We phoned up Richard Norman, CEO at Yatter - the new collaborative social media scheduling platform, to discuss his exciting start-up and the current state of tech and digital fields in Scotland.
Can you tell me a little bit about your professional background and what lead you to setting up Yatter?
I’m a software architect and I used to design banking software, working for the investment and retail banks on a number of their key systems. I’d been doing that for fifteen years as a contractor then I decided to create my own technology for a change.
Were you always interested in the software and the digital sphere?
I’ve been a programmer for twenty years so it’s part and parcel to what I do, but it’s the digital side of things that has been the most recent. I think digital is very important for all businesses, especially for small businesses and start-ups. I started about five years ago, and at the time we struggled to find anyone that knew anything about it. And because of my technical background and knowledge in the industry, I decided to dig into digital and see what I could come up with.
So is that how the Yatter journey began?
It was a long road to then get to Yatter. I’m quite well known in Glasgow for being the tech expert that knows digital, I’m not from a marketing background so I don’t know about brand, tone of voice or message, but I do know how search engines work. So it lets me see some of the gaps and weaknesses, something that I would call the SEO business.
What exactly is Yatter and how is it different to other scheduling platforms like Buffer, Hoostesuite?
Yatter is a social media scheduling platform very similar to Hoostesuite or Buffer. It lets you schedule content on social media in the future. What’s different about Yatter compared to our competitors is you can see a preview of what others are doing on their schedule. So I can see a preview of what you’re scheduling for next week even though it hasn’t happened yet. What that allows us to do is to work together to collaborate and improve content but also schedule interaction, like re-tweets and comments, which is something that none of the other platforms can do. The idea is to partner together to preview each other’s content, and chat together to improve content to make sure what you’re putting out is suitable.
What are your current plans with the platform?
We’re currently crowd-funding on Seedrs and will be until the end of March to try and raise some money. We’re quite a lean start-up so we’re not necessarily involved in a lot of the innovation schemes in Scotland. We stick to ourselves and we’re quite connected in the tech and digital community.
What obstacles did you experience first setting it up?
We experienced lots of obstacles. The biggest I would say is that Scotland isn’t very good at tech-start ups and there’s nobody that we’ve been able to speak to that’s been able to help us. We’re pretty much doing this on our own without any help externally. There’s very little here in terms of tech knowledge, digital knowledge and any real understanding of how this business works. At Scottish Enterprise they keep telling us to sell to big companies, and we explain that it’s the Internet and you can get business through it if you’re smart.
Why do you think that Scotland is limited from that perspective?
There isn’t much support here for anything that’s modern. People are used to traditional businesses and all the support mechanism and entrepreneurial things are all geared to people that are doing something that’s happened in the past. So if you come up with something that’s brand new or involves technology that’s a bit cutting edge, people look at you like you’ve got a pair of horns.
What goals do you have for Yatter in the coming five years?
Our goal is to try and build a network of affiliates, people in the States who are happy to sell Yatter on our behalf. So that’s where we’re going with the States - trying to build networks out there.
What do you love most about your job?
I just love writing code! I could happily sit in a cupboard doing it for the next 12 months.
What advice would you give to someone else looking to set up their own business in digital and IT?
With any business I would strongly advise you to understand digital, your website, your social media presence and that your ability to interact with the outside world is critical to the success of your business.
Interested in Yatter for your business? Sign up here or keep up to date with their news and chat on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.