Silver Bullet Data Services Group plc (LON:SBDS) Chief Executive Officer Ian James caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss listing on AIM, the ‘death of the cookie’, their heavyweight management team, operating in a regulatory-driven environment, their 4D product and how the funds from the IPO will be used.
Q1: First off, congratulations on your listing on AIM. Can you just tell us a little bit about what Silver Bullet Data Services Group does?
A1: In essence, the company was formed and continues to serve its clients to enable the better return on investment on marketing, through the smart use of data and the technology that delivers that data through their organisation.
We’ve been in business for the last six years doing that with our big global client base, but more recently in the last two years have launched a fantastic product that really responds to the new opportunities that data market presents, especially around the Privacy First Environment which I’m sure we’ll talk more about.
Q2: Let’s talk about that now. How is the business benefiting from the ‘death of the cookie’?
A2: Well, the death of the cookie is a very significant event in the advertising industry. So, just to explain it a little bit, Google and Apple have both sunset the cookie, or the identifier if you like, that has underpinned all of the infrastructure that brands use to connect with their consumers. So this was really clear to us, we’ve been working in this environment with clients for years and about two years ago, it was really clear that this was a seismic shift in the industry and inflection point, if you like, for brands to connect with their customers.
So we looked at it and saw that in the market, actually, there weren’t very many great products that were built to help brands to connect with consumers in a world without cookies or a world without identifiers and saw us an opportunity. So, we launched a product called 4D, which was really built to serve clients in this new post cookie era which is much smarter in terms of the way that it uses data to identify consumers, well rather than consumers it identify what we call contexts or the environments in which consumers are spending time that are relevant to those brands.
With that in mind, 4D really solves the big problem of digital advertising targeting for big consumer brands but within the realms of new regulation and data privacy first so it’s mindful of consumers’ demands for data privacy but giving all the efficacy or the outcomes that brands need to connect with their customers in a meaningful and return on investment way.
Q3: It appears that you have a very heavyweight senior management. Can you tell us more about those please?
A3: Delighted to have a brilliant management team and it’s really testament to the fact that our business is in a real sweet spot in terms of serving its clients so we’ve been able to attract a very great management team. Also, it’s testament to the fact that the progress we’ve made is because we have a great management team so I’m pleased on both fronts.
I was blessed to have a co-founder who has significant experience in the data technology environment, actually was working at Oracle as I was working at Axiom, which I’ll explain more of. Umberto Torrielli, my co-founder, was working at Oracle when we founded the company, he was at Oracle because he was part of the team, they had just been bought in a company called BlueKai, which was a really full runner of the whole data technology industry and that was acquired by Oracle for over $400 million at the time.
Umberto was steeped in capabilities of building out that product and taking that product to market so he brings with him a huge amount of experience, both in entrepreneurship, but also, he worked in big tech.
So, alongside Umberto, he’s really attracted a fantastic product team so in the same vein, we have a fantastic product lead who has Oracle experience himself and more importantly, Marco, our product leader, has deep experience in what we deem to be some of our benchmark competitors, one of which is called Grapeshot. Marco was involved in the product leadership of Grapeshot over the last few years so he brings with him real roadmap experience into Umberto that enables us to be confident that our product D4 really will fly and will benchmark one against a competitive set. So that’s in our product area and our strategy area with Umberto and Marco building out strong teams around those guys.
Importantly, on the commercial side, we were able to attract a very significant Chief Revenue Officer, a gentleman called Mark Pearlstein and Mark joins us from DoubleVerify. DoubleVerify has a great success story in its own right, Mark was part of the team and the leader of the team that took DoubleVerify from around $10 million to $250 million over its life cycle and that business listed recently for over $5 billion in the New York Exchange. So, we were blessed to have Mark as part of our senior management team, but also driving the rollout of our business in the United States with Umberto. Both of those gentlemen are now back in the United States where we see as a huge opportunity for our business.
So, Mark leading that, but of course you need someone to knit all this together so delighted to have Kristen Kelly as our Chief Operating Officer who joins us from Publicis Media Group, one of the biggest media buyers in the world. Publicis represents really one of the type of businesses that are some of our biggest customers, if you like, media agencies are a massive customer for us and for 4D. So, Kristin brings huge amount of data and technology experience from that holding company, Publicis Media where she was a President, and comes over to be our COO where we’ve been knitting together how we embed 4D into agency workflows, but also how we serve our clients in a meaningful way.
We’ve got great financial leadership with Darren Poyton who has led some very big, significant media organisations in the past as our CFO.
So, we’ve got a fantastic management team and I think we’re just in a brilliant points position now for scale.
