Getting to know you: Mark Fraser CEO of zappit

What do you currently do?
I am the founder and CEO of zappit, a technology firm that provides a platform for brands, agencies and media owners to maximise their engagement with new and existing customers using NFC, QR and mobile payment technology.

Both Quick Response (QR) and Near Field Communication (NFC) are technologies that have been ‘the next big thing’ for a while, but this year is seeing businesses really begin to use them in earnest. Smartphone manufacturers are now including the technology in their devices, shoppers are becoming more aware of the benefits and related services like mobile wallets are further driving demand for NFC enabled phones.

zappit powered the JCDecaux ‘Test the Near Future’ NFC trial in Reading earlier this year, which was the world’s first large-scale deployment of NFC-enabled advertising media, offering consumers rich media and social content. Participating brands included Universal, Mercedes, ITV2, H&M and Morrisons and more than 3,000 people in Reading scanned the poster sites during the trial, the equivalent of one million people if the project had been run nationally.

NFC in particular allows any business to engage with a consumer and by 2013 will be the dominant mobile marketing technology. It delivers instant value to consumers such as coupons, loyalty and products and provides brands with richer data, anytime anywhere mobile payments and the ability to make more relevant and personalised offers, so has vast potential for businesses of all sizes that want to use mobile as a channel.

What is your inspiration in business?
My inspiration from a purely personal perspective, is in supporting my family and making a success of zappit. I come from a family of business people and entrepreneurs so the drive to succeed is strong.

I am also greatly inspired by the opportunity zappit affords me. Previously I worked in agencies, which I found full of red tape and bureaucracy. I wanted to recommend to clients the most innovative, yet efficient solution but always felt pressured into recommending the easiest, safest solution instead. That never felt right and was unfulfilling.

Who do you admire?
All the people in my family that have started, owned and managed businesses in the past. There must be something in the gene pool, as my grandfather had his own fashion retail company, my dad owned a chain of pharmacies in the north west and my mum owned a children’s retail shop. All of these were successful businesses and I’m equally full of admiration for all three!

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Not at all. That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes along the way but I’m a big believer in learning from your experiences, both good and bad, so the odd bad decision has helped me get to where I am today.

What defines your way of doing business?
I am black and white regarding pretty much everything in life and business. I realise that has the potential to be frustrating for people that work with me but I’d also like to think that I’m polite and considerate when dealing with people.

Good communication is imperative if you are telling someone you don’t agree with them and clients respond really well to that too. They know that you aren’t spinning them a line and appreciate the honesty, which is the polar opposite to my experience of what goes on working in agencies.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
You get a lot of well-intentioned advice when you start a business but I’d always tell people to only listen to that of those that you respect, otherwise the water gets easily muddied. Business owners should also be prepared to disappoint those closest to them, in the short-term anyway.

It is hard work and long hours initially and whilst that gets better over time, the first year or two you might not see as much of friends and family as you’d like. Finally, don’t do it if it feels like a job! You won’t enjoy it and it won’t work.