Interview With Simon Burton of Celebrus


IQ Workforce has partnered with Celebrus Technologies to build out their US sales and delivery organization. The following interview is with Celebrus CEO Simon Burton.  We ask him several questions about their business strategy and technology differentiators in the analytics space.

Business Questions:

IQ Workforce:  Celebrus has unusually deep relationships with some of the biggest names in the enterprise analytics world (SAS, Teradata, etc.). How did that happen? Why are these companies walking your team into huge analytics transformation projects?

(Simon) Celebrus has developed and patented a suite of technology over 16 years that makes the whole process of capturing, transforming and delivering detailed, individual level data from the digital channel directly into these companies systems and applications a simple process. We have developed tight integrations including joint IP, to ensure that there are no gaps in the data, no latencies (due to the real-time nature of our technology), and we are a proven quantity on some of the most demanding websites in the world. Many of the Celebrus team have been on-board since inception in 1999, so we also bring with us immense domain knowledge, which the teams in these organisations take full advantage of. They know that if they bring Celebrus into the sale, we know how to work with them, so we tend to be viewed as an extension of their team. We also are proven to leverage large seven figure SW deals for these organisations and they have many happy joint customers who are seeing ROI’s in the $10M’s per annum. Our patents would also tend to preclude these organisations trying to tackle this big subject themselves, preferring to work with experts in this complicated field.

IQ Workforce:  Given the strength of your partner sales channel, how much time / energy do you expect to spend selling directly to US customers?

(Simon) – Very little at present and we have no plans to change this in the short to medium term. Celebrus can gain access to all of the large Enterprise prospects we wish to engage with via our global partnerships. We typically look to work alongside those account executives that have C level connections and have already identified a need in their customer. This shortens the engagement cycle and the deal process is usually a well-trodden path.

IQ Workforce:  Who is the typical or ideal Celebrus customer? What problems are they trying to solve?

(Simon) – Depends on the industry, however, the overarching theme is one of trying to do a better job of Customer intelligence, Customer Experience Management and 1:2:1 personalisation. Our customers tend to be the heads of revenue management in the Airlines, the CIO, CTO, Heads of CRM/Customer Analytics and Chief Data Officers in retail Banks and heads of CRM, Customer Targeting and Digital in Retailers.

IQ Workforce:  Celebrus was acquired by IS Solutions not long ago. How has this changed the outlook / trajectory for the company and its products?

(Simon) – I would look upon it as a merger. Some 24 months ago, Celebrus began to win large multi-country digital transformation projects in major banks, airlines, automotive and retail customers. This brought with it a need to expand our delivery, support and managed services functions as well as expanding our development capabilities to cater for the many additional requirements being thrown at us by our data hungry clients. These additional requirements fall into a need to go beyond digital and to capture and contextualise data from other disparate channels e.g. Credit Card payment systems, ATM’s, POS and Call Centres. IS Solutions are a long established services company that bring 150 new people to the Celebrus team, comprising all of these required resources. In addition as a listed company on the UK stock exchange they helped to raise our profile, provide funding to grow our teams around the world, and they are opening new doors for us with an ever expanding partner base. In the past few days the IS Solutions share price rose approx. 34% on the back of excellent trading statement, so we all feel we are on the right track.

IQ Workforce:  We have worked with several UK and EU-based analytics vendors to grow their business in the U.S. These companies have had varying degrees of success. Why is Celebrus going to succeed in the U.S. market?

(Simon) – We are already operating in the US via our global partners and have a number of wins under our belt, such as Saks 5th Avenue & Delta Airlines. Celebrus has already established strong partnerships in the US and we have received sponsorship at their very highest levels, ensuring that all doors are open to us in their client and prospect base. We are a well-funded organisation who prefer to spend money we have, rather than raise large VC sums with the short term goals and dilution that often brings. Both Celebrus and IS Solutions have been trading for many years, 16 in Celebrus case and 30 in IS Solutions case, so we have a proven business model and management team, with a long track record of prudence and success. We know things always take longer than expected and we are embarking on a program to ensure that our US business receives all the support and funding it needs to be successful. A Gartner fellow recently stated in an interview that our time is now, and we truly believe that we are on the cusp of something pretty special.

