Zinc Ahead, Inc.
June 23, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Compliance Solutions for the Global Life Science Industry
Zinc Ahead, Inc.
Zinc Ahead’s cutting-edge software is the leading private cloud compliance solution, designed specifically for the life science industry. Over 1,600,000 digital assets have been approved through the Zinc cloud, transforming the digital media development and compliance community in 170 countries. More than 45,000 marketing, medical and legal professionals are using Zinc daily, and our products are widely recognized as the gold standard in life sciences compliance software and rich digital media management.
Zinc empowers users to collaborate, approve and share content in real-time with colleagues and third party agencies anywhere in the world. Combining best-of-breed functionality with an intuitive interface, Zinc enables fast, secure approval of all types of materials including print documents, rich digital media files, apps and websites.
Zinc Ahead is a
privately owned company with headquarters in the United Kingdom and
operations in the United States, Central Europe, and Asia.
Having graduated with a degree in biochemistry from Nottingham University in 1992, James spent 9 years at Merck & Co in sales and marketing roles before leaving in 2001 to start Zinc Ahead. Over the last 13 years, Zinc has firmly established itself as the gold-standard compliance solution for life science companies and now employs over 100 staff across its 6 global offices.
As the global life sciences industry has progressively become more tightly regulated, the sector has turned to specialist third-party vendors to implement solutions that ensure compliance with these regulations. Zinc has been at the forefront of this trend for well over a decade and now has 45,000 users of its systems in 170 countries worldwide. All of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies use Zinc’s products.
Headquartered in Oxford, with additional offices in Princeton, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo and Basel, Zinc is one of the UK’s fastest growing technology firms with growth of 40% annually. 60% of Zinc’s revenue is generated from its overseas operations and the company was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (International Trade) in 2013.
James lives with
his family in Oxford and is a keen private pilot in his spare time.
609 216 1935
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 23, 2014
CEOCFO: Mr. Brown, what is Zinc Ahead?
Mr. Brown: At Zinc, we provide compliance solutions for the global life science industry. We are a market leader in this and we work with about one hundred and thirty life science companies worldwide, with close to fifty thousand users, globally.
CEOCFO: What fundamentally do you understand at Zinc Ahead that perhaps other companies in compliance do not understand as well?
Mr. Brown: We built a business since 2001 focused solely on this space. Our core role is to help our clients collaborate, share, and approve their content, whatever that may be. It could be promotional materials, packaging and labeling, grants and sponsorships; anything that is constrained by local regulations. We help them review and approve that content in line with the global regulations and then we manage that content using our digital asset management tools. We have very rich, deep knowledge of this specific space in life sciences. That’s what differentiates us from our competitors.
CEOCFO: What is the key to keeping up with the regulations? You are a global company and serve countries like Canada, where every providence could be different. Therefore, how do you stay ahead?
Mr. Brown: As you have indicated, we work with many countries worldwide. In fact we have users in one hundred and seventy countries. We have worked with many of our clients to deploy Zinc globally for them. One of the key resources for us is that we run three global client forums. These are senior stakeholders within our clients’ organizations who come together for a 1-2 day client forum. We hold forum meetings in the US, Europe and Asia Pacific. Our clients tell us what the key agenda items are that they are working on from a compliance perspective. We show them what we are building and between us we collaboratively define the future direction of Zinc’s product development. Over the years, this has been a very fruitful way of engaging closely with our customers; of understanding their needs and showing them what we are doing through a collaborative approach. It truly is a partnership not just a vendor relationship. I think one of the other key factors for this is that we run a 24/7 helpdesk, which is the embodiment of the service culture that is engrained within our company. Through our helpdesk, we process an average of eight thousand queries per month. That gives us very good insight into the challenges that clients face in individual markets and the types of configuration changes that they need to support their successful implementations and maintain compliant processes. Therefore, the client forums, our help desk, our deep client partnerships and other feeds such as RFP responses provide marketplace insights as well. With over thirteen years’ experience, we have developed great insights into all of the key global markets with our clients giving Zinc an unmatched knowledge base and competitive advantage.
CEOCFO: You have been a leader for a long time. Do you still reach out to companies? Is it the point where people know you and will come to you? Is there any marketing or sales effort on your point or more keeping up with demand?
Mr. Brown: Both really. For many years we have responded to requests from clients and word of mouth referrals that are proactively generated. We still get many of those. Over the last eighteen months we have built a dedicated sales force and marketing operation to engage more proactively with our client base. If anything, the need for life science-centric compliance solutions is getting greater and we’re seeing great demand from the marketplace. If you look at the industry landscape generally, the regulators are now more active than they were historically. This has moved the topic of compliance to the C-level with our clients. Therefore, rather than individual solutions in individual markets, many of our clients are now looking for single global systems to manage all of their compliance needs across all of their markets where they are operating. This is something we have unique experience in and we have built a sales force and marketing operation to take that message to our customers.
