Heath Davies is CEO of email signature firm Exclaimer, which is in its 21st year of operation. The company’s onsite and cloud-based solutions are used by over 75 million people in 150 countries worldwide – and brands from the BBC to the City of Sydney, Australia.
Exclaimer, headquartered in the UK, also has offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the United States. In this conversation Davies tells Red Herring about the startup’s roots, its drive to stay atop an ever-changing market, and how it is making sure to be Brexit-proof.
Red Herring: How did Exclaimer begin?
Heath Davies: In 2000, Exclaimer’s founders ran a bespoke software development organisation and were approached by a number of clients asking for a solution that would automatically add disclaimers to emails via Microsoft Exchange.
At the time, no such solution actually existed, highlighting a tangible gap in the market. Going on to build the first ever email signature solution of its kind, Exclaimer was founded in 2001 and became an incorporated company in 2003.
Since then, Exclaimer has gone from three entrepreneurs building on-premises software to a global SaaS business with over 110 employees in the UK, the US, and the Netherlands. Our success has seen us sell our products beyond the UK market to thousands of companies worldwide. Our products are now used by over 75 million users in 150-plus countries, the largest customer base of any comparable company.
RH: How have enterprises and users changed the way they use email signatures since Exclaimer’s foundation?
HD: Email signatures have always been very difficult to manage on a corporate level. A common pain point IT administrators have to deal with is inconsistent email signatures across all devices and all mail clients. Although creating signatures in Outlook/Gmail or Office 365/G Suite is straightforward, replicating these across other devices and mail clients is where problems occur.
These include formatting, the size of signatures changing or images disappearing. This is where the demand for third-party email signature management solutions comes from, which Exclaimer has always been at the forefront of creating.
Our strong worldwide growth has been due, in part, to the scalability of our solutions and their relevance to businesses of all sizes: they work as well for companies with thousands of users as it does for those with ten. We also enable more sophisticated and complex businesses to manage their email signatures in very refined and targeted ways. This would be along the lines of marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and brand awareness.
RH: What are the most important values for startup leaders to focus on?
HD: Focus on your core value proposition and make sure you are constantly aware of current IT trends. The fact that Exclaimer was responsible for building the first ever email signature software has not meant we could just rest on our laurels. We have had to continually perfect and evolve the products we offer to be in line with Microsoft and Google, ensuring that we continue to offer something that customers actually want.
A prime example would be the growth of cloud computing. Until 2015, Exclaimer was primarily known for selling on-premises software for Microsoft Exchange and Outlook. Adapting with the rapid market growth of Office 365, we then developed our first fully cloud-based email signature solution. Due to the success of this product and the expansion of Google’s cloud-based product suite, we released a G Suite version in 2018.
RH: How do you stay relevant in such a fast-paced industry?
HD: What differentiates us from our competition is the superior quality of our products (security, functionality, ease-of-use, etc) and the customer service we offer. The fact that we have also been producing email signature solutions for longer than any other means we have a much greater understanding of the market and its needs. This is supported by the fact that we have a 95+% customer retention rate and many Exclaimer advocates throughout the IT community.
We also understand that in order to stay relevant, a large international presence is required, which is why over 75% of our annual turnover comes from outside the UK.. In recent years, we have expanded the capabilities of our Dutch office with an increased employee count to meet the needs of the European market. At the same time, we opened a US office in January 2019. This allows us to offer personal sales and technical support specifically for the American market.
RH: Which tech do you expect to affect Exclaimer’s model in the coming 12-24 months?
HD: The worldwide adoption of Office 365 and G Suite has led to a substantial increase in those companies having a need for the service that we provide. We are now actively looking into ways that our product suite can provide additional value to companies by allowing our customers to imprint on any digital business communications platform that allows them to achieve centralized brand consistency.
RH: How important is GDPR in shaping Exclaimer’s offering? Will Brexit affect that?
In order for our cloud solutions to be fully compliant with GDPR and readily available to as many international customers as possible, our cloud service is available via 12 regional Azure datacenter locations worldwide, including the UK, European Union, North America, Australasia and India.
With this in mind, if a customer is located within the EU or EEA, their data will never be transferred outside of this area by Exclaimer. Our GDPR compliance is also bolstered by our ISO 27001 certification, which ensures we conform to this highest standards of cloud security.
The way our cloud service is structured means that means we are fully prepared for any Brexit outcome and can ensure continuity of service no matter what the outcome of the negotiations are. The fact that we also have dedicated office in the Netherlands means we will still be able to trade in the EU/EEA should a no-deal Brexit occur in 2021.