Product / Technical:

IQ Workforce:  Historically Celebrus has focused on data capture and delivery of digital data (website, mobile apps, social media, etc.), but it seems that you are expanding your capabilities to capture data from many different types of customer touch points and systems (credit card transactions, POS, call center, ATM’s, etc.). What led to this transition and where are you in the process?

(Simon) – We have a unique ability to simply and easily capture digital data, but also to contextualise and shape that data in real-time. The benefits have been obvious to our customers for some time in Digital, however, our ability to standardise digital data has led to calls for us to expand this capability to do the same thing with other data sources. We’d always had this in mind and we recently completed a 4 year development program to ensure that Celebrus could meet this emerging need. Our version 8 release is the largest development in our 16 year history and I believe that embarking on such a development at this stage of our evolution is testimony to our continued drive to invent new and ground breaking technology that supports our customer’s needs and wants.

IQ Workforce:  Celebrus allows companies to track each individual customer’s interactions across all digital channels. Can you give us an overview of how the product works?

(Simon) – Celebrus has invented an ability to automatically reconcile the individual across sessions and devices. This is a real-time function and is a constant, in that it is always trying to bring each and every interaction back to a recognised individual. Initially, Celebrus would simply store cookie values and any other ID’s that help in this endeavour. Over time however, as the individual identifies himself on a single device and then other devices Celebrus automatically snaps these sessions together to build a single profile. This is very demonstrable but certainly not simple to do. We also track users across an organisations domains using a patented cross domain function, which also ensures a complete picture of the users activity, again in real-time and over time.

And then specifically:

How is it tag-free?

(Simon) – This is the secret sauce in Celebrus and is a broadly patented process. I think it fair to say that since the inception of the internet, many have coveted this capability, but none have actually achieved it, except Celebrus. Again it is easily demonstrated, but dealing with the nuances of the many, many browsers and applications involved in the industry is what Celebrus has focussed on these past 16 years. Unlike all other vendors, with the possible exception of Tealeaf, Celebrus doesn’t employ JavaScript “tagging” across a site to collect the data. Instead, we use a single line of JavaScript code, which references two small JavaScript files, which are always the same and never change. They are downloaded once to the browser or application and cached. They then self-adapt to the environment they find themselves in and begin data collection. They are controlled from a Celebrus server, which can be in the cloud or on premise and we give the client complete control over the data they collect via a series of tick boxes – another patented process. Celebrus automatically adapts to both secure and non-secure environments and is able to collect and sessionalise all interactions including clicks, keystrokes and values and mouse moves/hovers if required.

How does it power 1:1 marketing personalization?

(Simon) – Celebrus takes the real-time feed, contextualises it, loads it onto an event stream and via a high speed data loader and/or a real-time triggering function, we deliver the right data in the right time directly into the right application. That data is used by CRM systems or call centres to communicate with each individual based on their activities and interactions. In addition, Celebrus can also become part of the website personalisation function, by acting as a conduit between the customers interactions and a real-time Decisioning system, and then surfacing content in the page as a result of any decision or recommendation made. All of the above are in place today in many blue chips and our ability to deal with the many involved processes in the major Enterprises is testimony to both our technology and our people.

What makes Celebrus better / different compared with other successful products in the marketplace? How is it complimentary?

(Simon) – Most companies would use Web Analytics to aggregate Website activities and report on trends. Our clients would tend to implement Celebrus alongside these systems initially, to deliver the required data to drive individual customer intelligence and to power their 1:2:1 personalisation activities. After some time, they often decide that they have all the data they need in Celebrus and then use our data to drive operational reporting via a BI tool such as Tableau, Qlik, MSTR and SAS, with whom Celebrus has global partnerships. If they just want Web Analytics, Celebrus is a big sledge hammer for that particular nut, but if they want “customer” that is what we were designed to deliver.