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Culture and innovation are intrinsically linked

In the latest episode of our True Connections podcast, Alan Hooks is joined by the founder and CEO of Matillion, Matthew Scullion, who in 2021 was named the UK winner of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Matthew not only shares his journey of starting Matillion, but also his learnings as a successful business leader and the link between company culture and innovation.

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In the late nineties, 17 year-old Matthew Scullion was asked if he wanted to help his summer job boss set up a software company. Trading off the tailwinds of the Millennium bug and the rise of the internet, this business enjoyed some success and 3-4 years after its inception was sold to a large American company. Matthew claims that this experience in his teens triggered the ‘entrepreneurial itch’ that stuck with him until he started Matillion in 2011.

As well as unlocking his entrepreneurial spirit, this experience of running a software company taught Matthew the importance of explaining technology to customers in a way that resonated. An advocate for lifelong learning, Matthew claims that most of all, this early entrepreneurial experience taught him that ‘you’ve always still got to learn’. This mantra sticks with him to this day and has been embedded into Matillion’s company values.

Setting up Matillion

Matthew describes his journey of setting up Matillion as an ‘arc’. Previously, he ran the UK software practice division for a large European systems integrator. This role solidified his belief in the potential of data analytics and emerging cloud technology. This passion, coupled with his dissatisfaction in his middle management position at the time, was something he discussed when on holiday with his wife. Despite being newlyweds looking to start a family, it was Matthew’s wife who gave him the push and encouragement he needed to set Matillion in motion.  

The world is pivoting to data.

Matthew Scullion, Founder of and CEO of Matillion

Matillion, started in Matthew’s back bedroom in 2011, was founded on his understanding that data technologies were going to continue to change how we work, live and play for the better well into the future. Companies rely on useful, high quality, analytics-ready data and this is where Matillion comes in. Matillion’s technology makes it easier and quicker to transform data from its raw state into usable and useful data.

Although Matthew hopes the majority of Matillion’s growth is still yet to come, the company has experienced huge growth already, achieving unicorn status in 2021.  Matthew credits this, amongst other things, to venture capital investment. Without this, he states, Matillion would not have been able to achieve such progress in such a short time frame.

Matthew’s advice for other entrepreneurs is to seriously consider if venture capital is relevant for you. This is most likely to be the case if you have a scalable business which has a large total addressable market that you can realistically take a chunk out of.  

Our biggest enemy was time.

Matthew Scullion, Founder of and CEO of Matillion

The investment of venture capital was vital to Matillion, Matthew explains, because time was the biggest threat. Matthew needed to secure money quickly to avoid other companies replicating Matillion’s solutions. Another drive to secure venture capital was the expertise that comes with it. Not only did it give Matthew the playbook, but also the confidence to feel like he was building a company of consequence.

Matthew noticed stark differences between the UK and US venture capital playbooks, however. Matthew argues that the British playbook is far more cautious compared to the risk tolerant playbook in the US. This is why it’s unsurprising to Matthew that the US is able to establish more multi-billion dollar global businesses. He argues that erring on the side of caution mitigates high growth and is something he hopes the UK venture capital playbook will break free from in future.

Innovation is so intertwined with culture.

Matthew Scullion, Founder of and CEO of Matillion

Company culture

Matthew believes that innovation in business is fueled by company culture. He prides Matillion on hiring smart people and creating a working environment that promotes intellectual safety and continual learning. He explains that by believing no person, process or product is ever finished, you open yourself up to innovation as you are on the lookout for improvement in all areas. You therefore develop and improve the products and processes of the businesses and - most crucially - yourself.

Matillion’s products, processes and people were certainly put to the test during EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year UK programme which he won in 2021. Matthew says it was a joy and privilege to participate and win such a merit-based and thorough awards process. He will go on to represent the UK in EY’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo in June this year. As a UK entrant hasn’t won in over a decade, Matthew jokes that he fears the UK might have another ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ type curse but is nonetheless excited to share Matillion’s story with fellow entrepreneurs from around the world. We wish him the best of luck!

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2022 UK programme is now open for nominations. If you know an unstoppable entrepreneur who is creating long term value, please visit eoy.ey.com