I like this. I’m the biggest shareholder and I take the difficult decisions – and I live or die by those decisions.
What we do is complex, but I enjoy simplifying that complexity, and trying to chart a route through it.
Argella: What do you worry about?
James: Ultimately, there’s very little certainty in this world, and as a business owner you have to learn to navigate that uncertainty.
James: Another challenge I’ve found is that a successful entrepreneur needs multiple headspaces. I’ve always been able to take a helicopter view, and not get too trapped in the detail. But as an entrepreneur, while you need the helicopter view, actually you need to be down in the weeds as well. Being able to tell a compelling story at the right level is difficult. Six months on an accelerator programme in Charlotte, North Carolina taught me just how important it is to tell the right story to the right audience.
Argella: What differences did you see between start ups in the UK and the US?
James: In the US, the story and the energy is more important than the detail – over here it’s the opposite. In the US, if you have a good story and a reason for investors to back you, you can raise a lot of money quickly – more money than you need to get the job done in fact. In the UK, investors expect to see you doing the job before they give you the money you need. It’s a very different attitude to risk – particularly if you’re on the US West Coast.
Argella: As a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you give new and potential founders?
James: You certainly need to have a degree of naivety before you start running your own business. You need to understand, and even embrace that. Often there isn’t a ‘right’ answer – business decisions are complex and there’s only so much you can ever forecast, so a bit of confident naivety will ultimately help you.
Argella: Finally, how have you found working with Argella’s founder, Amar?
James: I’ve known Amar since 2017, when one of our directors suggested we meet for a coffee. He’s been a lead investor for us, which meant we could use his name when we started to raise capital, which was a real asset.
Amar really understands the challenges an entrepreneur faces and what an early-stage business goes through. On top of that he’s got a great network, and is very clear thinking, all of which is valuable.
To find out more about how Argella advises and advances growing tech businesses, visit www.argella.co.uk. For more information on KiteEdge, visit www.kiteedge.co.uk.