GoSquared has been providing real-time analytics for six years – longer than Google’s own analytics product. Yet it remains a minor player in the industry. Rayhan Rafiq Omar explores how the company plans on breaking out.
Initially, web analytics was slow and results were delayed by anywhere up to two days. GoSquared was set up by three co-founders with the aim of building a product that gave users instant results. Five years on, the company provides real-time analytics for 15,000 websites.
When GoSquared launched in 2007, it was the only company to offer real-time analytics for websites. The company was miles ahead of big players such as Google Analytics, which only produced two-day old data. Web analytics lacked the buzz of real-time data.
Today, GoSquared allows customers to “put their finger on the pulse” of their websites. While real-time is core to what GoSquared does, its primary differentiator is the ease of use of its dashboard. This makes the product accessible for the entire team, not just the technical team.
The size of the web analytics market is large: according to Forrester, 84 per cent of businesses currently use web analytics technology.
“If you think of all of the start-ups in the industry, all are driven by analytics, especially those solving problems they themselves don’t necessarily have. They need to track diverse metrics to inform direction. Every business, especially in the start-up world, needs analytics to fuel decisions and learn to improve service for its customers. All SMEs will be online if they aren’t already,” says co-founder Geoff Wagstaff. “That’s our potential market.”
The GoSquared team came together while the three co-founders were still at secondary school. Geoff Wagstaff, James Gill and James Taylor had seen the Million Dollar Homepage and wanted to build something similar, to make as much – or more – money than Alex Tew.
“We made a page with squares on it – basically giant pixels. The only way to get ads on it was to email in,” explains Wagstaff, who learnt PHP and mySQL to create an automated upload function. This function then morphed into an ad network.
While the team wasn’t great at selling ads, Wagstaff says that they were “great” at tech, and created a product called Livestats, which attracted more attention than even the ad network. “This led to the discovery that people were more interested in analytics driving insight into customers, and this is what GoSquared later became about.”
The team’s other big insight was that selling analytics on a subscription was a better business model than selling ads: “With Livestats, we could charge money and keep it.”
Now employing seven full-time staff, GoSquared is in the enviable position of having talented, young developers asking to join the team. On any given day, 10-20 people work on GoSquared, depending on how many friends, currently at school and university, decide to come in and intern. The company intends to hire more staff over the next year.
A running joke is that GoSquared is creating jobs for people that should otherwise be in education. The eldest of the founding team is 21 years old.
The initial GoSquared prototype was built in PHP and mySQL, which, admits Wagstaff, are not great for scaling.
Since 2009, the product has been on Amazon Web Services (AWS), with the team constantly modifying and improving the back-end solution using Node.js, Redis, MongoDB and various other AWS tools. Using the new languages and the platform, GoSquared has not – as yet – had any crippling scalability issues.
The key to building a successful product is to implement early and then work dynamically to stay at the cutting edge: “Pounce on opportunities,” says Wagstaff. “Luckily, most of the things we’ve experimented with have worked well and have done well with our community.”
The team then built a strong API, which allows them to build apps on top of it. This allows GoSquared’s developers to more easily track where problems happen.
The API is, according to Wagstaff, one of the company’s most undervalued assets: “People talk about the dashboard and its beauty, but the API helps with sharing different content and changing e-commerce site products automatically.”
In the future, the company plans to add gamification features to the product, which would incentivise customers to talk more about GoSquared.
To date, GoSquared provides paid-for real-time metrics for 15,000 websites. Growth has been strong: just 12 months ago, the company provided analytics for just 2,000 sites. (And, according to the founders, the first four years “don’t count because we were at school”.)
Having introduced yearly plans and forecasts, the team has significantly improved the business’s cash-flow – one trick, says Wagstaff, is to offer customers to pay for a year upfront.
The firm’s first customers came from the design-centric creative industries, but key partnerships with platforms such as RapidWeaver, which offers its customers the option to install GoSquared, has also enhanced the company’s reach.
Further deals with Cloudflare, which allows users to add GoSquared in one click, and Magento, another site creator, has driven the firm’s growth. Wagstaff is keen to point out that “getting out there” and making sure that businesses associate real-time analytics with GoSquared is the company’s main priority this year.
As the team entered university, they took investment from angel investors Thomas Jones, Eileen Burbidge and Stefan Glaenzer (the latter two later set up Passion Capital). Although the founders originally wanted to grow the business organically, taking investment has changed how they run the business. “It highlighted the value of time over money,” says Wagstaff.
As a result, he says, they do not fear paying a little more for getting a professional result, rather than thinking they can do everything themselves. “This change in attitude took us from working on ten start-ups to focusing on one.”
GoSquared has gained exposure without spending any money on advertising. Chris Leydon, the company’s “evangelist”, attends every relevant industry event. GoSquared t-shirts are ubiquitous.
The company’s main challenge is visibility. The web analytics market is moving quickly, and GoSquared has many areas in which it can grow. “More businesses in the US and European markets need to know about us,” says Wagstaff.
The next step for GoSquared is to focus on specific markets. On the tech side, the company’s developers are working to make the core data more useful, for example plotting conversion against revenue, or showing what affects traffic.
GoSquared has a strong team building a strong product. The only thing holding the company back from becoming a mass-market service is brand awareness. Can its founders change this?