By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette
We first encountered Screenreach Interactive and its founder, Paul Rawlings, several months ago when we featured Jon Bradford, the man behind U.K. startup accelerators The Difference Engine and Springboard.
Rawlings and Screenreach completed the first cycle of The Difference Engine’s 13-week program in 2010. When we asked Bradford for an example of a successful graduate from that program, he was quick to sing Rawlings’ praises.
“He was not proprietary about his ideas, he was very open to new suggestions, new directions and wasn’t wedded to, ‘Look, this is what I’m doing and I’m not going to listen to anybody else,’” Bradford said.
“I think having an open mind, being able to listen, to react in a positive fashion was probably the making of him. He was also not very selfish about bringing in other team members, making sure he had a good team around him beyond the program itself. One of his mentors (Sam Morton, pictured right in the photo below with Rawlings) became one of his members of staff.”
There was no doubt in our minds that Rawlings is a man with an open mind. He has, after all, agreed to share with us Screenreach’s evolving story, warts and all, in the hope that there will be insights and lessons learned here that will resonate with other entrepreneurs working to bring their technology to market.
What is Screenreach?
Screenreach’s flagship product, Screach, is an interactive digital media platform that allows a brand to create a real-time, two-way interactive experience between a smart device (through the Screach app) and any content, on any screen or just within the mobile device itself. Using Screach, the smart phone can become a game controller, quiz answer pad, a voting and polling tool, a bingo card, a roulette table or a number of other things to engage and interact with consumers.
“The cool thing about it is that it allows you to profile your users to learn more about them and measure your ROI, and to also reward consumers for interacting,” Rawlings said. “It allows you to bring your ad, event, TV program or radio show to life by allowing your consumer to interact with you straight from their smartphone.”
How did it come about?
Rawlings began his career creating sales order processing and marketing systems for businesses including Burger King and European electronics retailer Dixons. In 2009, he built several Twitter-based businesses, including Twe2, a free SMS provider for Twitter which he sold privately, and a social auction website called Tweba.
When he began work on what would become Screenreach, Rawlings turned to The Difference Engine.
“The ability to get my head down and really focus on the product for 13 weeks was very appealing,” he said. “I knew that being in an environment where I was surrounded by people all working towards the same goal would be very inspiring.”
Through The Difference Engine program, Rawlings garnered the feedback he needed to refine the product. It was also here that he met his co-founder and COO, Morton.
Rawlings and Morton then connected with entrepreneur Tom Maxfield, who helped build global enterprise software vendor Sage.
“I met Tom at an entrepreneur’s dinner event and he loved Screach, as Tom was one of the original minds behind Sage, we were obviously really keen to get him on board,” said Rawlings. “He became our first investor, investing £250,000.”
That investment in August 2010 was followed by another £500,000 by Christmas of that year from Hotspur Capital Partners.
“Since then, it’s been a whirlwind journey of launching the product to the world and building an ambitious team that can work together and overcome each new challenge that is thrown at us,” Rawlings said.
In March, Screenreach launched Screach to the world at DEMO Conference in Palm Springs, Calif. Screach is targeted at the digital signage, radio, print and live events and broadcast television industries. Screenreach’s client list already includes Newcastle United Football Club, Microsoft, TEDx and GMG Radio.
Screenreach has grown to 20 staff since its launch a year ago, is generating initial revenue and looking forward to moving ahead at full steam in 2012.
“It’s a year that we believe is going to be even more eventful than the first so we’re very excited to be bringing you regular news of our progress and the challenges we come across on the way,” Rawlings said.
“There’s a general sense of ambition and excitement within the team, our culture is something that’s very important to us,” he added. “We tackle challenges together, irrespective of your skills or role within the company. If something needs resolving we all do it together. I think it has given everyone a sense of ownership; it’s good to know that your product is in the hands of a team that feel as passionate about it as you do. There’s no tiptoeing around a situation, if someone disagrees with something we throw it out there and then decide what’s best.”
With a number of new clients coming on board, recruitment is going to be a key focus in the next few months along with the growth of the business and the launch of new Screach projects. In next month’s post, we will explore how the startup is dealing with the dynamic of having to rapidly grow its team.
This is the first article in a continuing monthly series that will chronicle the growth path of Screenreach Interactive, a startup based in Newcastle upon Tyne in England’s North East. Screenreach’s flagship product, Screach, is an interactive digital media platform that allows users to create real-time, two-way interactive experiences between a smart device (through the Screach app) and any content, on any screen or just within the mobile device itself. We invite your feedback.