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Fireside chat with John Bradshaw, Founder Cheam Hill Ventures

Who is John Bradshaw?

I’ve been privileged to be involved with many disruptive global software and SaaS brands at the forefront of the IT revolution since the late 80s. My career took off at Informix during the database wars with Oracle. Evangelised MQSeries at Candle before being headhunted to co-found Canopy’s EMEA business (integration services). Survived the dot.com bust with Yantra, the leading omni-channel e-Commerce start-up acquired by IBM. Launched Loftware’s EMEA business then founded Cheam Hill Ventures. Due to poor health I took a break from corporate life in 2015 and Cheam Hill evolved into a start-up advisor. In 2019 my wife and I moved to Suffolk and helped restore a part-medieval farmhouse and gardens in Suffolk. Returned to London before the 1st Covid lockdown and sat it out to consider our next venture.

What’s the story behind Cheam Hill Ventures and your new business?

aJentia was unfinished business, I founded and self-funded it acquiring a telemarketing agency to support 50+ SaaS clients, only to be undone by the Credit Crunch. Cheam Hill was aJentia v2 – effectively a full sales lifecycle service for enterprise software/SaaS start-ups seeking entry into the lucrative UK market. Our strategy was to simplify the go-to-market model, secure beachhead accounts then iterate to drive growth. The new business will look to take advantage of the on-off Covid restrictions which I believe are here to stay. With restricted travel restricted, optimisation of online sales collaboration, streamed content and social selling should deliver higher returns. I’ll also seek to attract investors to scale faster rather than self-fund.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

A great team is critical to scale any business. Recruiting quality sales & marketing people was challenging as the best staff will be attracted or headhunted to market leading brands. Lack of scalability deters investors and reliance on strong cashflow. Inheriting a start-up’s poor cashflow is very risky so it’s always best to find well-funded, under-the-radar start-ups that have an easily understood proposition but aren’t quite ready to commit to full international operations.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Winning a new partner in the early days was always a great moment because their faith was a massive vote of confidence in you and your largely unproven business model. Of course, you needed to reward their faith by delivering on your promises. Securing new corporate business teamed up with your partner was an even bigger thrill.

What is the vision of your new business?

This time round, the new company will be even more technology-led than either Cheam Hill or aJentia. We’ll implement best-in-class collaborative, CRM and social selling technologies and completely own the sales process helping us execute more effectively and deliver better returns. I’m also considering expanding into CleanTech and partnering with environmental start-ups.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climates?

In these uncertain Covid-blighted times I believe that being mindful of the impact of lockdown isolation to you and your team’s mental and physical health is very important. Proactively placing professional support programmes at the heart of your business, along with keeping in close personal contact, where possible, should be employers’ top priority. Protecting cashflow and managing growth are givens but staying patient and committed to your goals will hopefully help your business survive then thrive when we come out of the pandemic.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Covid has accelerated the demand for digital innovation. I’m very keen on simple productivity tools (video conferencing and collaboration tools) that drive fast, impactful results. Streaming is a quick win for everything from team events to product demonstrations, employee onboarding and training. I’ve implemented salesforce.com (CRM) at every company I’ve run to keep on top of opportunities and ensure fast, consistent team communication. Slack and Google Docs are also great tools.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

As an avid amateur medieval historian I believe you can learn as much from the past than the present so I tend to read literature covering this period. I’m currently reading “The Templars” by Dan Jones. An exciting, if brutal, read. From time to time, I also revisit Svend Brinkmann’s “Stand Firm” from 2017 which champions stoicism over the relentless rise of self-help hype books. As a long-time fan, I also keep a copy of “Social Selling” by Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds close to hand as an aide-memoire.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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