Can you imagine meeting up with co-founders and starting a business at the age of 15? And 8 years later, celebrating not only a long-lived business, but a massively valuable resource that has helped over 50,000 websites?
That’s James Gill’s story in a nutshell. Of course, there were twists and turns (and evolution) along the way. James is a co-founder of GoSquared, the “the simplest analytics service in the world.” They’ve taken a complex (yet incredibly important) part of running a business online (or an offline business with a web presence), and turned it into something simple and meaningful: Harnessing the power of real-time insights and analytics.
In this interview, James not only talks about the origins of GoSquared, but also gets into why this it’s a great solution (even over something as popular as Google Analytics), the importance (and difficulty) of building a team within your business, and the tips he has for someone who is afraid to jump into entrepreneurship with both feet.
Check it out, and enjoy!
James, I love that you co-founded an amazing web analytics application, GoSquared. Although I don’t use it on any of my sites currently, I’ve played around with the demo and it really does look like a powerful (yet simple and clean) analytics tool. Tell us a bit about your journey. What’s your background like, and what led to the creation of GoSquared?
Thanks very much Eric, I’m flattered! First, we need to change this situation and get you on board right away – it’s hard to understand the impact real-time insights can have until they’re applied to your own web presence.
Now, the journey actually started a long time ago back in 2006 – that was when GoSquared was originally founded. I met my co-founders Geoff and JT at school when we were all 14/15 years old. We were meant to be studying for our GCSEs at the time, but somehow managed to learn our respective disciplines – mine being design and business management, Geoff’s being back end coding, and JT’s being front-end programming.
We were driven by the idea that anyone – even a bunch of kids at school – could build a global business from nothing. Originally GoSquared was all about selling advertising space on our homepage, then came the GoSquared Blog, and then eventually we started getting excited about the possibilities of analytics and what could be done with real-time data.
And over time, that’s how we’ve built the business up to where it is today – constant evolution and improvement. We actually made a visual timeline for our 8th birthday that I am sure is much more exciting my words here:
The average website owner is probably most familiar with Google Analytics when it comes to website analytic applications. How would you compare GoSquared with Google Analytics? Who is your target audience with GoSquared?
Absolutely, Google Analytics is a really powerful service, and it’s obviously “free” too. GA offers tons and tons of features, and that can be really overwhelming for a lot of people. GoSquared cuts through the clutter and offers you a much easier to use product, so more people inside companies can benefit from the data.
On top of being super easy to use, everything in GoSquared is real-time so you never need to wait for anything before making a decision. And the final part of the equation is that GoSquared enables you to dive down into visitor-level detail so you can actually understand the people that are using your website / web app / e-commerce store and even reach out and communicate with them – stretching beyond what is usually expected of analytics tool.
How is GoSquared doing today? I know you can’t reveal every number and metric, but what are some of the milestones your company has reached or success stories you’ve been a part of so far?
One of the most exciting milestones we hit recently was that we’re tracking over 50,000 sites around the world – that’s a huge number and really emphasizes the great job both our sales and marketing and our engineering teams are doing – I remember the days where we struggled to handle the traffic levels of 100 sites on board!
On top of that, our revenue is growing at a very positive rate month to month, and we’re really excited by where we’ll be by the end of the year at our current pace.
A couple of other key events for us have been (as mentioned) celebrating our 8th birthday – we invited our top customers and loads of people who have helped us over the year, and family too. I think it’s really important to emphasize that GoSquared is so much more than just a business – our 8th birthday really underlined to me just how many people you can impact when you set out to do something great.
Aside from just having a good idea and the ability to work hard, it seems like many successful start-ups (especially in the tech arena) have done a good job of building the “right” team. GoSquared is no exception to this. In your opinion, how should someone with an idea and a plan go about building a team? Is it something you have to put a lot of effort into, or does it just “naturally” happen?
Building a great team is ridiculously difficult – I’ve made mistakes here in the past that I am keen to share someday. I am really proud of the team we have right now – we have some of the best developers and engineers I’ve ever met, and our sales and marketing team are a bunch of intensely passionate machines.
When starting out, I think there’s a lot you can do by yourself – it’s never been easier to start out on your own. In London (where we’re based) there’s a lot of infrastructure to support individuals – lots of meetups going on where people can collaborate on ideas, lots of investors connecting people together, lots of co-working spaces where spontaneous meetings can happen.
The more you can do to build attention around your idea the better – I really admire what people like Groove and Baremetrics are doing to raise awareness of their ideas and businesses. It certainly can’t hurt in helping them find great people to hire too.
What tips do you have for an aspiring entrepreneur who has an idea for a business or product, but is afraid to jump in with both feet? What do you wish someone would’ve told you about when you first started?
This is a great question – I get asked it a lot and my answer has changed many times over the last few years. When we started GoSquared, the world was quite different. Today, there is an explosion of ideas and people ready and willing to work on those ideas.
It’s easier than ever to start something – most people can do that. The real challenge is establishing whether your idea or proposal can be turned into a real business, with a real team, with real money, with a vision for the future.
A few things I wish someone had told me when starting out:
* This is going to be MUCH harder than you think.
* All start-ups are a wreck on the inside – the art is looking serene and calm on the outside.
* Being your own boss means you get to choose your own hours – all 24 of them every day.
* In the words of Facebook – move fast and break things. You can’t afford to move slowly if you have a good idea.
* Never settle for working with people that are anything less than excellent in their field of expertise.
What’s your favorite (or most inspiring) quote?
I have a few quotes on my wall in my bedroom, the one that has always stuck out the most is:
Some people dream of great ideas while others stay awake and do them. [Click here to tweet this]
I wish I had a source for that quote, but I have never known who said it. It really emphasizes to me that doing is far more important than having ideas.
What are the online resources that you can’t live without?
We’ve grown our own customer base hugely by trying to provide useful resources, so I will shamelessly plug a very important part of the GoSquared business:
* GoSquared Resources: https://www.gosquared.com/resources/
Enough of the self promotion! Here’s some of my favorite sites and services:
* Dribbble for design inspiration: https://dribbble.com/
* The Groove blog and their race to $100k MRR: http://www.groovehq.com/blog
* Growth Hackers: http://growthhackers.com/
* Slack has transformed how we communicate at GoSquared: https://engineering.gosquared.com/switching-from-campfire-to-slack
* We love Trello for organising ourselves: https://trello.com/
Finally, where can people find you online?
Twitter is best: https://twitter.com/jamesjgill
Also don’t forget to take a look at the GoSquared Blog – we share tons of stuff about our work here: https://www.gosquared.com/blog
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us today, James.
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