Meet Matt Cater
Published on Just Entrepreneurs, 15th June 2023
Matt Cater is co-founder of Clix Technologies, an innovative new company that offers the UK’s only mobile-first, fully customisable, Web App-based smart lockers. The system enables retailers to implement a future-proof, completely autonomous Click + Collect strategy that is custom-made for their brand, products and environment.
Matt has worked in the retail industry for over 17 years. He began his career as a designer and worked his way up to become sole owner of his other business, FATHOM, which designs and manufactures point-of-sale displays for retail. He has a deep understanding of consumer behaviour, customer experience and retail, providing the perfect launch pad for Clix, which aims to revolutionise the future of Click + Collect.
There’s always a lightbulb moment before the beginning of a new venture. What was that moment for you?
It came during the Covid19 pandemic. Fathom was hit particularly hard as most of its customers were classed as non-essential retail. We had to react quickly and pivot the business to allow us to keep trading through a difficult period. We were forced to lose staff and the financial stability of the business was badly affected. I felt vulnerable, frustrated and helpless.
I was faced with a choice; to let the business go or to fight to save it. I chose the latter and thankfully it paid off, but the whole situation got me wondering about what a new business could look like and how I would safeguard it against similar market conditions. Around the same time, Amazon installed its Click + Collect lockers at my local train station and I began thinking about how retailers were going to continue to adapt to the post-pandemic landscape.
During this embryonic period, I was looking everywhere and anywhere to join the hazy dots in my head. I had a call with an old friend whose business had just launched a progressive web app that would allow hotel guests to open their room door and control the heating and lighting, all through their mobile phone. Although it was a different industry, I recognised a strong link, and this was the final hazy dot.
Following some frantic conversations, the idea for Clix was born. We formed a theoretical solution that I believed, if we got it right, could add significant value to the retail industry. More importantly, it was unlike any other smart locker solution out there.
What inspired you to launch your business and what is the end goal?
The feeling of vulnerability during the dark days of the pandemic was the initial driving force, but this was combined with a desire to break into the tech industry and the thought of starting something from scratch. I took over Fathom as a going concern, so the idea of a start-up seemed exciting. I wanted to experience building a business from the ground up, better myself as a leader and push myself to develop my skills as a business owner and person. The end goal is to sell the business. It’s about the challenge of building something successful, selling it on and starting again on the next new thing.
What’s the most common problem your customers approach you with?
I wouldn’t say our customers approach us with problems as such. They are more intrigued as to what we can do and how it can help them improve speed of service and provide innovation in retail. Once we’ve engaged in conversation, the main problem generally lies in getting a trial to market. To do so, retailers often rely on internal tech resource, which is usually timely and expensive, creating a barrier for them to act quickly.
It became apparent early on that this was going to affect Clix’s chance of success and speed to market, so we developed a system that enables a non-integrated trial that doesn’t rely on using internal tech. This has proven to be one of the most important innovations that we could’ve developed and has singlehandedly allowed us to move forward at a rapid pace.
How do you prepare for all the unknown obstacles when running your business?
In short, I don’t. I prepare as much or as little as I need to, and I don’t live in fear of “what ifs”. I role play risk in my head, running through all the different angles, for example as a retailer, as myself or as a consumer. I’ll then highlight all the areas where I think an issue could arise and I’ll mitigate it before it happens. I’ll look at all the elements that don’t sit within my control and mentally troubleshoot them to work out what I need to put in place to make sure that they don’t come back to bite me.
What do you think gives a brand longevity?
Innovation, innovation, innovation. The day any business stops innovating is the first day of its last. There also needs to be an insatiable desire to always be better and always do better.
With all the success stories around entrepreneurship and how innovative people have to be to take the leap. How do you think you’ve innovated your sector and why?
We innovated from day dot! We designed a system and process that has never been done before in our market. We integrated with a third party to offer a completely autonomous solution, maximising operational efficiencies, and offering the most frictionless Click + Collect journey available for both colleagues and customers.
Clix’s smart locker technology will transform the way in which traditional retailers facilitate what we call BOPIS, or Buy Online Pick-up In Store, enabling them to adapt their business models to out-perform the large online retailers when it comes to customer convenience. The opportunities in this space are endless and Clix is leading the way in terms of disrupting the industry and instigating real change.
What plans do you have for Clix Technologies over the next two years?
2023 will see us running more trials with big-name retailers in differing segments of retail, from high street to big box to trade to brands. The plan is to run a major trial in each one of those main categories so we can understand and work across all parts of the retail spectrum.
By 2024 we will have rolled out our lockers nationwide within retail and be trialling in Europe and beyond.
How do you believe the evolution of tech will impact your industry over the next 10 years?
In the next ten years, you will see a fully automated end-to-end shopping experience that will be serviced by robotics and AI. Browsing will continue to be more of an experience than transactional and we will be serviced by robots, with convenience and choice and the reduction of overheads being the biggest drivers in bricks-and-mortar retail.
Working with a co-founder can be tricky, so understanding and compromise is important. How have you both found the process of building a business together? What makes it work?
Having been sole owner of Fathom for several years, starting a new venture with another shareholder has had its challenges. I’ve had to adapt my leadership skills and accept that there are better ways of doing things that are at odds to my natural way of delivering things. It’s also been interesting working with a team of people who are very much my peers in terms the stage of their career and their experience. The whole thing has been a learning curve, but certainly not unenjoyable. As somebody that is continually trying to learn and better themselves, working in a new environment with equal peers has pushed me to work on some of my known bad traits and emotional triggers.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
To trust my gut. If something doesn’t feel or look right, in my experience it generally isn’t right. Don’t worry about what ifs as there are always too many. Be brave! I think gut feeling is essential in entrepreneurship because brand-new ideas are so often based on it. If an idea were based on existing facts and data, someone would be already doing it. It’s that emotional gut feeling that recognises a need for something that has never been done before. You then need the confidence to act on that belief and take the risks, knowing it may be going against a trend or other peoples’ opinions. There’s a fine, but perfectly healthy line between risk and failure.
What are your thoughts on failure?
I try to put myself in a position where failure isn’t an option, however when things can affect you more than you can affect them, I’ve learnt to fail quickly, dust myself off and come back harder than ever. Learn from it, pick yourself up and start again.
Any moments when you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?
Often! I use the phrase ‘Sell it now, make it later’, which sometimes means I’m in a situation where I wonder if I can pull off what I’ve promised. That stress and adrenaline is something I thrive on though, and it’s what motivates me to deliver what I’ve said I’ll deliver, which I always do. It pushes me to stretch myself and perform better as a person and as a business.