This month we spoke to Ollie Hughes, CEO of Count. Count is “on a mission to improve how teams work with data”. They’ve built the first data platform designed to not just provide numbers, but integrates them with all the elements teams need to make confident, transparent decisions. We spoke to Ollie to learn more about how this platform came about, and the support they’ve received from Capital Enterprise over the years.
Q: Tell us about yourself – what’s your background, and how and why did you found Count?
I was an engineer, before becoming a management consultant. I stumbled into a job for Tesco where I was doing quite a lot of big data projects, then worked in a few other roles, like for Innocent drinks, and for the NHS for a while, again doing data projects. I eventually just got frustrated by how complicated data tools were to use, that they require a huge amount of dedicated time to learn how to use them well. I was frustrated for the people I was working with: they were unable to use these tools despite being more than capable to do so, just because of the amount of time required to learn them. And so with my co-founder, another Ollie, we set up Count in 2016 to see how we could use technology to solve the problem of making data more accessible and easy to use.
The idea behind the platform is that within a business the most important aspects of trial and performance are having highly effective teams, and using your data well to drive performance and make better decisions. We felt that a lot of data tools that are out there actually don’t really work for either side; either they’re too complicated and can only be used by a few people, or they’re overly simplistic, so people can only do certain things on them, and they don’t enable high collaboration.
So we built Count to be a highly collaborative platform where analysts all the way down to the least technical person in the team can all work together in one place on their data. The main way we’ve done that is by building a platform around the principle of notebooks, where you can put all your analysis and collaborate with your team in a single document, with the text and images that you need to do your work.
Q: How far into that process did you come across Capital Enterprise?
In 2017 we met John [Spindler, Capital Enterprise’s CEO], and he was really helpful. We were pitching for a pre-seed round, and John instantly got what we were trying to do. I think he also quite liked us as a team, so leant in quite heavily quite quickly. He helped us get a space in IdeaLondon, and put us on the Greenlight programme, which allowed us to catch up with John every so often, and we’ve continued to do so ever since, which has been useful.
It wasn’t a formal thing – we informally met up with each other every now and then; He’s quite informative and useful to bounce ideas for experiments off – we’ve just run an event with you because I said to John lets try this experiment with you, and he said let’s give it a go! So he’s quite entrepreneurial in his own right I guess. Right at the start he was also helpful in the fundraising process; he gave us good intros to investors back in 2017. He’s very knowledgeable about the sector, so good for intros.
Q: How did you find IdeaLondon?
We picked IdeaLondon initially because John gave us a big discount on desks! It’s in a great location, and we’ve loved working alongside the team at Capital Enterprise who are based here – that’s been quite fun! As a small team we wanted to be part of a bigger community when we were starting out – that’s a positive of co-working spaces like IdeaLondon.
We’ve also loved using IdeaLondon to host our own events – We have our own meetup community which we cultivate, it’s been useful using you guys as a venue.
Q: You’ve collaborated with Capital Enterprise on a few events too; How have they helped your company?
There’s the event we recently collaborated on which I mentioned came about after a conversation with John – and we helped you with the Machine Learning Academy a couple of times too. For that, we wanted to do you a favour, and also we wanted to do some testing of our product; I think they were more useful to us than you! It was helpful to get testing of our tool outside of our own events, and we also to do a bit of performance testing, because your events were relatively big compared to ours, so we could see if our servers could handle it with that many users using it at the same time.
Q: How do you still keep up with Capital Enterprise opportunities?
We see you guys relatively frequently so there’s been no need to follow you online – but perhaps you should sign us up to your newsletter! When we were in IdeaLondon you guys used to quite regularly just come over and say, “Hey we’ve got this thing wanna do it?” And we were often up for it! For example, we used you for a CAPai KEEP grant – we got some money from you to hire someone who we did already have in mind – but that was very useful, and he’s stayed on as a senior software engineer with us since.
Q:What do you see as the most useful element to being aware or involved with Capital Enterprise?
You fill your role as a connector in the space well – If you’re a company trying to serve the sector, knowing you guys is really good. I guess quite selfishly, increasingly our target market for our product is the ecosystem that you guys serve and know as I think there’s a market gap for the companies in the ecosystem for good quality but cheap data platforms. That’s part of why I’m doing this interview, I’m hoping we can grow awareness about the product we’re trying to do!
I do also see you trying to drive the sector and fill gaps in it, with OneTech and other initiatives – plugging obvious gaps in the sector with funding and initiatives to try and keep things going well for everyone, that’s quite clear. Being aware of the initiatives you guys are running can be helpful to any startup founders, because they could be relevant to anyone – and they could be relevant to anyone at some point, even if they aren’t to someone right now.