19GRAPESHOT |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
CEO and co-founder,
JohnSnyder
Celebrating our new
home in Cambridge
Last year, Grapeshot grew revenues 160 per cent, with
a profit margin of 19 per cent. They sell “contextual
intelligence” data in 148 countries, and book 70 per cent
of their revenues in US dollars. They provide real-time contextual
data to advertising agencies buying media programmatically.
As co-founder and CEO of Grapeshot, John Snyder is proud of
building a fast-growth Tech 100 company paying wages and
taxes into the Treasury.
As a board member of the EEDA (East of England Development Agency), appointed
by a government minister in 2003 to an economic development agenda, I got my
first glimpse of the government apparatus. This ranged from think-tank events at
Downing Street to being on the Norfolk coast with dire “in need” communities,
wrestling for broadband connectivity and economic inclusion in our digital
economy. Five years’ public service helps me ponder what makes UK limited
companies innovate and how entrepreneurs go global.
Peacock feathers
The early stage is hard work. It’s hard to get funding, and it’s hard to punch above
your weight, especially if you have no product yet and only an idea of how you could
change the world. At Grapeshot, working from an attic room, I was able to partner
with IBM, and win a government technology strategy board grant. This helped me to
get an information research project underway. We web-crawled news websites and
blogs to discover how a story broke, gathered pace and splintered into sub-stories.
We initially lacked reputation, so leant on IBM’s brand equity. TSB paid 50 per cent
FACTS ABOUT
GRAPESHOT
»CEO and co-founder: John
Snyder
»Incorporated in 2002,
commercial from 2006
»Based in Cambridge, with
offices across the globe
»Services: Contextual in-the-
moment marketing engine
»No. of employees: 170
»No. of VC investors: 3 British,
1 American
»Serves 7,000 advertiser brands
»Monitors 5 billion webpages
»www.grapeshot.com
Grapeshot
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
20 | GRAPESHOT
costs of my R&D investment. I puffed up
these IBM and TSB peacock feathers to
look bigger than we really were.
Winds of regulatory change
GDPR, by requiring companies to opt
into digital tracking on the internet,
is fundamental privacy protection
for consumers. Every day, Grapeshot
crawls 500 million webpages to
understand precisely what a consumer
is reading, live in the moment, as
soon as a webpage loads inside a
browser. No user tracking is required;
Grapeshot provides real-time contextual
intelligence about the page, not the
user. Advertisers target webpages
using their own choice of words.
Agencies effect precision targeting and
customised brand safety screening,
choosing ad slots on relevant pages,
based on context alone – perfect for
our new GDPR-managed world. No user
tracking or user opt-ins are required
with contextual placements. Grapeshot
expects to grow another 150 per cent
this year, as advertisers swing away
from user profiling to context targeting.
Smart talent
In digital advertising, 140 billion ad
impressions are auctioned in real time
each day. This somewhat overshadows
the one billion daily trades on a stock
market like the LSE. Our Cambridge
headquarters hires smart people, but
we cannot find those staff easily.
This makes us wonder: why have our
schools and colleges not got behind
the Raspberry Pi revolution and given
computer science a stronger presence
in the curriculum? Where are the
apprenticeships and internships that
nudge young people into an exciting,
technological future? Experience is
more valuable than a wage, yet payroll
legislation inhibits today’s 14-year-
olds receiving easy access to business
exposure. The classroom restricts
them from real-life learnings until
after they leave school. The bridge
between business and education still
seems non-existent from where I sit
today, hungry for talent and wanting
to train tomorrow’s generation. At
Grapeshot, we sponsor interns from
16 years old to undergraduate level in
our Cambridge, London and New York
offices. Many return as full employees.
UK limited companies need to get
much smarter in connecting young
people with the engines of commerce,
revenue, profit and taxes.
Government grants
At EEDA, we distributed small business
grants. Analysing years of data across
400 grantee companies, I observed
that aggregate employees doubled
year on year. The return on investment
to the Treasury was incredible. This
cohort attracted 20 times more
capital after our early-stage funding
intervention, yet I witnessed no
longitudinal analysis of beneficiaries.
What journey did each of these
companies take towards growth? At
Grapeshot, account management is
vital to support customers, predicting
Real-time contextual
intelligence
Every day,
Grapeshot
crawls 500
million
webpages to
understand
precisely what
a consumer is
reading, live in
the moment
21GRAPESHOT |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
future revenues and innovating as we
learn from clients too. Where is the
longitudinal account management
in government? Grapeshot took
£250,000 from government subsidy,
and has since raised £16 million from
UK investors. We now command the
interest of many US investors and are
both profitable and self-sufficient.
Exporting own culture
The US market is difficult for any British
company. You are an unknown brand
with no local customers. I landed in
Manhattan and tasked my most junior
UK team to earn $1,000 revenue each
from five accounts before I employed
my first US citizen. Less than 48
months later, four US salespeople now
book over $3 million each month. The
secret was to take my junior staff from
London, frame the US culture around
this UK transplant and build a New
York office out like a mini start-up.
This meant committing my time to
New York, and relying on my London
and Cambridge managers to watch
our UK business. Much like playing
Risk
, you have to sequence your
marshalling of resources and choose
when and where to take your fighting
energy. Today we span the globe with
offices in Sydney, Shanghai, Hong
Kong, Singapore, London, Cambridge,
New York, Toronto, Chicago, Palo Alto
and Los Angeles. We are still growing,
and still precious about our culture and
its sustenance.
Networking like crazy
I got UKTI assistance via a US
investor programme that found me
a US venture capitalist. It opened my
New York network in an instant. At
EEDA, I witnessed incubator building
programmes, and as a business leader
I always thought people networking
was more valuable than a bricks-
and-mortar investment. Pizza and
beers after a two-hour listen-and-
learn session with peer CEOs is the
best way to help each other; learn
from others’ mistakes, not just your
own. Expensive spending on easy-to-
photograph incubator offices misses
the point. Catalysing the opportunity
for people to meet in any building
and facilitating quality networking is
surely the cheapest and best return
on investment. After attending a
Tokyo British Embassy event last year,
Grapeshot will be setting up in Japan
in 2018.
Government resources gave me access
to early R&D funds and credibility.
Networks have given me additional
reach. Finding smart talent is, as ever,
difficult and the type of capital supply
in UK venture capital is not optimised
for building tomorrow’s billion-dollar
global companies.
I am thankful that we continue
to grow apace, adding more jobs
and funds to the economy, as part
of building one Grapeshot culture
and a footprint of GDPR-compliant
advertising data across the globe.
Today we span
the globe with
offices in Sydney,
Shanghai, Hong
Kong, Singapore,
London,
Cambridge, New
York, Toronto,
Chicago, Palo
Alto and Los
Angeles.
Grapeshot Singapore
team at lunch