Pimberly: The Past, Present and Future – A View from Our CEO & Founder, Martin Balaam

I always find the start of a year a good time to reflect and, now that we’ve thankfully seen off 2020, it got me thinking about the journey we’ve been on since starting Pimberly back in 2015. It’s fair to say we’ve come an awful long way and there are plenty of really exciting things in the pipeline, too!

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Before Pimberly, I was CEO of the UK’s largest technology and solutions supplier for the Film, TV and Creative Industry. During my time there, we acquired a small software business called Matrix that had developed a niche software product for automating print catalogue production. The acquisition came about at a time when we were looking to get more coverage in the retail industry, so there was a perfect synergy for us.

The Matrix development team are very capable and had great knowledge around product data and how this can be extracted from ERP systems, along with digital assets, to create print catalogues. At the time, we knew customers were having all sorts of issues with managing product information and digital assets in an efficient way, so we set out on a mission to create a future-proof product that would solve this problem. That’s when we started working on a project called Pimberly, a cloud-based SaaS PIM platform!

So, in 2015 we set ourselves the challenge to write a proof concept from scratch that was capable of being used in a SaaS based Enterprise technology stack, and by the end of 2015 we’d delivered our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). At the start of 2016, we were excited to have landed our first client, Westcoast, who went through Beta with us and I’m proud to say they’re still a client to this day!

When it comes to setting up a new business, or taking on anything big in your life, it’s fair to say the hardest thing is actually getting started. I’ll never forget the feelings of excitement, anxiety and relief all rolled into one when we embarked on the Pimberly venture, it was a very big bet, a multi£million bet! Since then, we’ve grown from strength to strength, continuing on our mission of helping products find their consumers and ensuring that they’re right first time, that consumers have everything they need to be able to enjoy their purchase and that consumers can be advocates for the brands and products.

We all see the unstoppable trend of consumers choosing to buy the products and services they need online; it’s convenient, engaging, allows transparency on pricing, choice overpayments, and control over when and where you want delivery, what’s not to like?

Also, especially during COVID-19, more and more products are being purchased online. It’s no longer just clothes, holidays & low value items – we’re happy to buy groceries, furniture, cars and I’m pretty sure it will be homes next! If you’re like me, you shudder when you see how much you’ve spent with Amazon/eBay & Apple when you get your credit card statement, especially with three teenagers!

Products simply don’t exist online unless they have Product Data, Images, Videos, technical info, so without these, you can’t find, review, compare or buy them. Not mentioning anything as exciting as VR and 3D rendering for the likes of furniture, spectacles and cars!

So, just think about how many products there are in the world (Amazon has over 350million products listed and growing as a starter).  Then multiply this by the amount of data you need to truly describe a product (description, size, weight, variants, packing/logistics details) and the number of images, it’s vast, and then multiply this by the number of languages you need to reach all the consumers in the world. Mind-boggling!

Makes no wonder more and more companies looking to grow their sales via online are deploying a PIM. You can see why we wanted to develop the best SaaS PIM/DAM in the world now!!

Last year was a challenging one for everyone – without a doubt – so I feel fortunate to see Pimberly going from strength to strength; we started with two full-time employees back in 2015 and we now have over 50 employees. We won many more new clients in 2020, bringing our total to over 46 customers and, with a healthy pipeline, I’m sure this will increase significantly in the coming year. One of our biggest milestones in 2020 had to be when we passed the $2m ARR (Annual Recurring Revenues, a major KPI for a SaaS business) and we’re on track to achieve our ambitious growth targets, which is absolutely brilliant!

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Being able to add real value for our customers, and the eCommerce tech stack as a whole, is something I always get huge satisfaction from and that’s reflected in our continued efforts to enhance our offering. Last year saw the introduction of Automated Product Data Sheets and we look forward to the launch of Customer Connect in Q1, closely followed by Vendor Connect and enhanced SEO governance. Looking further ahead, we are planning some PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) functionality to help manage downstream suppliers of new product development/sample management.

A big take-away for me from 2020 was seeing how businesses (Pimberly included) completely pivoted to adapt to huge behavioural shifts. During the first lockdown, we were trying to understand what the implications would be for our employees, for our customers and for the business as a whole. One year down the line and we’re still in and out of lockdowns, so there is a continued focus on the wellbeing of our staff, making sure they can work together efficiently, albeit in a very different way.

It’s been hard. A lack of physical human contact, something we took for granted before, makes it difficult to truly know how someone is feeling and if they need more support. Like everyone, we’ve been proactive in terms of reaching out to people to check in on them. Everyone’s been affected in some way, shape or form and it’s been amazing to see so much resilience, strength and agility even when faced with these challenging times.

Another prime example of this resilience, strength and agility was the shift to D2C (Direct to Consumer) for many manufacturers, distributors and brands when their existing sales channels were shut down. Consumers still wanted to purchase their products so, in a way, it was very much a consumer-driven decision that businesses had to make. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that shift to D2C will definitely become more prominent this year.

As a business, we’ve got some really exciting things to look forward to this year. We spent a lot of time preparing our international expansion plans for 2021 and we’re fortunate to be supported by prestigious government-backed programmes such as TechNation Upscale 5.0 and the Global Scale-Up Programme as well as a lot of help from the Department for International Trade. We’re now in a position where we’ve identified our target audience, all our administrative affairs are in order, and we’ve received significant additional investment to fund the expansion.

I’m confident that, by the end of the year (travel restrictions permitting of course), we’ll have our first sales and customer support representatives on the ground in New York and our first cohort of US customers. Initially, our main focus will be apparel and fashion off the back of some great success stories that we’ve seen in the UK already.

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I do think it’s really important to have that physical presence when you’re setting up overseas, especially as a SaaS business. We need people on the ground who can offer consistent customer and technical support. It also comes back to the human element which is really important to build a good relationship with your customers, especially during the sales and implementation process.

When looking ahead at what 2021 and beyond has in store for us, I think everyone is hoping things will go back to some form of normality thanks to mass vaccinations being rolled out. Getting to a point where the primary thing we think about on the day-to-day isn’t COVID-related would be great and I think that resonates with most people; feeling safe sending kids back to school, being able to go on holiday and being able to execute on your business plans with full freedom are all things we want to get back to. I imagine when the time comes, it’ll be a similar feeling to VE day!

In the meantime, my team and I continue to work towards making Pimberly the de facto SaaS PIM and DAM solution, both in the UK and globally. Acting as an enabler for brands, manufacturers and retailers to get their products in front of the right people at the right time, any time is what we’re passionate about and that’s what drives us.

Starting a business is tough and you experience a real rollercoaster of emotions but, getting started is definitely the hardest part. Once you’ve overcome that hurdle and you start to see the fruits of your labour, it makes it all worthwhile.

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