This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.
Performance Horizon, founded in Newcastle in 2010, provides SaaS solutions for digital partner marketing and has clients in more than 170 countries.
One of the companies featured in the Tech Nation 2016 report, Performance Horizon remains rooted in the North East but also has offices in London, the US, Australia and Japan.
A northern base has been no barrier to Performance Horizon’s expansion: the company was ranked 16 in the 2015 Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 and has achieved stunning growth of 1,131 per cent since start-up.
We caught up with COO Paul Fellows, one of the six-strong team that founded the business, to take a closer look at the Performance Horizon story and its ambitions for the future.
Performance Horizon is a leading provider of SaaS solutions for digital partner marketing, which enables brands to directly connect with their marketing partners to dramatically increase customer acquisition and drive high-margin revenues from online marketing channels.
Our platform drives $3 billion+ in advertiser top-line revenues across 155,000 marketing partners in over 170 countries. It’s backed by top-tier investors, including Mithril, Greycroft Partners and DN Capital.
Major brands in travel, retail, finance and digital content rely on the Performance Horizon platform to drive customer acquisition, revenue increases and profitability gains through their online marketing partners. They include global leaders such as Google, British Airways, Emirates, Expedia, Tommy Hilfiger, adidas, Barclay, Santander and Shinsei Bank.
Performance Horizon’s technology solution allows clients to optimise campaign performance, deploy creative, manage partner and product spend, adjust commission rates and run promotions on the fly, easily integrating data into existing workflows and systems via the open architecture, as well as process partner payments globally.
What’s your start-up story?
The company was founded by six people and the majority of us had worked together before at an affiliate network in the same sort of industry.
We started in 2009 and formally launched in 2010. It took close to a year to build out the technology we needed because we wanted to counter a lot of the shortcomings in the performance marketing industry at that time. It couldn’t cope with the scale needed, for which we brought in the advantages of newer technology.
The main challenge we faced was that building something really, really clever was going to take a long time. We needed to have money coming in during that period, so we did lead generation for health insurance; we knew we wouldn’t be doing it long term, but it generated the cash we needed to build the tech.
We’re a little different to many start-ups because of our startup experience with our previous company. We already knew a lot of what we were trying to achieve because we had already been there and done it.
Why is Newcastle a great base for the business?
The vast majority of the founding team is from the North East and has no intention of living anywhere else. Plus, we thought we could do it again (start a tech business) and do it from Newcastle.
We have the local universities and the digital cluster makes recruitment a little bit easier. We can recruit here and find the skills we need, as long as we remain competitive.
Newcastle is a very good hub to build a tech business and the finance and legal teams we need are all based here too.
There is a vibrant digital scene with a lot of good companies, both big and small. It’s nice that the North East is getting some attention.
Do you collaborate with or learn from other digital companies?
We don’t really engage with other companies to learn because we are so sector-specific and there aren’t other businesses locally in our space. We don’t have competitors in the area.
But our tech team goes to meet-ups, and we support our engineers to help with the likes of Ignite, the accelerator programme to try to advise other smaller companies.
What challenges do you face?
Everybody’s trying to recruit, and we are trying to bring in whole teams, not just individuals. It is a challenge but it’s getting easier.
Finding people with a good level of skills can sometimes be quite demanding; the product we have has to compete globally and that takes highly talented people.
Because we are in so many countries, we also face a lot of time-zone challenges and often end up doing conference calls at 2am.
How do you innovate while keeping on top of the day to day?
We are very much structured towards innovation but we have to look after our existing demanding clients too. We brought in a new head of production last year, who has pushed Agility 360 out across the whole business. It’s one system everybody uses and helped us develop new tech much smarter.
What did you find interesting or surprising about the findings in Tech Nation?
It was interesting to hear about North East salaries and the speed at which they’re growing. Some people in London may be surprised that the differential is not that big any longer and it looks to be closing. In the last few weeks, we’ve had three people join us from London. Only one had had North East connections and they all came here for the jobs.
There weren’t any big surprises for us in the report, but it was nice to see the North’s growth and the detailed information about the competitive salaries in the industry as a whole.
What’s the most exciting thing about the digital scene in the North?
There are some big companies here working with some of the world’s biggest brands. It’s exciting that the North East is building products that people want around the world.
What would improve the digital economy in the North? What’s missing?
Acknowledgement that we have this great digital economy in the North East has so far been missing but that seems to be coming.
The infrastructure and connectivity is a lot less of a problem now and is being addressed. Both the Government and Tech North have been a big help with that.
What’s next for Performance Horizon?
We are looking to grow the business and increase staff worldwide, but more importantly we aim to double our Newcastle tech team in the next 12 to 18 months. We look to aggressively expand our customer base in each of our territories.
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