Chris Griffiths, founder and CEO of OpenGenius
Chris Griffiths, founder and CEO of OpenGenius, explains how the company is working with the London Stock Exchange as it prepares itself for a potential listing.
Penarth tech firm OpenGenius could be the next Welsh business to go public after being accepted onto the London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme.
The company, which has developed software such as iMindMap and DropTask, was founded by serial entrepreneur Chris Griffiths back in 2006 after he noticed a gap in the market for software which promoted creativity.
He told BQ: “I’ve always been fascinated by the way our minds work and how technology can be adapted to enhance our creative thinking patterns and productivity.
“I’ve ran several businesses over the last 28 years - some successful, some not. I setup my first company when I was 16, and I sold my first company at 25.
“However, as I began to witness the widespread lack of technology software which promoted creativity, I had a vision to create a digital thinking space which included all the characteristics proven to stimulate creative thinking. Soon enough, iMindMap was created.”
Today, the iMindMap software alone has over 1,000,000 users and is recognised in over 150 countries for its flexible Mind Mapping, brainstorming and project planning ability.
The company has also brought other software to market such as DropTask, which has been described by CBS News as a “unique twist on task management.”
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Chris. When he launched the company back in 2006, he didn’t take a salary for three years and he still had to overcome a series of hurdles.
He recalls: “When I had my initial idea to create iMindMap, my main struggle was having no money to even create the first version of the software.
“Most entrepreneurs believe you need to have the money first, and then begin to grow your business. I took a different approach.
“Rather than finding the money to make a product, I established a team who could create the right product.
“I began by looking at the leading brands and experts around the world, I was hunting for people who could deliver exactly what I needed.
“I spent six months negotiating with people from all across the world - including Canada, Australia, Switzerland and the UK. I eventually pulled together a fantastic team who were worth more than any amount of money.
“The team worked with me to eventually achieve a tool which would allow users to brainstorm ideas onto digital devices, whilst emulating the fluidity of hand drawn mind maps to allow creative thinking, during the brainstorming process.
“In return for their invaluable help, we paid them a percentage of the first few years of sales. As the company, and our innovative software iMindMap became increasingly popular, we bought them all out of their royalty agreements.”
From here, Open Genius continued to grow, breaking into Europe, North America and Asia.
Today, the company operates in 150 countries across the globe and Chris believes being based in Wales has played a major part in its rapid growth.
He said: “Wales provides companies with the same sense of excitement and buzz as places like London - except it’s half the price.
“I have found that although we are paying much less than other cities, we still have the credibility of being located in the UK, which is important as 80% of our users are overseas.
“The quality of the workforce here is also very high, and we are able to retain invaluable employees to continue to growth of the company.”
But despite the fast-paced, growing business environment sweeping across Wales, Chris was quick to point out that he still believes there is a lack of access to important resources and industry experts such as investors, advisors, mentors and business partners.
He added: “It [the sector] is expanding at a rapid rate - but we needed to act faster.
“As a start-up company, we were keen to create invaluable relationships with some of the sectors most respected experts, who would provide us with expertise on how to be successful.
“Gaining world-class knowledge from some of the most distinguished experts in business is not an opportunity to be missed.”
Luckily for Chris and the Open Genius team, they sought the support of the London Stock Exchange and were accepted onto its ELITE programme, an accelerator headed up by the LSE and Imperial College Business School.
Chris said: “The LSE’s Elite programme provided the opportunity to receive that advice from the right people. We jumped at the chance to be a part of the programme and were absolutely delighted when we were announced as the first company in Wales to be accepted!”
Since joining the programme in April, the company has grown rapidly. He said: “Since becoming the first Welsh company to be accepted onto LSE’s Elite programme, OpenGenius has been opened up to a wide range of media coverage.
“The exposure, which highlights this incredible achievement and shines a spotlight on our future plans, has allowed our name to be on the tongue of almost every technology focused conversation, especially in Wales.
“We’re an aggressively ambitious fast-growth company, continuously looking to bring on more fresh, great minds to push our company to the best of its abilities and exceed any expectations which have been placed on it.
“We’re aiming for an AIM listing in 24 months, and since joining the program we’ve created a number of technology based jobs in Wales, fighting the nationwide levels of unemployment.
“The floatation will only strive our company to continue its pursuit to solve workplace productivity issues.”
The growth doesn’t stop there either. As well as making Open Genius the next Welsh company to float, Chris also wants to help other Welsh businesses who are hoping to emulate the company's success.
He concluded: “The goal is for OpenGenius to be the first Welsh mass market company to branch out by floating on AIM, an investment market which provides international visibility and credibility for companies.
“The hope is that, following our success with Elite and our impending years of continuous innovation and various achievements, a stream of Welsh companies will begin to follow in our footsteps and showcase the incredible talents this country has to offer.”