Founders Series – Rachel Jones, CEO and Founder of legal tech start-up SnapDragon

Rachel Jones, CEO and Founder of legal tech start-up SnapDragon
Rachel Jones, CEO and Founder of legal tech start-up SnapDragon

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What does your company do?

Founded in 2015 by Rachel Jones, SnapDragon is disrupting the global IP market with its intelligent monitoring system, Swoop, which identifies counterfeit products on the world’s busiest online marketplaces.

Swoop is the first of its kind to be made publicly available and is the most effective, fast and affordable brand monitoring service available to SMEs.

SnapDragon aims to empower businesses of any size to take control of their online reputation – protecting their brand, revenues and most importantly, their customers.

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What do you do there / what is your role?

I am the founder and CEO of SnapDragon. My role, which I love, is leading the business, and the team, selling our software and service, and generally enthusing to anyone we meet about the necessity of fighting fakes – for both large and small businesses. Key to this is, of course, ensuring Swoop, our software, becomes the ‘go to’ brand protection solution for SMEs.

What is your background?

I have a degree in agriculture, and went on to do two post-grads – one in export marketing and the other in marketing communications. I combined my learning’s from all three, after working in the UK and New Zealand, to co-found the environmental communications agency, Great Circle, which we sold in 2011.

Along the way, I created the multi-award winning baby product, Totseat, a washable, squashable, portable child’s highchair. Then, in 2015, I launched SnapDragon with the aim of empowering SMEs with an affordable, effective brand protection solution.

What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

I’m not sure ‘aha moment’ is quite the right expression. The air was quite blue!

In 2013, Totseat was counterfeited and after recruiting Chinese students from the University of Edinburgh business school to help fight the fakes online with immediacy and tenacity – which was very successful – my newly learned expertise in helping others to do the same was much sought after.  

SnapDragon was really born of that. We absolutely know and understand the issues that counterfeits cause – to reputations, revenues and potentially to customers. We’re right there for companies fighting fakes and we really can make a difference (as our case studies testify).

Why did you launch the company?

When our baby product was counterfeited I couldn’t convince any of the excellent but large brand protection agencies to help. I was just too small and their fees were out of reach. As such, the only option was tackling the counterfeiters myself and it was this experience which led to SnapDragon and the subsequent development of SnapDragon’s amazing Swoop algorithms.

The point of Swoop/SnapDragon is that it is so affordable it’s entirely accessible to even the smallest SME. Swoop monitors the world’s busiest online marketplaces identifying products which infringe our clients’ intellectual property – either their trademark, design right, patent or even copyright in terms of photos or product descriptions. These listings can then be reported for removal – by the client or by SnapDragon.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

Since launching SnapDragon in 2015, turnover has consistently grown year-on-year. The business was bootstrapped in its early stages and we traded profitably without investment.

In 2017, we wanted to develop the tech side of the business so we secured a six-figure investment from Mercia Fund Management and SIB to allow us to do this.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

Over the last three years the original two-person team has grown to 25, which is split between Shetland and Edinburgh, and encompasses 8 nationalities, covering 14 languages.

We work with a number of high-profile businesses, including Harris Tweed, Morphsuits, Johnstons of Elgin, Glencairn, and Cheeky Chompers in Scotland, and many others in Europe and beyond.

Clients’ businesses are large and small. Some use the software themselves, monitoring the marketplaces for IP infringements – or even for their competitors’ products. Others enlist our help, relying on the team’s language skills to take down spurious listings around the world.

Swoop empowers SMEs to fight fakes on their own behalf. With no direct competition in the SME sphere, Swoop is fast becoming the byword for online brand protection.

We believe, fervently, that preventing goods from being sold online prevents them being exported, and in turn imported – so while online brand protection is but one part of the overall brand protection equation, it’s the most affordable, effective way of SMEs, in particular, to keep their reputations and revenues intact.  

To date, we have prevented the sale of more than $10 billion worth of goods, removing thousands of links to more than a million counterfeit items from online marketplaces and social media sites around the world.

Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?

Since launching SnapDragon in 2015, turnover has consistently grown year-on-year. The business was bootstrapped in its early stages and we traded profitably without investment.

In 2017, we wanted to develop the tech side of the business so we secured a six-figure investment from Mercia Fund Management and SIB to allow us to do this.

So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

We have a small but diverse team of 25.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

Our marketplace hasn’t changed a great deal. When we first launched we found that it was only large companies who had brand protection specialists on board and ultimately this remains the case. We are the only brand protection experts who cater to companies of all sizes.

What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?

We started working in industries where safety is of a critical concern – baby, nursery and toy, – after all, that was our heritage. We are now approached by businesses from every walk of life, all over the world, and if they have a brand to protect, we’re only too pleased to help.

What are your goals for your business?

Our ambition is to dramatically reduce the global sale of counterfeit goods. Sales of fakes online are growing by 20% year-on-year. By enabling businesses of any size to see the problems they face online and to take action, brands and the consumer can be kept safe, businesses remain profitable and fund flow to criminal enterprises cut as the products are removed from sale.

We are empowering even the smallest brands, with a global footprint, to take charge of the counterfeit issues they are facing – giving them the tools, the confidence, the support and guidance to identify and remove infringing goods.

What are your biggest current challenges?

There aren’t enough hours in the day!

What do you do outside work?

I spend precious time with family and friends, walk in the hills, drink wine, and, having been asked this earlier in the summer and was mortified not to have a hobby, I’ve just taken up curling!

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

Eating cake at 2pm is never a good idea.

What’s the secret to good leadership?

Finding, building and nurturing the team you want to lead. Vision, tenacity, resilience and steadfast support.

Where do you see the company in five years?

I want the business to continue working with businesses around the world to become the ‘go to’ online brand protection solution for businesses.

I also want SnapDragon to have impacted global trade by having removed a significant number of counterfeit and infringing products from sale.

How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

There needs to be more streamlined information sources as there are so many out there.

There could be better integration between Department for International Trade and Scottish Enterprise/Scottish Development International.

Startups could benefit from more mentoring and better awareness and use of paid internships.

Easier visas for the workforces we want to keep and in general, a more diverse workforce all round.

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