Martech Interview with Anthony Welgemoed, CEO- Ziflow

Anthony Welgemoed shares his insights on testing markets with focus on automation. Read on to find out the growth driver for Ziflow and the future perspective.

In terms of marketing technology, online proofing is probably the quickest “win” in MarTech today.  One project is all it takes to show the value.  

1. Tell us about your role in Ziflow.
I’m Ziflow’s CEO and am responsible for making sure the company runs smoothly, so our team can deliver the best product possible to our customers to solve creative workflow and collaboration challenges. As a leader, I try to be as involved with the product’s development as possible and make sure that our team members are not bogged down with administrative red tape so they can do their jobs effectively. As a technical founder, I pay close attention to the product and am deeply involved in its architecture and driving its development.

2. Tell us about your past leadership roles and experience?
For nearly 20 years, I’ve supported creative and marketing teams to streamline their workflows, on both the product management side and executive leadership. After I completed my MBA degree in London, I began working for Mtivity, a company that develops marketing procurement and automation software and services. This is where I met my future co-founder at ProofHQ, an online proofing solution for marketing and creative teams.
As a technical co-founder there, I was able to build a world-class development team, which then lead to its acquisition by Workfront (now part of Adobe). At the time of ProofHQ’s acquisition by Workfront, it was used by thousands of companies across the world every day, producing tens of millions of proofs per year. This is what sparked the inspiration for launching what is now Ziflow.

3. Since you were previously at ProofHQ with the founding Ziflow team, what market gaps did you envision the company would solve as part of its launch?
When ProofHQ was acquired by Workfront, it was an interesting time in the market. Our primary competitors had two choices – continue innovating in online proofing and focus on the core customer challenges, or expand their offering with a suite-based approach to try and slug it out with a combined Workfront and ProofHQ. They chose the latter, my guess is because they felt that was where the high end of the market was going.
When we re-entered the market, we originally were focusing on a different field of play – automating creative production tasks, the tasks that creatives and marketers had to do as part of the bigger production process, such as renaming files, converting media from one format to another, even simple file sharing amongst teams. What we found during the very early days of customer interviews and testing was that there was still a market need for a purpose-built, standalone online proofing solution that was enterprise-ready (secure, performant, scalable, capable of handling complex workflows, etc.).
The vendors who would have previously been a natural fit for that had ventured off into more of a suite-based approach, combining adjacent capabilities, somewhat watering down their core capabilities. What we found is that the market preferred a best of breed approach, one that could easily integrate with their existing MarTech stack. That was the market gap.
So, we pivoted to launch online proofing, and then later added in our previously developed automation technology (now called Ziflow Connect). I’d add that automation, both in terms of approval workflows, as well as automating the flow of information from your online proofing system into other applications, was a big market opportunity that we saw as well.

4. What was your main aim behind launching Ziflow?
Our aim was to provide creative teams of all sizes the ability to effortlessly collaborate around their creative content and raise their review and approval efficiency. We did that by delivering the easiest to use solution that also has the most robust enterprise-ready feature set.

5. Were there any challenges to overcome as part of Ziflow’s go to market strategy, or was there already a strong demand?
We had grown ProofHQ to the market leader in terms of market share and revenue and yet our sales team still heard every day that creatives “had never known something like online proofing existed”. Fast forward to today, that happens less often, but there is still some education that must be done. Interestingly it’s not often a competitive discussion, it’s a discussion around “business as usual” – which most often means review processes done in email.
That being said, there is always strong demand for solutions that help creative marketers recapture their valuable time, something we focus on intently in our product development.

