Ben Jeffries, 23 and Influencer CEO
Ben Jeffries is the 23-year-old CEO and co-founder of Influencer, the UK’s leading influencer marketing platform. Ben founded Influencer, his second company, at just 18, dropping out of university and partnering with YouTube star Caspar Lee as co-founder and CMO. Ben has since led his team to close multiple investment rounds for Influencer, while taking on clients such as Apple, Alibaba and McDonalds. Ben is an award-winning entrepreneur, most recently being named as Media Week’s Rising Star and BMW’s UK Tech Founder 2018.
Ben tells us about his experience as a young entrepreneur and the challenges ahead.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I have always been the entrepreneurial type. I started out on my entrepreneurial journey aged 15, which is when I founded Breeze. Through Breeze, I saw a big problem that a lot of people in my network were having; an inability to reach and negotiate with relevant celebrities for promotional campaigns on social media. I reached out to players in the Chelsea FC reserve team, asking if they would take photos of themselves in Breeze clothing in exchange for £50. The success of this showed me that it would be something that could be scaled up and utilised within the marketing and advertising industry. I completed my first year at Bath University whilst trying to build the Influencer platform, using my experience with Breeze. After successfully crowdfunding over £100,000 on Crowdcube in under 24 hours, I knew this was something that would need a lot more commitment. I dropped out of university and focused all my time creating the Influencer platform.
What made your business successful?
Influencer’s first round of funding on Crowdcube contributed greatly to the success of Influencer. I had worked in a pub on my gap year to raise money to create the Influencer platform. However, at the end of the year, the developers I had been working with ran off with my money. I turned to Crowdcube and in under 24 hours, we managed to raise over £100,000 of investment from 139 different investors. I was able to use this money to turn Influencer from an agency to a SaaS platform. It was an important moment in mine and Influencer’s journey that has enabled the business to be where it is now. Another key moment in generating success was when YouTube personality and Vlogger, Caspar Lee joined the company as the CMO in 2017. His online presence and experience within the industry aided the development of Influencer greatly.
What has been the most difficult thing to deal with?
As I mentioned before, I worked on my gap year to be able to afford some initial developers to bring the platform to life, but they ran off with my savings. I was new to business and due to my excitement, I rushed into things. It was a difficult mistake to make, however, I learnt from it and I now make sure not to jump into things too quickly and to review everything thoroughly before I make any long-term decisions!
What has been the best time/ thing in creating this company?
One of the best things about creating Influencer was that it gave me the ability to work and develop the company with extraordinary like-minded individuals. The company would not be where it is today without their help. Another enjoyable aspect of creating this company is being able to work with brands. Whether this would be start-ups who are just finding their feet or well-established multinational corporations. It is truly amazing how many different clients we have the privilege of working with. We are also growing so rapidly, which I find extremely exciting!
Do you have investors?
Influencer is in the process of going through its third investment round. Having raised the first round of investment on Crowdcube in under 24 hours, the team has since closed multiple investment rounds and taken on clients such as Apple, Alibaba and McDonalds.
Have you still got challenges ahead?
The influencer marketing industry is still a relatively juvenile industry and, subsequently, there will inevitably be natural obstacles during its development, which translate into individual company challenges. The company itself is only three years old and therefore it is difficult to prove success on such a short timescale, however, within the three years we have expanded the company enormously and it is now one of the UK's largest influencer marketing companies.
What are the next steps?
I am always trying to evolve as an individual and I want this ethos to reflect within the company. At Influencer we are always striving to ensure there is continuous development and numerous strategies will be implemented within the near future to achieve this. Specifically, one of our future ventures is to integrate IBM Watson into the platform to allow for in-depth post campaign analysis and a deeper understanding of campaign impact on public opinion. We are also planning to launch a full mobile app to streamline the campaign process. Another addition to our platform is a plug and play feature which will provide a rich data set for pre and post campaign analysis. Content creation will be offered for advertisers that only require creative assets without the need for distribution. Influencer also recently appointed award-winning scale-up entrepreneur Adam Ludwin as a director. Adam will be working closely with the team on the growth of the company, ensuring Influencer continues to have the best technology in the market, whilst also planning the start of our international expansion, allowing us to take our offering to new markets across the globe.