Clicks and bricks: how RapidSpike is helping retailers build for the future

RapidSpike is a fast-growing website performance and cybersecurity business that has designed a platform to monitor, protect and improve website performance for its customers.

In September 2020, we invested £1m to help the business enhance and scale its product, in addition to expanding its client base of blue-chip customers that already includes brands such as William Hill, Npower and major US brand retailer Helen of Troy – the company that owns Revlon and Braun.

RapidSpike’s platform is particularly popular with consumer-facing businesses which, in a year of restrictions and lockdowns, have been forced to shift much of their business online.

We caught up CEO Gav Winter to find out more about his journey so far, as well as discussing how the pandemic has affected RapidSpike and the retail sector more broadly.

  • Could you tell us a little bit about the business and what you do?

RapidSpike exists to make sure that websites are fast, more secure and more reliable for our customers and consumers. Having a high-performance website has grown in importance over the last few years, but the pandemic has really accelerated this trend as more people have been shopping online.

The quality of a business’ website has become a big differentiator for consumers picking between competing brands. For obvious reasons, they want websites that are quick and easy to navigate, but are also secure and not liable to crash. So, it’s crucial that businesses get the performance right, as it plays a key role in improving the trust of consumers and, ultimately, converting sales.

We also help our customers keep on top of the changes that affect their websites. For example, Google has recently changed it’s Core Web Vitals, the way that it ranks websites in user searches, so that the best performing websites are ranked at the top. Being at or near the top of searches is a vital asset as getting seen ahead of your competitors is business 101.

Security is also a significant part of the service we offer. Our technology can detect payment threats in under five minutes. To use a real-world example, when British Airways (BA) suffered an attack on its website in 2018, details of around 400,000 customers were harvested by attackers. This eventually resulted with BA being hit with a £20m fine and untold reputational damage.

Had BA had RapidSpike, we predict that only 100 people would have been affected by the attack. The sanctions that businesses face for not properly protecting customer data are severe – they can’t afford to not protect themselves.

  • What led you to seek the support of a venture capital partner and what was important to you when choosing a partner?

I don’t really view Praetura Ventures as a VC partner – they’re much more than that.

We knew we had a great platform, and a team to match it, but we needed guidance to help us build the right processes and develop a marketing strategy that would help us scale. The team at Praetura Ventures is helping us to do that and more. And the best thing is, it allows me to focus on the day job – developing the tech that underpins our platform so we can continually enhance it.

Having a group of clever heads around the table is always reassuring and makes for the perfect sounding board, as you know that the noise you hear back is filtered through years of expertise and is invariably spot on.

From the monthly catch-ups with Dave Foreman, to regular chats with Sim Singh-Landa and Andy Sumner, and even a WhatsApp group with the founders of their other portfolio companies, it’s great to have a lot of support for what we’re doing. The ‘more than money’ mantra isn’t a myth.

That said, the team at Praetura Ventures strikes the balance really well when it comes to not getting too involved. Rather than overhaul the business plan, they’ve bought into it and worked with us to refine it. And the advice they offer is always just that – there’s no obligation to do what they say. It’s clear that my team and I are running the business, and this gives us ownership of our successes and failures. By encouraging ownership like this, it’s really driving us to grow.

  • What have been your key highlights from the first few months of the partnership?

Something that immediately stands out actually happened before the start of our partnership. We had first started talking in 2019 and were due to complete a deal not long after the pandemic struck. But once that happened, the team were really honest and said they had to prioritise the health of their current portfolio before investing in another company. We’d have done the same thing in that position. They gave us their word that once they were in a position to do so and their portfolio was stable, they’d see the deal through. Six months later, Praetura Ventures were as good as their word.

From that point on, you’re immediately working from a foundation of trust, which is something that you really value when in charge of a business. Being a CEO can be a lonely place, and you develop worries and stresses that can take their toll. But in the team at Praetura Ventures, I’ve found a very strong relationship that allows me to ask questions, gives me confidence and even simply vent my frustrations!

  • How was your 2020, and what does 2021 look like for RapidSpike and the industry as a whole?

While I wouldn’t say we had a surge in new business as a result of more businesses beginning to move online, we certainly saw a surge in interest. RapidSpike fits in slightly later to the website life cycle that many are only just entering into, as we look to improve and enhance existing websites rather than helping set up new ones. In time, we expect to see this interest convert as businesses get their feet under the table and as the economy begins to bounce back.

That said, we still achieved double digit growth in 2020. Our team has also grown by 50% and we’ve taken the time to implement new market systems.

In 2021, we’re planning to double the size of the business. Sectors such as travel and hospitality, which have had a challenging 12 months, will be looking to kick on and we see them as major areas for growth. And like any good British business, our next goal is to ‘break’ America and to expand into its growing market.

In the slightly longer term, we see growth for RapidSpike to stem from the increasing ESG considerations from businesses. The internet is a massive burden on power and energy, with buffering and loading speeds raising power consumption. Fast websites decrease energy consumption, making us an energy-saving company as much as a website improvement company!

More generally, I think that most retailers will continue to turn their efforts to online operations. Covid-19 caused a fundamental shift in consumer thinking and behaviour, and with hybrid working likely to be the future, bricks and mortar retailers will struggle to survive on footfall alone.

Previously, it was predicted that 95% of all purchases would be online by 2040. I think the pandemic has accelerated this shift and brought it forward by a decade. Life has changed and businesses can’t risk not having a fast, secure and reliable online operation.

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