6. Where do you think Ziflow stands out or differentiates itself against its competitors in online proofing/collaboration?
A couple areas stand out. First is our domain expertise. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our team has the most experience when it comes to creative review and approval processes and the challenges that come with complex approaches to review and approval. One of the first questions we get with new customer onboarding is “how would you approach this workflow?”. Thankfully, we’re able to provide a lot of value there having supported thousands of customers over the years.
Second would be our investment to ensure Ziflow is the most capable and enterprise-ready online proofing solution available. It’s no small task to achieve SOC2 certification, for example, or to build out the cloud computing infrastructure that supports the world’s largest online proofing deployment. We’ve undertaken these huge initiatives to be able to scale and perform securely for any size business that requires such attributes of their solution vendors.

7. Why, according to you, do Online Businesses these days need an online proofing solution?
It’s a great question. With all of the applications available to businesses today, why online proofing? For any creative team that generates content in volumes, has a wide range of stakeholders (collaborators, decision makers), the benefits of online proofing are tangible from day one; to be able to deliver higher quality projects on time (or ahead of schedule) as a result of keeping team members aligned and on the same page, that has real tangible benefits in terms of cost savings, customer experience and opportunity cost (the ability to take on more).

In terms of marketing technology, online proofing is probably the quickest “win” in MarTech today. One project is all it takes to show the value.

8. What has been the biggest growth driver for Ziflow since its founding? What do you think the future holds?
There’s been a couple that stand out. First, with the rapid swing to remote and WFH, many companies were looking for ways to keep teams aligned. How could they keep their creative pipeline (the lifeblood of not only agencies, but also brands who were looking to engage with newly expanded online audiences) flowing, without the benefit of hallway conversations or quick in person meetings? Online proofing proved to be a beneficiary of the ‘new normal’.
Another area that we’ve seen drive interest in Ziflow is the area of marketing compliance. For creative teams, this typically goes down one of two tracks (but often, both). First is brand compliance or brand governance – ensuring that a company’s brand is being portrayed in the proper setting – the right taglines, company colors, tone, etc. Second is regulatory compliance. Product packaging, product claims, disclaimers, these are all examples of aspects of creative that fall under a regulatory compliance umbrella. Online proofing is a natural fit for these needs as it instills a process around the review and approval of any regulatory-specific content, making sure the right people see the content at the right time, and providing auditable comments and decisions. More and more companies are getting serious about marketing compliance.

9. Since you just announced a new funding round, are there any big new developments or projects in the works?
The most I can say at this point is that we’re going to continue to explore ways that automation can improve the review and approval experience for teams – creative and otherwise. Beyond that, we’re going to continue to grow our team so that we can support our customers with a great experience.

10. Do you think remote collaboration / the demand for these online tools for marketers and agencies will persist after the pandemic?
I do. The remote working genie is out of the bottle for good. Even in hybrid environments, where there are staggered work days to accommodate capacity restrictions, you’ll have remote teammates who you need to collaborate with to complete projects. And there will always be the agency/client type relationships that were never housed in the same walls to begin with.

11. What are your future goals coming out of the pandemic?
We focused on continuing to grow so that we can continue innovating in online proofing. We still believe there’s a lot more we can offer our customers.

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Anthony Welgemoed is the CEO and co-founder of Ziflow. Prior to co-founding Ziflow, Anthony was co-founder and CTO of ProofHQ, the industry’s leading online proofing solution. Prior to ProofHQ, Anthony was Director of Development at Mtivity, where he helped develop a marketing procurement and automation platform for agencies and brands.

Ziflow, a pioneer in online proofing, offers a solution for creative agencies and brands that streamlines the often complex production of creative assets. Driven by the impacts of COVID-19, marketing and creative teams are remotely producing more content for more channels than ever before. A high volume and variety of work often leads to bottlenecks, so Ziflow acts as a single source of truth for associated feedback, review and approvals of workflows for a fully digital approach that supports today’s remote working scenarios.
The company recently raised $6 million in funding and hired new key executives to meet its growth plans. This funding round allows the company to deliver on its vision of creating the market-leading online proofing solution so that customers can continue to review any content from any workflow on any device across the world. The company now has close to one million users utilizing the platform for enhanced real-time and actionable results.

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