CEOCFO: Are there many or any other companies with the depth of Zinc Ahead?
Mr. Brown: There are lots of general workflow tools out there. However, in our experience, there is no one that has the breadth of experience that we have across the life science market or the depth of compliance knowledge that we’ve built. For example, we have many global implementations of Zinc MAPS - a single instance of the application where thousands of users from across an individual company interact. That type of experience simply does not exist in any of our competitors. Additionally, the knowledge base of Zinc employees is arguably much deeper than that of other companies. For instance, a large percentage of our account team has had experience working on the client or agency side using our solution, so they have lived and breathed the same challenges that our clients are facing. Therefore, we are pretty uniquely positioned in terms of the depth of our expertise and the scope of the implementations that we completed.
CEOCFO: Do prospective customers understand immediately what you offer and the difference? It seems, from looking at your website that what you have is very comprehensive. Do people realize that or does it take some time to understand the depth of what is available?
Mr. Brown: I think that people realize our understanding of their challenges as well as the maturity of the product very quickly when we start to talk to them. That is when they realize how different we are from other vendors. That’s what I find so exciting about working at Zinc. When you are in meetings with clients and you are able to explore some very unique and deep use cases; and because Zinc MAPS is so functionally mature we have, almost without fail, several ways of tackling even the most obscure requirements of our clients. I think that depth of experience just shines through once you get into the deeper discussions about use cases.
CEOCFO: You have a number of products. Do most clients take advantage of the full range of what you offer?
Mr. Brown: Right now, we are expanding our product range to meet client demand. This is another example of how we are responding to the needs expressed during our client forums. We really try to listen to our clients. Many of our clients now have an increasing need for global content, storage and distribution. Therefore, our product suite has evolved to include the additional global content management functionality. I think this is a very potent need within the marketplace. Our clients are beginning to become more engaged with conversations on rich media and digital asset management.
CEOCFO: Are there any countries or any areas where you do not have presence where you would like? Are there particular parts of life science that do not use your services as much as they should and could?
Mr. Brown: We have different levels of penetration globally. However, as I mentioned earlier on, many of our clients now implement Zinc MAPS globally. Global installations allow us to implement our solutions for clients in all of their operating markets. Some of our clients have up to one hundred and sixty countries that make use of the application. I think from a global point of view, we are really working with our clients to make sure Zinc is deployed everywhere for them - there are no markets in which we cannot operate.
CEOCFO: What surprised you as the company has grown and changed?
Mr. Brown: I think one of the exciting and maybe surprising things is that the unique requirements to meet the business needs of our clients just keep on evolving. For example, over the last two to three years we have provided our clients with the ability to use our applications on all of their mobile devices. We never stop innovating. In fact, I guess the biggest surprise is the rate at which innovation within our company is accelerating. As compliance becomes a bigger concern and receives a higher profile in the companies that we work with, Zinc is being asked to do more and we are driving continuous innovation into our product suite.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the Queens Award for Enterprise in International Trade?
Mr. Brown: Absolutely! We were delighted to be recognized for the growth in our international business in 2013. We started our business originally in the UK thirteen years ago. However, we now have offices in Princeton, New Jersey, in San Francisco, in Sydney and in Basel, Switzerland. Zinc is genuinely a very international global company. As I said, we have reach into one hundred and seventy countries worldwide. Many of our employees are in the US or in other overseas markets. Therefore, the Queens Award is a way of recognizing the contributions that companies like ours make to the UK economy through the international business that we generate. We view ourselves as a global company, although initially our roots were in the UK and I think that was very much recognized with the Queens Award.
CEOCFO: How is business these days?
Mr. Brown: It is going extremely well. As I mentioned earlier on, I think we have seen a change in the way clients think about compliance. We are seeing dynamics like FCPA, the increasing power of the global regulators, and an increasing interest in compliance at the C-level across our clients. At the same time, we are seeing marketing departments strive for consistency across campaigns globally and a continual drive to make cost savings. For that reason, Zinc’s involvement in very large deployments is increasing. That activity translates into accelerated growth for Zinc. We are expanding our employee base very rapidly and are putting new offices into strategic markets. At the same time, we are introducing innovations to our product suite, which we have spoken about already. During this period of rapid growth we are ensuring that we keep the same high levels of service our clients have come to expect from Zinc. I think a key example of that is our 24/7 help desk which we also continue to expand.
CEOCFO: Why should people pay attention to Zinc Ahead?
developed deep expertise over the years, making our company the experts in
this space. We have thirteen years of experience delivering very large
scale, enterprise-wide implementations within our product suite and we can
demonstrate tremendous results for our clients - over 50% reduction in
review cycle time and over 25% reduction in time spent on compliance
procedures. We are absolutely the partner of choice in this space. It is a
market that has huge potential, not only in our traditional pharmaceutical
base, but across a wide range of other life science companies.
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