10 Q&As with Adam Smallman

A True Expert and Zapnito Advisor. I was interviewed as a Zapnito advisor recently - here are my quick thoughts on expert audiences, the power of curiosity and the app I'd love to build
10 Q&As with Adam Smallman

Please tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m the founder of Electric, which advises businesses on better ways to engage their professional audiences, clients or buyers. I’m a journalist and content leader who’s worked for, or advised, companies such as Dow Jones International, investment bank Liberum, the Wall Street Journal, Lloyd’s List Group, EMAP Magazines, CNBC, OPEC and others. I’m currently advising a private equity-backed media company and a global institution.


How did you end up becoming a Zapnito advisor?

I know the founders, Charles and Jon, and the team well and they’re focused on making something that works better for their customers. So I like the integrity, hard work and willingness to get it right. It’s good to be associated with that and it’s why I became an Advisor.


Why is Zapnito necessary and important today?

Professional audiences are coalescing around expert networks. They’re sick of the distraction of stuff such as fake news. Clients want technology platforms which are flexible and quick to deploy. So Zapnito helps answer both aspects. Another thing that I'm seeing is that professional audiences don't think in the traditional news terms that business publishers and media companies tend to. They are comfortable coming to places where the knowledge is and news web sites are looking anachronistic in that regard. This is a great opportunity for Zapnito. 


How do you see Zapnito’s business developing in the next 5 years?

It’s in a great place to develop fast given the trends I described in my previous answer. The pendulum, which in a Trump-Brexit moment has swung so firmly against the idea of expertise, will swing back. There will be oases of knowledge uncluttered with the crap you get on public social media platforms and Zapnito is a great and simple answer to that.


What in your opinion/experience is the single-most important skill in running a successful start-up?

A merciless and disciplined commitment to marketing your services ONLY from the perspective of your target audience and their problems. That demands humility, for sure, and it's surprisingly hard to think yourself into the mindset of your assorted target customers.


What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt in your career to date?

That the most important skill, not taught at school or most universities, is curiosity. Asking smart - i.e. often the most obvious - questions delivers a sublime twin-whammy of creating goodwill and making you the smartest person in the room. What’s not to like?


And what is your main career goal for the next 5 years?

To help more businesses communicate with their audiences better so that I can grow Electric into a decent-sized advisory firm in its own right.


If you could advocate one company to the world (aside from Zapnito & your own), what would it be and why?

Nova Engineering in East Sussex combine old-school cutting, grinding and polishing with hi-tech 3-D scanning and CAD design to make tough, close-ratio gearboxes for racing motorcycles. It's a labour of love, as far as I can see, and a little-know gem of engineering excellence.


Everyone has a brilliant app idea. What’s yours?

One that shows you the impact of adjusting your motorcycle’s suspension and geometry. It sounds nerdy - because it is - and it’s fantastically complicated - the ultimate Venn diagram - but there’s a stack of bullshit about it and mystery too. Anyone out there who can help?


If you had £1 billion and had to invest it in only one of the following three, which would it be and why? 1. Virtual Reality 2. Artificial Intelligence 3. Renewable Energy

Number 3. The payoff from more portable, efficient and low- or zero-carbon energy is coming faster than expected and with tangible benefits to cities and our wider health. And we’ve only scratched the surface of these developments. AI is also a critical part of this. VR is amusing at best and I look forward to being proven wrong.

Please do contact me if you would like to learn more about Zapnito or even to get in touch about my work. Adam Smallman