Business Advice sat down with Imogen Wethered, CEO and co-founder of Qudini, a virtual platform enabling brands with physical locations to optimise in-store customer experiences.
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Imogen Wethered and I’m the CEO and co-founder of a leading customer experience management platform called Qudini.
In 2012, I attended a hackathon, where I first crossed paths with Fraser Hardy (my business partner and co-founder).
We had a vision of enabling retailers and restaurants to increase conversions and footfall whilst also reducing operational inefficiencies with innovative virtual queue management technology. Our team won the hackathon with our initial idea for Qudini, and we have been building the company ever since.
Our technology can manage queues and walk-in customers requiring a service, with additional functionality that allows brands to take bookings for appointments and events online.
How long have you been around for?
I’ve been working in tech for the last five years, launching Qudini in 2012. I have learnt so much about tech and business, and really believe the best way to learn is being thrown in at the deep end and learning through application.
Like our product, my technical knowledge and skills have grown so much, and Fraser and I really enjoy collaboration.
I caveat that I can’t code myself, but my role is to define strategy and work with clients, and I believe product is a key part of both these roles. Product is the future vision of the company, and a key part of working with customers.
How do you make money?
By offering a customer experience management cloud based platform which is hardware, device and network agnostic, we have enabled our customers to be able to increase revenues and reduce inefficiencies within their businesses.
This is done through our easy to manage virtual queue, appointment booking and event management software that enables retailers to notify customers once a representative is available to speak with them in-store, or to collect products at an allocated point in-store.
What makes you different and why should people take notice?
Our platform is hardware agnostic, meaning customers are not forced into buyer lock-in in having to purchase a kiosk or device with the company’s technologies installed.
We want our customers to be able to manage and use our platform as works with their business models, ensuring their customer pain points are dealt with in the most efficient way possible.
The second point is that we are constantly listening to market and customer feedback to develop our product accordingly. With over 88 per cent of purchases still being made in-store, we want to ensure that retailers continue to help change the traditional mind-set of the bricks-and-mortar store from one that has been transaction-focused to service-based.
What was key in terms of getting started?
As we started the business fresh out of university, we didn’t have much capital or experience. We applied for Telefonica’s accelerator, Wayra, and took part in the nine-month program.
At such an early stage, the ability to gain funding in a key UK startup ecosystem, and work alongside 18 other founders starting their business, was an incredible learning experience that accelerated Qudini.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
One of my biggest achievements to date has been seeing my vision becoming a reality. Over the last few years, I have raised £2.4m in equity investment from John Lewis and private investors, whilst also growing the business organically.
Also, I created deals with FTSE 100 enterprise retailers including O2, House of Fraser and Telefonica Global within the first three years of starting out, alongside organic sales.
Since then, the company has formed partnerships and sold to businesses in retail, NHS, hospitality and museum brands in the UK, Europe and EMEA and was recently recognised as a Gartner Cool Vendor.
Not only that, we have created over 30 jobs in the UK and are expanding exponentially.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
Over the last five years, I wouldn’t say that we have had many setbacks. I would say one of the key challenges for our business to date has been recruiting high calibre developers and members of the technical team.
Recruiting best-in-class developers has always been a challenge and still continues to be one. We have found the job market for developers extremely competitive and there seems to be quite a skills shortage. The main focus for my co-founder and I has been to build a great place to work.
We also need to ensure we are listening and evolving to market requirements, and continue to be adept and attune to emerging technologies and trends enhancing customer experiences and increasing retail revenues for organisations.
In five years’ time, I will be…
Looking to increase market share in EMEA and APAC. We are working with an array of retailers in these markets, and will be focusing on the virtual queue management, appointment booking, click and collect, request assistance and event bookings spaces.
With ambitious growth plans and targets, we are looking to increase revenue fourfold in these spaces through retailers and brands. We will also look to solidify our share of voice in the customer experience management space as the go-to platform for retailers. Watch this space!
Extending our product and service offering will continue to be a key focus for us. We will hopefully help to redefine the perception of the retail industry through the use of best-in-class customer experience management technology.
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
As a mentor to other young entrepreneurs, I am an avid believer in the role of education in helping to shape and define industries.
I would encourage all those starting out to have a solid understanding as to what your vision looks like, define the markets you would like your business to be in and most importantly, make sure that you can define what sets you apart from your competitors.
After that, hard work, determination, attracting the right investment and employing the right people with the right skillsets.
Who are your business heroes and why?
Elon Musk, because of his ability to run multiple incredible businesses at once. I would love to one day work in an area that seeks to improve the environment and make the globe more sustainable.
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