David Eldridge: A letter to my younger CEO Self


Scale-Up Investors

David Eldridge: A letter to my younger CEO Self

David Eldridge co-founded Alterian in 1997, where he led its IPO on the main market of the LSE in 2000 and developed the company into a recognised leader in the marketing platform space before its sale to SDL in 2011. Featured in BtoB Magazine’s “Who’s who in BtoB” and Data Strategy’s “Power 50 in Data”, David is Director and Joint Founder of 3radical, and sits on the Board of high-growth technology companies including Idio and Neighbourly. 

Dear David,

For as long as you can remember, you’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit. You founded Cumbria Software Systems at 14 before you had even sat your O-Levels. Working with larger businesses and multinationals like Shell and GBG since then has given you the necessary tools to embark on a new adventure.

The early days of Alterian, however, will not be awash with glitz and glamour. Right now, you’re sat in your first office with your two fellow co-founders, above a Weston-super-Mare café. Rest assured, you will grow – and fast. You will lead a successful IPO and become one of the youngest CEOs of a main market LSE company at the age of 30. The sea air will soon be exchanged for city fumes and with four acquisitions under your belt, Alterian will be recognised by industry analysts as a leading marketing platform. Eventually, you will reach 1500 enterprise customers worldwide with the majority of your revenue from the US.

To make sure the journey there is as smooth as possible, here are a few things to remember:

  1. New talent will take you to new heights

You will need talent to take on key roles as the business scales; not only will they plug gaps in your own skillset and that of the current team, but they will bring new perspectives and networks – especially valuable for international expansion. Don’t be tempted to keep square pegs in round holes for convenience, but make sure your decisions don’t appear arbitrary. Honest, open communication will ensure that whatever moves you make are framed by your ultimate goal: the success of the business.

An experienced chairman or non-exec will also help to bring perspective to what the team needs to look like as the business grows. Do make sure you are getting the most out of these key advisors.

  1. Hear what customers have to say

It’s incredibly important to understand why your customers bought your product or service, why they use it and what they think could make it better. Even if they have stopped using it, find out why. This will help you achieve focus when it comes to your product and roadmap, instead of being “all things to all people”, as well as securing more referrals from happy customers, helping to build out your client base.

  1. Don’t waste time on incongruous customers

 Remember this: the wrong customers will distract you and your team from scaling and being successful; the right customers will help you to win big. Partnerships which foster strong, multi-level relationships will allow you play to your strengths, while steering you away from wasting valuable time hanging on to customers where the mutual benefit just isn’t there. Don’t resist gravitating towards the customers you enjoy working with the most and where they are getting the most value from your business – your aligned values and approaches will guarantee prosperity.

  1. Doubts are normal – but retain your focus

It’s natural to have some doubt over the path you have set. What you need to ensure is that Alterian is highly focused and becoming increasingly aligned with the needs of the chosen market. This will make every decision easier and allow you to upsell and win new clients more easily.

Things may take longer than you’d hoped to take off but regular meetings with senior folk at your chosen customers or prospects will be a useful metric of your progress. If they are saying the same things as you are about the opportunity in their market and suggest attacking it in the same way, you’ll know that you’re on the right track and that the business is going to continue to grow and succeed.

Best of luck,

David (your future self)