If you thought you had to be based in Silicon Valley to make big money out of the internet, think again. Mark Seemann, 44, has sold his last two IT businesses in multi-million pound deals, and is confident his latest venture will make him a lot wealthier.
In 2012, he set up Synety after developing technology which combines telephone operations with e-mail systems.
The software allows businesses to record and log telephone conversations in a quick and easy way, saving users time and money.
The Leicester business is now set for a major profile boost after joining forces with Google as part of a major expansion of its business, which is already serving customers across North and South America, as well as the UK.
Synety is aimed at sales and customer service businesses such as recruitment, legal and financial firms. It is also looking to expand into medical services, a growing area in the US.
Mark, who was born and bred in Leicestershire, says the firm’s cloud-based software is better than Skype, the Silicon Valley telecoms giant.
“The thing is Skype is not designed for business and they don’t have the technical support that we do,” he said.
“It’s a consumer product, whereas we are purely business to business.
“We create the technology where you can do the same thing you can do with a mobile phone on an office phone.
“But we also enable the actual software to make the phone call. We make the phone call, record it and put it automatically into the system.
“It allows anyone who deals with customer service and selling and supporting customers to be more efficient because you can identify them and record the call. There’s also amazing analytics.
“From a management perspective you can see everything that’s going on. You know what types of calls are happening and what type of conversation is going on.”
On January 19, the firm’s Cloud Call Chrome service was launched in partnership with Google Chrome. The new software means companies no longer need to be using a specialist customer relationship management (CRM) system. They can effectively turn any web page into a sophisticated data gatherer.
“It’s a technology we have been working on for the past 12 months,” said Mark.
“It was released to existing customers on January 19 and becomes widely available at the beginning of next month.”
The huge potential of the new product is likely to see the creation of 10 to 15 jobs in Leicester over the next year, on top of the current 75 staff.
The company employs another 20 people in Boston, Massachusetts, which is likely to increase to 70 in the coming months.
Mark is a serial tech entrepreneur – he started his first business at 18 after designing an adaptor which allowed US games to be played on the UK version of the Sega Megadrive.
He founded telecommunications business Pipemedia in 1996 before selling it to Scottish technology group Thus.
He then started up software services firm Servelogic, which he sold in another multi-million pound deal within 18 months to Genesis Communications.
That business, now called Outsourcery, is partly owned by Dragons’ Den star Piers Linney, below.
Synety is aimed at call centres, recruitment companies, lawyers and accountants and has already been bought by more than 7,700 businesses worldwide. It is used by tens of thousands of people every day.
Simon Cleaver, who had previously invested in other companies run by Mark, joined Synety as executive chairman a few months after it set up when Synety took over Zenergy Power, a stock market-listed firm he headed.
The deal gave Synety access to Zenergy’s £4 million of funds to finance a major expansion push, allowing it to expand overseas by opening an office in Boston.
Last year, the company relocated from Phoenix Square in the city to nearby Colton Square, opposite the Blue Tower. Mark and Simon admitted they had considered moving to London, but realised staying in Leicester made better sense, despite it not having a big reputation for hi-tech innovation.
Simon said: “Leicester is a really good location, particularly as we’re next to the train station.
“Costs are lower than London. We pay a quarter of what we would for an office in London. We are in a techy environment. It’s not run of the mill stuff. We are pushing back the frontiers.”
Mark said: “We could pick this office up and put it in San Francisco.
“But what’s the big deal about where you are located? What you need is a good product idea that people want to buy.
“OK, there’s not as much sunshine here, but the reality is we have just as clever people here as there are elsewhere. There’s some very bright people in this office. They are world class.
“How do we know that? Because we sell to world class companies around the world, beating off competition from major businesses.”
Mark said competitors included multi-billion pound companies such as Aspect Software of the US.
“Some companies are starting to see our product is as good or better than anything else out there.
“What we can do with this product is pretty unique. There’s some things it can do that no one else in the world can.
“We are at the early stage of growing a multi-national business. We are only in year three.
“I don’t think Google had even made any revenue in year three, let alone a profit.”
Synety said revenue rose by more than a third to £3.02 million in 2014.
However, losses increased from £1.3 million to £3 million in the first half of 2014 on the back of major investment. No figures are yet available for the second half.
Mark said it was important to him that the pricing of the firm’s products meant it was accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“I’m very much a champion of SMEs,” said Mark. “I know the stress of starting up an SME. I’ve done it three times.
“It’s hard enough if you are a start-up, but if you’re a technology business too nobody knows what you do.
“It was only recently that my dad understood what I did.”
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