Interview: Richard Sheppard, founder of Interceptor Solutions
Richard Sheppard is the founder and managing director of Interceptor Solutions, a technology firm that offers up multilingual software solutions and localisation services. We speak to him about the company, its products, its successes and its future.
TD: Can you tell us more about yourself and your business, please?
RS: I’m the founder and MD of Interceptor Solutions. I started Interceptor at the end of 2013 to commercialise some software ideas that we’d prototyped at a previous business. At heart, I’m a software developer, so with this new business, I’ve decided to be very hands-on with the technology.
TD: What makes it unique?
RS: Our core product is WebSkin, which is essentially a ‘wrapper’ for web applications that enables us to intercept the user interface and transform it. The initial version of this is branded LinguaSkin and enables the quick and easy creation of a multilingual interface for monolingual web applications.
Key to this is not requiring any changes to the target application, and being completely transparent to the end user. The target application continues to operate monolingually, and the user sees a multilingual interface.
As with any innovation, it’s all pretty obvious once you see it in action, but so far it’s unique and there’s no one else with a similar solution in the global market.
TD: How does it benefit customers?
RS: We have two customer types.
For a software developer, LinguaSkin disrupts the existing software localisation industry as we can do in days what normally takes months – we talk about (and realise) a 95-99% saving in cost and time.
For customers that use licensed software (i.e. they don’t have the ability to change it), we can create a multilingual interface without needing to move to a different platform or pay the vendor (lots) to change their software.
TD: Why did you set it up, and how far have you come?
RS: After exiting the previous business (software development), I was looking for a new challenge. We’d prototyped this capability back in 2007/08 and received positive feedback from the market, but were too busy doing other things to pay it proper attention. It was an itch I wanted to go back and scratch.
Also, I wanted a new business based around a ground-breaking idea, for it to be product-based, and for it to be something with which I could be hands on.
It’s taken a couple of years to build the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), test and validate it in the market, do some case study implementations and get process, marketing and the countless details in place. Now, we’ve just gone live with our tenth customer, will break even this quarter and move into profit next quarter.
TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?
RS: The success has been finding the right mix of inspiration, determination, luck and structured process to bring a concept to market, to validate and evolve it along the way so that it matches the market need. A frustrating, challenging and absorbing process, but a great feeling to come out the other side with a viable business.
Obstacles – there are plenty. But they always end up as either a problem you can solve or can’t and need to work around. So the greatest obstacle ends up being your own mind-set and knowing when to dig in and when to move on.
TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?
RS: It’s exciting, and we’re starting to see some critical mass as businesses come together to become identifiable as a sector. There are a lot of exciting start-ups, but also a lot of established (and some very large) businesses in the sector. So, we have all the components to become a meaningful tech hub in the UK and just need to continue to work together and creating a collaborative ecosystem.
TD: How is your business contributing to it?
RS: Mostly by being part of it, being committed to Wales, giving and receiving mentoring and being an enthusiastic collaborator. I’m also a big supporter of activities where we can come together as a sector to talk and build relationships.
Whether this is around something specific like skills, a commercial opportunity or more general networking, I believe that from communication comes understanding and trust, and when you have that, then we’re all stronger.
TD: Where do you see yourself in five years?
RS: The plan is to build out both products and markets. In terms of markets, we’ve started with a focus on the Welsh public sector, but the market for LinguaSkin is global and we’ve lots of ambition (and specific plans) to address that. Our product plan is equally exciting, and we’ve various WebSkin variations in the pipeline for cyber security, SEO, accessibility, platform targeting and the semantic web.
One step at a time though, and the ability to focus and master one product and one market comes first.
TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?
RS: Be flexible. You need to validate your product in the market and evolve it to fit. Your idea may well be a good one, but you need to not be stubborn and allow the idea to be shaped by the market. Read the Lean Startup, find mentors and focus on creating value for the customer as they’re not interested in the tech like we are, just what it can do for them.