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Exclusive Interview: Emma Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of Memberoo

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Emma Smith, Co-founder and CEO of software company, Memberoo talks to Business News Wales. She tells us about how she and fellow co-founder Don Kier, developed the business and their plans for the next five years. Emma also talks digital innovation development in the loyalty market in Wales.

Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Memberoo?

I am co-founder (with Don Keir) and CEO of Memberoo; we started the company in 2013, though we spent first 18 months figuring out our proposition and our product idea. We launched the company properly in January 2015.

What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?

Over the next five years we are looking to grow the product throughout the UK, and ultimately hoping to take it international. Our main challenge is trying to communicate what we are doing, since it’s quite innovative and more a martech (marketing technology) platform. On the outside we do look quite similar to our competitors, but we are in fact very different, so we are trying to educate the market about what we do, and why it’s good for them.

Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?

Of course there are, lots of them, but I feel that every mistake is an opportunity to learn and as long as you are learning when it doesn’t go quite right then that is what really matters.

What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?

Finding a really good team, and empowering them to be the best they can be. We need to share the responsibility of building a company together. Having a successful start-up is too big a job for one person, so we need to find talented people and have them do what they do best in order to drive us forward.

What are your top three tips for success?

  • Have a great team.
  • Have a great idea.
  • Have fun, because without that there is no motivation.

Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?

Yes, personalisation. Over the last 20 years, digital personalisation of the rewards and loyalty market has been everywhere, but has been out of the reach of small businesses. It’s why we came up with Memberoo, to empower SME’s with this kind or personalisation without them having to spend a lot of money on consultants.

Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?

Brexit will be an interesting time, it’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth.

Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?

I wish I did! No one knows, and that is the challenge. I hope that it won’t have a negative impact and it will work out as a good thing, I guess that’s what we all want really.

What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

I think the passion of the people that live and work in Wales for all things local is a huge strength. I think a weakness is the struggle to build a business outside of the big city centres. We should be encouraging more investment and growth in more disparate areas, and work on the transport links to be able to facilitate that.

What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?

Losing the Severn bridge tolls is a good start in terms of getting people from outside of Wales to come in. I would like to see more incentives for companies to work in areas outside of the big cities, otherwise all the investment; interest and growth will only be concentrated in one or two major areas. There’s a lot of stuff happening outside of Cardiff that people should know about.

What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?

All things coding, computers and tech is vital. Tech innovation, engineering, all things STEM in schools and universities, is hugely important especially with Brexit on the horizon. A lot of tech talent does come from overseas, and if immigration is going to be a major issue then we need to be cultivating those skills in our schools now.

How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?

Similar to the previous question It’s hugely important, we need to be making sure that skills being learnt and emphasised in higher education, and even secondary school level are the things that businesses are going to need over the next 10 – 15 years. There are some great programs at universities such as the National Software Academy at Cardiff University that are doing great work preparing students for a great future in the tech industry in the next 10 – 15 years.