CEO Q&A: “People want to be able to master technology on their own” – Andrew Bredenkamp, Acrolinx

Business, Interviews, Technology | Wed 16 May | Author – Business & Finance
Andrew Brendenkamp, Acrolinx, content, analytics
Andrew Bredenkamp, Founder/CEO, Acrolinx

In our next CEO Q&A, Andrew Bredenkamp of Acrolinx speaks of the changing world of content and people being at the forefront of technology.

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My main priorities as founder and CEO of Acrolinx are to build a great company, and to solve interesting and valuable problems for our customers. Those are the things that get me up in the morning.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

As CEO, my biggest challenge is balancing our company’s short- and long-term goals. It really comes down to handling what’s important now, without losing sight of where we ultimately want to be. It’s quite the balancing act – one that requires a smart plan that includes both agility and strategy.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

People want to be involved with things that are interesting and valuable. By providing a worthwhile environment that offers both, we’re able to deliver something very motivating and rewarding for our employees. It’s important that our team recognises that our company isn’t just about trying to make money. We’re very focused on what our customers want, and we solve interesting problems by working closely with them. That’s what encourages people at Acrolinx to stick around because what we’re doing is so tangible and valuable.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

A major challenge we face in the software industry involves the transition of enterprise software to the cloud. This has been a big disruption, particularly outside the US. In Europe, we’re still dealing with companies that are hesitant to move to the cloud. Some are ready to engage in a software subscription model, while others are slow to embrace it. The challenge for us is to be able to support our customers no matter where they fall on the spectrum. The end goal, of course, is to guide them to make the switch.

Another thing we’re seeing with enterprise software is a shift of customer expectations from the B2C to B2B markets. People have a much higher comfort level using apps in their daily lives, and they bring those attitudes to the B2B market. They challenge software companies to provide ease of use and flexibility. These buyers look at everything like an app, and they want their enterprise software to feel the same. Some of their expectations are good and challenge enterprise software providers to do better with things like user experience. But the pricing that people find with their apps isn’t relevant in the enterprise software world. The challenge is in resetting that expectation.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

We’re in the middle of a revolution in user experience and user independence. Gone are the days when onboarding someone with a piece of software involved loads of complexity, user training and time. Today, software reflects what users want – faster time-to-mastery and the ability to solve problems independently. Solutions to problems need to be intuitive, more straightforward and rooted in self-service. People want to be able to master technology on their own.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I’d like to see a greater emphasis on partnership in enterprise software sales. The current buyer-vendor model is very unhealthy, on both sides. It can’t just be about selling and buying more software. It should be about the vendor working to understand the buyer’s problems, and together coming up with a solution. In my experience, this approach wastes much less time and reduces irritation for both buyers and vendors.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

We’re seeing some gaps in the customer success area. Because it’s an emerging specialty, especially in Europe, we’re finding the roles more difficult to staff.

Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

The banking and economic crises haven’t really affected us. Because we’re a global company with a very large addressable market, macroeconomic fluctuations haven’t generally impacted our business. Also, the financial services vertical is only one of the many sectors we target.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We haven’t noticed any effects from Brexit because we work with companies all over the world.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success for me would be to continue our company’s positive momentum – high growth, market expansion and lots of happy customers. Only good things can come from this wave. And I’m really enjoying riding it!

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s easy to mistake errors for malice. But when things go wrong, it’s usually not the result of some evil plan but, rather, honest mistakes along the way. It’s always better to ask questions and get the real story before you assume bad intentions.

I’m also a firm believer in the philosophy that “different isn’t always better, but better is always different.” In my experience, it’s a mindset that encourages people to innovate and to be fearless in trying to make improvements.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

A key business highlight for Acrolinx in 2017 was adding a new investor group to our board. With their guidance and support, we’ve refined our go-to-market strategy and put a much sharper focus on our customers.

I’m also happy to report that several former employees have returned to Acrolinx in the past year. We have a very people-focused company and many of our employees have been with us for many years. Retaining and winning back employees are signs that we’re doing something right.

Q. What’s next for your company?

We’re in a fortunate position in that we’re continuing to expand our business. We’re very comfortable with our market, so now it’s more about strong execution and adding value for our customers. It feels like our time has come and that the market is ready for what we do and the solutions we offer. Buyers are coming to us, and our competitive position is strong. We’re seeing some new competitors crop up – which is a good thing. But what we do is hard, so we’re not too worried. We continue to innovate and tackle challenges head-on. It’s a big part of our DNA.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?

In 2018, we’ll continue to see new vertical markets emerging for our platform, with new use cases. Content creation is pervasive, but the chaos of the process is ruining customer experiences in many markets. The new demands of the digital world and the scale of content creation have outstripped the traditional authoring and review processes. The old model is slowing down content delivery, wasting time and money, and inhibiting customer experiences. We’re excited to offer a solution to these problems across industries.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Next year, I’d like to see us using more of our expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from our content contributors. Moving our software to the cloud has allowed us to understand new things about our users. With increased data sharing and greater visibility into our users’ behaviours, we’re on a path to using our AI to build even more intelligent products.

Solutions to problems need to be intuitive, more straightforward and rooted in self-service. People want to be able to master technology on their own.

Acrolinx helps the world’s greatest brands to create amazing content.

Built on an advanced linguistic analytics engine, Acrolinx is the only software platform that can actually ‘read’ your content and guide writers to make it better. That’s why companies like Adobe, Boeing, Google and Philips use Acrolinx to create content that’s more engaging, enjoyable and impactful.