Q4: Now, you seem to be operating in a regulatory-driven environment. Why is this such a good thing for the company?
A4: Well, regulation really is the catalyst for all of our growth, that shift in regulation and what we call moving to a Privacy First Environment and Privacy First has really started with GDPR.
GDPR has set the benchmark globally for the shift away from, what I think of as the abuse of consumer data to the consumer first data approach and that’s being adopted globally so GDPR is reflected in every market around the world in some shape or form in an equivalent type of regulation so CCPA is the one in California, but there are 10 others in the United States for example and China has adopted similar standards. So this is now a global phenomenon so there is global consumer Privacy First regulation but that’s not the only thing.
The real arbiters of our access to the internet are Apple and Google and those two guys are setting the bar even higher. You’ll see that Apple recently have really hung their hat on privacy as a key tenant of their brand, their big advertising campaign at the moment is all about consumer privacy first. So, privacy is not only a regulatory issue, it’s a consumer issue that’s being responded to by the big tech firms so they are sunsetting ways of tracking consumers around the internet.
We respond to that by providing services to its clients to help them work out how to do this next, a massive growth area for us, but equally as importantly, you have the 4D product that solves for how to talk to, in a meaningful way, those consumers, by brands, in that post cookie consumer privacy era, in a way that stayed in line with that regulation.
Q5: Can you tell us a little bit more about your existing client base and how you’ll sell your 4D product into this?
A5: Our current client base, we have a multitude of global brands that work with us, for example, we’re very lucky and we serve our clients in a meaningful way, Heineken, Jägermeister, Dolce and Gabbana, ITV in the UK, Channel 4 in the UK. How we serve those clients currently is fundamentally, all of those clients have a big question, the big question they ask is “strategically, what do we do with data? How are we going to work with data in the future? How does it work into the fundamentals of our organisation, how we connect with customers and how we leverage the assets that we have”? In a broadcaster sense, that would be the inventory they sell to market, in a FMCG brand like Heineken’s, it’s about “how do I stay connected with my consumers?“
So, those are the big strategic questions that we answer for our clients and then we go about helping them to either plumb in the infrastructure they need, the technology that’s required to help the data flow around the organisations to start to answer some of those big strategic questions, and then make sure that that transformation happens across the organisation, not just in pockets, not just in marketing, but across the whole organisation and often across multiple geographies.
Our big growth opportunity with our big clients is more markets with this digital transformation, with the use of data, applying the use of the data and the technology in multiple geographies and across multiple brands. So, that enables us then to answer the biggest question of all, which comes back to the question we’ve been talking about, which is “how do we make all this data work for us in a Privacy First Environment?”
That naturally walks us towards a natural conversation about applying for 4D, our product, to help them to deploy their media investments so a large part of all of our clients’ marketing activities will be buying digital media to speak to their consumers. That digital media will require a new targeting capability, which is fulfilled by our product for them, so we’re really able to take our clients on a seamless journey through answering their strategic questions and their transformation needs, through our services unit, then into our product opportunity, which is about using our product to help deploy that data that we’ve organised for them in a meaningful way that gets them real return on investment.
Q6: Just turning back to the IPO, Silver Bullet Dara Services Group raised £9.5 million, what will the funds be used for and why list on AIM now?
A6: We’re delighted with AIM, actually. We’re a global company and AIM gives us real stature and credibility because we know that there are opportunities out there for M&A, for example, so it gives us a fantastic paper opportunity to address the inorganic growth, or the growth through acquisition for example, which we could form as mergers.
So, we know there’s an opportunity there, but probably as well, it just gives us credibility as a trading entity with our big clients. We work with big global brands, to do that on a next level, if you like, we need to have the stature and the credibility that AIM brings.
So there’s two really big advantages there and we think there’s a large demand, we know that businesses like us and 4D are very hard for investors to find so we want to make it easy for investors to find and to join us on our journey. So those are the reasons for AIM and I think it’s going to be a great journey.
I think the use of funds is very simple, expand 4D and expand into the United States. So, we already have a beachhead in the United States, as I described with Umberto and Mark already stationed in New York, actually, which the centre of the advertising world in the US. We’re building out teams around them already, we already have 10 people in the United States so we’re going to blow that out in terms of headcount and growth, that’s where a huge amount of our growth is going to come from. We are placing salespeople into Chicago and Los Angeles, but also building out a customer success team out of New York.
We will be continuing, of course, to invest in our 4D product so that will be happening in our current product teams, building our engineering, more engineering, and more development capabilities across the globe, actually in this particular case but London is our hub for our product operations.
So it’s very simple, the use for the funds are expand 4D fast, there’s a huge opportunity in front of us that we need to take now and expand into the United States market faster than we currently have done.