Interview: Craig Barnett, managing director of CulturVate

Tech Dragons recently caught up with Craig Barnett, managing director of Newport-based team management platform CulturVate. He talks more about the product, his start-up journey and future plans.

TD: Who are you, and what do you do?

CB: We are a corporate services company. Our mission is to help companies create a culture where innovation thrives. This is done through two cloud-based solutions that encourage improved engagement and innovation between employee and organisation.

TD: Why did you set your company up?

CB: Employee disengagement cost the UK economy up to £340 billion annually. During 2018, 48% of employees have been actively looking for new jobs, and that is a very expensive exercise. We have found that a huge part of disengagement is that organisations do not listen to the voices of the employees often enough. We set the company up to solve this issue.

Through our software, we can reduce the cost of retention through engagement. Once an employee is engaged, they do something very special; they innovate; and they want their business to succeed on the marketplace.

We provide a platform that collects their ideas, allows for an assessment process that mitigates any risk that might arise from new ideas, and allows these ideas to be liberated into new products, processes or identifying issues before they become serious.

TD: What has your start-up journey been like?

Very bumpy. We’ve had to learn a lot of things, change our approaches, and overcome a lot of obstacles. However, we have been very fortunate to have the backing of Wesley Clover and Sir Terry Matthews. This has opened a few doors for us, but we have also been able to draw on the expertise of serial entrepreneurs behind names such as Newbridge Networks, Ubiquity Software and Mitel.

TD: What has been your biggest success and biggest obstacle?

CB: Our biggest success to date is signing a contract with the NHS. It was a lengthy and difficult process. And our biggest obstacle is trying to market, brand and develop ourselves with much less funding than our competition.

TD: Where do you see yourself and the firm in five years’ time?

CB: We know that we will be market leaders in culture and innovation software tools within the UK market. We are soon expanding to North America and are in talks with some Australian and South African companies about partnerships there.

TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of entrepreneurs?

CB: Starting up a company has no right answers, so get all the advice and feedback you can and go with what seems right for you. Setbacks are inevitable, and if you let yourself get discouraged by them, you’re not going to get very far.

Also, the amount of work required is huge, and it will take a long time before your personal life and your working life can be separated. When you’re a start-up, if you get an opportunity at 9 o clock at night, you can’t leave it until the morning. Failure is an option – failure allows for fresher ideas to come faster.