Guy Mucklow of PCA Predict
Worcester’s PCA Predict has grown rapidly since its launch as Postcode Anywhere back in 2001. In an exclusive interview with BQ, co-founder Guy Mucklow talks growing a successful start-up and succession planning…
If you’ve ever spoken to anyone in a call centre or input your postcode to find your delivery address when buying stuff online, you’ve probably come across PCA Predict without even realising it.
The Worcester-headquartered company has created its own bespoke technology which garners information from the internet to provide data as a service to over 11,000 companies across the globe.
The company was setup by entrepreneurs Guy Mucklow and Jamie Turner back in 2001 and was originally called Postcode Anywhere. Today, it is a glistening jewel in the Midlands’ tech crown.
In an exclusive interview with BQ, Guy explains what inspired the duo to launch PCA Predict, what challenges they had to overcome and why it has proven such a hit.
He said: “Like with many business start-ups, what we set about doing and what we ended up doing were two completely different things.
“We originally set up PubOwner.com, a website aimed at making it easier for pub companies to find potential landlords, senior staff and suppliers.
“However, we were far too early with our timing and our business model was flawed by the fact that the market opportunity was too narrow.
“In the process of setting this company up (which unfortunately failed), we identified a much more attractive opportunity for using the internet to provide data as a service.
“By offering a centrally managed service as an alternative to providing the data on hard media, we believed that we could significantly reduce the distribution cost, eliminate the need for manual updates, whilst also keeping the data as fresh as possible.”
Launching a new business is always challenging and their experience with PubOwner certainly proved that.
However, launching a business in a market which itself was still an emerging sector, was set to be an even greater task.
Guy added: “When PCA was founded at the end of the dot com boom, life was tough.
“Finance people didn’t want to know us as we didn’t have a track record, it was hard to get customers as the internet was a new thing, not widely adopted and largely unproven and existing competitors were more than happy to try every trick in the book to undermine us.
“But wherever there’s adversity there’s an opportunity for trying to prove others wrong.
“Our initial uphill struggle was testing, but looking back it helped to strengthen our confidence and resolve to just make it work.
“Our launch customer was the Passport Agency, which was keen to offer online applications for UK passports. With an anchor customer in place, the business built credibility and the numbers grew quickly.
“Whilst the revenue from these early sales was never enough to keep the “wolf from the door”, they did provide much needed morale boosts when our spirits were flagging and having well-known customer references also helped to add weight to our sales pitches.
“It finally took us four years to break even, but it was worth it.”
Having struggled to secure the finance needed to grow the business, Guy and Jamie bootstrapped the company themselves and built if from the ground up.
Looking back with hindsight, the decision proved a shrewd one and the duo couldn’t be happier with the fact that they didn’t give up any equity in the business.
He added: “We are, and have always been, completely self-funded. When we first established the business back in 2001, we originally considered funding and went to meet a number of venture capitalists. I naively thought that it was a necessary part of the process in getting a start-up going.
“I often refer to the rejection process as being “the best thing that never happened to us” as I ended up funding the business myself and own a large share of the equity and still have a job in the thing I helped to create, which I doubt would be the case if we had taken VC funding.”
The company has since grown rapidly and now boasts offices in New York and Berlin as well as their head office in Worcester. Guy believes this expansion has really helped the business scale new heights and couldn’t be happier with how it has gone.
“Growing in the US is a key objective of ours,” he said. “We have a large share of our market in the UK and like most British businesses are keen to prove that we can “cut it” where it matters in the States.
“After all, the market is six times the size of our domestic market and if we can demonstrate that there's interest in what we do there, then we open up a completely different set of corporate buyers who are generally known to pay a premium for good technology.
“The decision to locate in NYC was based on a number of things, not least of which is that it is three hours closer to our UK base than the West coast, both in time zone and flight times but, more importantly, it is the main centre for digital agencies and ecommerce businesses who are important target customers or channels for our service.
“On top of this we also opened a sales office in Germany last year. We feel we have a great opportunity in the DACH region. Germany is Europe’s second largest online market behind the UK but has almost triple the UK’s current growth potential.”