Founder Feature: James McCallum, Chairman and Co-founder of Xergy

In our latest Founder Feature, we spoke with James McCallum (pictured right) chairman and co-founder of Xergy, the company behind Proteus.

Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?

Xergy, is the company behind Proteus, a unique cloud-based work management automation platform that changes the way companies work, access talent and deliver projects. Myself and co-founder and CEO, Colin Mason, founded Xergy in 2018. 

As experienced businessmen who have successfully created and sold respective technical management consultancies, we saw an opportunity in the way that companies addressed operational management and accessed people and software in an increasingly digitalised,low-margin and low-carbon world. 

Our platform, Proteus is the first of its kind to deliver a fully integrated business operating software stack that transforms business operating models. Our platform enables our clients to access talent and manage their business delivery processes in a way that will boost profits by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies across the company. 

What is the core technology driving your start-up’s product/service?

The term “cloud” might seem too amorphous but it’s the most important technology and underpins everything we’re trying to do. Our open API products and those of our collaborating partners are developed to allow our client companies to move their entire operations and data to the cloud. By developing our products in this way our clients can take advantage of exciting new technologies and approaches, such as AI, which is increasingly embedded in our product offerings, very specifically in The Marketplace.

The cloud and the open architecture of our products enable a waterfall of incoming data from across the clients supply chain to be stored and analysed. We then use this data to generate dashboards, which convey real-time business performance and metrics shaped by our clients. For example if a company locks its data in spreadsheets and documents, they aren’t extracting the full business value from it. Companies need to embrace cloud-based work management and collaboration systems in order to unlock their full potential. The cloud facilitates data sharing leading to data analytics aimed at achieving benchmark business performance which is at the core of our products and everything we are trying to achieve.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

Whilst we set out to address a challenge in the diversified energy sector, we quickly realised that our platform, Proteus, its strategy and way of working is relevant across many business sectors. This was transformational. We now see ourselves as building a product that is sectorally agnostic and catering for a real need for bringing together the disparate tool suite that many clients are using to help them manage their business. This type of business disruption is rooted in the shared experiences of both Colin and myself it and excites us because we are truly building something that is both transformational and is giving back. 

As we’ve seen this year, businesses can operate in a highly efficient manner whilst embracing remote working. Our product addresses this change head on. We are enabling our clients and their most valuable asset, their people, to work in the ways that they want to work while also meeting the productivity goals the business needs.

How do you manage the duality between driving new business and overseeing daily operations?

For me it’s about building a team with complementary, yet diverse skill-sets, and encouraging a culture to challenge accepted wisdoms. 

We have an experienced team that share different responsibilities, ensuring that a fine balance of shared accountability is maintained. We are a startup but we recognise that we always need one eye on new business while the other is focused on product development. By respecting and harnessing the talent and skills of everybody to the best of our ability we hopefully punch well above our weight and drive our collective potential forward in both winning new business and driving operational efficiency.

What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?

Within the next month we are focused on continuing to improve the operating management system and its integration with both external and internal open API products. While ProteusOS sits at the heart of our business offering, we need to continuously identify and develop other tools that take advantage of our open architecture. We will also have completed the recruitment of our internal development team by the end of the month.

Month three is very important for us as we come out with a second investment funding round in which we seek capital to drive forward and deepen the capabilities of our software portfolio. 

Month six will be focused on capitalising on the success from the investment raise, which will facilitate the expansion of our team bringing new skilled experts across the business, including global sales personnel.

By the end of the year, we will have a fully functional suite of products and we will be preparing to come out to the market to gear up for enhanced market penetration and global sales. 

Can you tell us who your mentors and heroes are, and what impact they’ve had on you?

In my personal life, my true greatest mentors are my parents, my wife and my children as each in their own way have all shaped the person I am today. They have impressed upon me the importance of being positive and to always do my best to make those around me feel at ease. In particular, my three kids who have really changed the way I live my life. I am informed by their perspectives and the world they live in which inspires me to look at everything in a way I’d never done before, particularly the urgent need for us all to do our bit to transition to a low carbon world.

In business, my first corporate Chairman, Russ Leuigs taught me an invaluable lesson that I have carried with me throughout my career. He told me that when you are more than four steps ahead of the “parade”, you are no longer leading it. This metaphor was his way of reminding me that as a leader I must stay connected and take my team with me when I am driving an idea forward from the front. If you become disconnected then it is impossible to fulfil the potential of any one person, group or business. These words have since become ingrained and are an instrumental and central part of my leadership style. 

At Proteus, Colin is not only my business partner but also a long time friend and great mentor. We had competing businesses in our younger days and over the years we have taught each other the importance of tolerance, which we both see as at the heart of any profound relationship. We are polar opposites, with different skill sets and different perspectives, which is what makes us a great team and him as one of my personal and business mentors.

Do you see this as UK centric or will you conquer the world by going global?

We are building a product that will greatly improve and enable knowledge sharing and business connectivity around the globe.  There is a global community of talent and we see this at the heart of what we are creating. 

The Internet provides us with an increasingly important infrastructure and ability to communicate across great distances at no cost. This allows us to create products and build a community that uses this infrastructure to facilitate quick and efficient ways of identifying opportunities that connect need and skills from all over the world. 

As mentioned above our products are sectorally agnostic which is hugely exciting to us. Whilst we have initially chosen to focus on the energy transition to a low carbon economy, our products lend themselves to multiple sectors. Our early internal focus will continue to be on sectors that are heavy on infrastructure costs and rely on high numbers of human intellect to manage business deliverables such as construction, engineering and  energy. The possibilities are endless.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?

Be the person in the room people feel most comfortable with. Do everything with a smile and if asked for help be sure to do a little bit more if you can , finally be considerate and flexible by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. 

There is also a lot to be said for finding confidence in your personal brand; who you are, what you stand for and who you want to be. Everything will fall into place and align around you if you believe in your ambitions, yourself and your product.

Finally, we are conditioned to celebrate the wins and achievements but never the struggles. While you may measure someone else’s success for that matter by the badges of honour they wear, or number of awards they have, don’t be fooled. Everyone has challenges and internal battles they are trying to overcome. Keep that in mind and remember to find a formula that works for everyone.

Bekki Barnes

With 5 years’ experience in marketing, Bekki has knowledge in both B2B and B2C marketing. Bekki has worked with a wide range of brands, including local and national organisations.

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