Scaling the Peak: This data startup is geared for real growth in 2018

Northern Stars, Startup stories, Manchester

Martin BryantMartin Bryant, October 18, 2017

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Back when Peak won the first Northern Stars competition in 2015, the company only had six employees. Now, with growing demand for data analytics, it has 50 employees, fresh investment and what looks like a bright future ahead.

Peak takes companies’ structured and unstructured data, feeds it through its software and produces insights that can help them with wins like gaining customers, increasing revenue or reducing waste. This is work that many large corporations do as a matter of course, but it’s usually out of reach for small businesses.

Peak takes a hybrid SaaS approach. There’s a monthly subscription fee to use the software, but that includes access to data scientists who help customers make the most of what they discover.

Geared up for growth

Peak’s CEO, Richard Potter says that 2016 was all about working with the earliest of adopters to refine the product. Fuelled by a £1 million investment last year, the first half of 2017 saw Peak expand its client base as it figured out pricing and built a platform that could scale.

All through this time, Peak had been talking to investors, many of whom it met during Northern Stars. With a proven market, product and business model, the company was ready for its next round, and it recently announced a £2.5 million investment, led by London-based MMC Ventures.

Peak

Richard Potter with colleagues at Peak’s Manchester HQ

It’s worth reading this post by MMC’s John Coker, which details exactly why they invested in Peak. One key factor is the fast return on investment the startup can offer its customers. Potter say this is partly thanks to the managed service they offer.

“People want outsourced, guaranteed results these days. That’s why we’re different to the standard SaaS model. People like regular payments and outsourced infrastructure, but people don’t like self-service.”

Still. Potter says that Peak’s approach isn’t too different from self-service B2B SaaS companies. While many such firms offer self-service products, they often put great emphasis on account managers who provide a human face to the software.

“All the best SaaS businesses invest massively in customer success. Self service is fine but they’re throwing a lot of ‘customer love’ into customer success. Our team does that – they’re just more technical as they’re also data scientists.”

That’s not to say Peak will never offer a self-service product. “From 2019 this business will look very different. We’re building with eye for self-service and automation –  technical users will be able to self-serve.”

Challenger cities

2018 is set to be Peak’s ‘scale-up’ year, and they’re happy to be doing that from Manchester. John Coker of MMC wrote in his piece about Peak that “Manchester is also a great place to be setting up a team with (an A.I./machine learning) focus. There is a lot of strong technical talent but less competition from the large platforms.”

That’s not to say there isn’t competition between firms in the city and across the North. Potter says  autonomy and trust are key to hanging on to the best people. “Don’t tell them to be great, allow them to be great… The nice environment, healthy snacks, subsidised gym memberships… they’re important, but being supported to achieve your best is most important.”

Peak's Manchester office

Peak’s Manchester office

One interesting move is the ‘academy’ Peak is developing, to train data science professionals. This initiative recently went through Tech North’s Upskill programme, an accelerator for digital skills providers.

Potter believes the academy could be an important part of the company’s own growth, but also help get more people into data science. “We’re working on it – it could be a great way to contribute to workforce in general and attract people to work in Peak.”

Potter says a lot of current staff are former London residents, and it feels good to be “part of a movement.”

”I’m a Midlands boy, but Manchester is where the growth and excitement is. It’s part of a change in the industrial makeup of the UK – a move back into regional cities from London. It’s exciting.”

Peak’s staff are split between Manchester and Jaipur in India. Potter sees a kinship between the two cities. “We consider ourselves a global company. Jaipur is similar to Manchester. It’s a regional North West city with people moving back from the capital, and a ‘challenger’ mentality.

When I visited Peak for this article, the office it had recently moved into in an up-and-coming part of Ancoats had the buzz you get with an expanding team and a fast-growing firm. 2018 looks set to be a big year for a firm we once dubbed ‘the dons of data-as-a-service.’