For a long time Inspirze was an award-winning South African-based IBM Business Partner, developing software around employee experience, communication and collaboration, and social software.
After conducting research with its customers, the company discovered that two of their biggest challenges were keeping employees engaged and helping them to live their company’s brand.
Set up to combat this, Inspirze’s team is divided between the UK (where sales and marketing are based), and South Africa (product research, development and ongoing support).
Earlier this year the company pitched at Tech Nation’s Rising Stars Semi Final in Manchester, which Chief Engagement Officer Gary Swale described as a “terrifying but valuable” experience.
We spoke to Swale to find out more about the company and its experience in the competition.
How did Inspirze start?
Gary Swale: Our journey started when McDonald’s South Africa wanted to move off their employee experience platform. This highlighted an opportunity for a simple, intuitive, easy-to-use tech platform available to everyone in the organisation – not just the connected, white-collar workers with email addresses.
Our core team then conceptualised and built Inspirze, and we continue to enhance the product which McDonald’s South Africa still use as a critical part of their business.
What’s your ‘elevator pitch’?
We help people live their organisation’s brand. We do that by connecting everyone in the organisation so that they can better serve their customers from the inside out.
How does the product work?
We give our customers a platform that is made up of three components that help them live the brand. The first is a platform of engagement, giving everyone from the CEO to the cleaner access to one another.
We also have a learning and development component that moves beyond an elearning and teaching environment into a mentoring and championing one. This helps the whole workforce develop and not just the individual.
The third component is signature actions, which are the things that you need to do as an organisation in order to succeed – and that’s our secret sauce. There’s a hard and a soft side to that; the hard side asks if the company is compliant and doing everything legally in terms of processes. The soft side asks if you’re behaving in a way that you’re expected to, assuming that you live the brand.
Our platform puts all of that together in a way that allows it to be monitored and measured with a helicopter view, with the ability to drill down into the detail.
What’s your revenue model?
We use a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model, so there’s no upfront cost. I wouldn’t say that Inspirze is 100% self-driven in that you can click a button to install it, but it’s nearly there and increasingly self-sufficient.
What’s the best thing about being based in Wales?
We’re located between Chester and Wrexham, so we get the best of both worlds. We’re within an easy commute to both Manchester and Liverpool, and only two hours from London.
What was it like taking part in Rising Stars?
Terrifying – it was one of the scariest moments of my life! However, it put things into perspective for me in terms of what I wanted to say and wanted people to hear.
Coming from South Africa, it offered the opportunity to connect with one of the UK’s foremost digital ecosystems and evaluate both our business strategy and technology against the UK’s most innovative, forward-thinking tech startups.
The live pitching competition allowed for authentic validation of Inspirze in a pressured, professional environment by an industry-leading panel of experts.
What value did you gain from it?
We gained valuable insight into the UK digital sector. We also reassessed our business plan, revising our value proposition and taking a snapshot of Inspirze relative to the industry in terms of the standard of the competition. The pitch mentoring workshop gave us the confidence to present and position Inspirze for the UK market.
Having our business plan evaluated as part of the competition was invaluable, and that was backed up by the wealth of collateral and support provided by Tech Nation and its extended team. Something else that stood out for me was the absolute respect, support and willingness to work together from other competitors.
What tips can you give others who may pitch in the future?
Listen and learn from the mentors and judges – they are there to help and genuinely want you to succeed. It reaffirmed our belief and gave us the confidence to continue onwards and upwards. Oh, and embrace the experience!