Secrets of my Success: David Eldridge, Founding partner and CEO, Alterian

It's been an interesting career path so far; from running a software company based in my bedroom to managing a Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 winner which began life above a cafe in Weston-super-Mare. Allow me to elaborate...

I've always been interested in technology - at 13 I worked as a glass collector for my local pub to scrape together the money to buy a BBC micro computer. I'm glad that I did, as that purchase sparked a chain of events that influenced my entire career path.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by the relationship between technology and commercial venture. Having entered and won the BBC's National Schools' Software Competition at the age of 14, myself and a friend set up a limited company to market our winning software, Cumbria Software Systems, which was run from my bedroom.

Selling that software program gave me the business bug. Two years later we had expanded the business to become one of the top three resellers for Acorn - the manufacturer of the BBC micro home computer.

After A levels, we recruited a teacher from school to run the business and went on to university.

Cumbria Software Systems continues to thrive today, although I should point out that its headquarters is no longer located in my bedroom.

Having studied business and management at Salford University, I got a job at Royal Dutch/Shell. Here I was considered something of a novelty as few on the graduate programme (who had been to a red brick university) had a northern accent.

I worked in various roles during my five years there but finally moved to GB Group as a corporate strategy and business development manager.

Here, my remit involved relationship-building with partners and customers, focusing on the creation of new products and services, including the National Register and for a time managing GB's account teams.

This experience underlined what I've always believed to be a fundamental principle - that the customer is key. I haven't forgotten what I learned at GB Group: to always seek feedback and act accordingly. Even the most loyal customer will turn to a competitor if you stop delivering on your promises.

By 1997 I was hungry for a new challenge and having worked on projects with Brann software developers Mike Talbot and Tim McCarthy, the three of us decided to set up a new company to build our own marketing and customer insight software.

Our first offices were above a cafe in Weston-super-Mare, a far cry from where the deal was struck in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel.

For the first year our workforce comprised just the three of us. Alterian is now an international operation - we have doubled our sales revenues for three consecutive years and picked up first prize at the National Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 Awards along the way. We also floated successfully on the London Stock Exchange in July, 2000.

Of course, there have been challenges - one of the most frustrating was to convince the world that Alterian's marketing and customer insight software actually did what we claimed. People said that it couldn't be achieved but we knew that we had a solution that met a real business need. This was also the point at which I learned the true value of determination.

There were times when we all felt like throwing in the towel but it has always been a mission of mine to persevere with things I believe in.

I'm extremely proud of Alterian and all that we've achieved so far. It sounds like a cliche, but our secret really is the great people that make up the company. They have real enthusiasm for the organisation and its future. It's amazing what a good team of people can accomplish.



- Degree in business and management, Salford University. Diploma in

marketing from CIM

First job

- Founder, Cumbria Software Systems

Climbing the ladder

- Consultant, Royal Dutch/Shell

- Distribution planning manager, Royal Dutch/Shell

- Corporate strategy and business development manager, GB Group

- Founding partner and CEO, Alterian Secrets

- Listen to customer feedback and act accordingly

- Persevere with what you believe in

- Build a team of top people who excel in their field

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