Who: Blackpearl Group

Founders: Nick Lissette

HQ: Wellington

Nick, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a born and bred Wellingtonian. I went to school here – Saint Patrick’s College Silverstream and Victoria University. Like any good Kiwi, I’ve always been into sports and have had the privilege of representing Wellington in rugby and rowing. And I started my first company here when I was 24. 

I took over a Telecom dealership for $1 – which seemed like a great deal until the first wage bill fell due! I ground that out for a few years and used it as a platform to get into web and email security. 

My focus fine-tuned specifically towards cloud-based email security. I partnered with Mail Marshal to create a cloud-based anti-spam system with gigabyte-based pricing – which I think was a globally unique concept at the time.

Black Pearl Mail was born out of my desire to have more control over the product build, the resulting data and pursuing a ‘green fields’ global SaaS opportunity.

The data and engagement trends that result from email are staggering. It presents a tremendous opportunity to give an easily accessible and useful stream of insights to small-medium sized businesses – who form Blackpearl Groups’ primary target market. 

In your role as CEO of Blackpearl Group, you have a good helicopter view of the economy. What’s the single biggest trend you’re seeing impacting our audience of entrepreneurs?

For Kiwi entrepreneurs, I reckon it’s the trend of effectively utilising affordable off-shore resourcing. It’s critical for delivering affordable products and services as well as for scaling.

The last statistics I saw reported that only 4% of SaaS companies make it to $1m ARR (annual recurring revenue). If you look at the cost of a small NZ-based team – development, marketing, sales, admin, overheads, marketing budgets… the equation just doesn’t add up. 

This is one of the reasons Blackpearl Group acquired NewOldStamp – a European-based in-market SaaS platform that enables businesses to centrally manage their email signatures – so we could bolster our NZ-based team with experienced and affordable off-shore resourcing. 

Your Chairman, Tim Crown, co-founder of Nasdaq-listed Fortune 500 company Insight Enterprises, has a lot of investing experience and success. Tell us what it’s been like working with him?

He’s one of the best humans I’ve ever met. He’s inspiring not just as a businessman, but also in how he conducts himself outside of work – his dedication to family, fitness, and personal growth is second to none. You learn something from him in every conversation. Always!

What’s more, he’s a great leader for the Group and has helped us enormously across the board.

how did you manage to secure such experienced people for your board of directors?

I’d like to think the people and technology in the company have been the drawcard. Blackpearl Group has exciting technology and we’ve executed well on our operational strategy. 

As well as a great Board we also have phenomenal shareholders, which again speaks to the calibre of our team and our offering. 

Many of the big tech stocks in the US are falling through the floor (with the recent exception of Meta). Why do you think that is? 

The stock exchange is a big beast and I don’t think there’s one reason that can be attributed to it, but rather a multitude of contributing factors. Some are as simple as an over reliance on advertising revenue; often the first thing that gets cut in a downturn is the marketing budget. A key factor is the fact the big tech stocks were almost single-handedly propping up the US stock market during the pandemic, they did not re-value when everyone else did. So, I do think that makes their re-valuation as a cohort stick out more. Some were clearly over-valued, others were victims of the trend. That’s the joy of public life – you have to take the ebbs and flows and you’re at the mercy of the market at the end of the day. 

You listed on the NZX in December 2022, what benefits have you seen since then? 

It’s still early days, but we listed for two key reasons: to support acquisitions and to accelerate the commercialisation of our data asset, the Pearl Engine. Going public has certainly aided both those objectives. 

Our first four months have been action-packed as we acquired NewOldStamp, added a world-class identity network to our proprietary platform the Pearl Engine, and based on that data feed launched a new product – Blackpearl Diver. 

You’ve just launched a new product, Blackpearl Diver, exclusively in the U.S. Tell us about that?

It’s bloody amazing! I’m very proud of our technical team. 

Blackpearl Diver enables businesses to enhance customer engagement and conversion rates by transforming website visits into leads. Furthermore, it identifies key sales opportunities using multiple data measurements and collection points that assess levels of engagement. 

This innovative data service gives businesses unprecedented insights into their website and digital interactions. 

From a customer value perspective, Blackpearl Diver quite literally shows you who is visiting your website, right down to the individual level – first name, last name, job, company, contact numbers, and email addresses… everything you need to turn an invisible site visit into a prospect. The value for a small to medium business in the U.S. market is unparalleled. Use cases range from creating high-value retargeting audiences to increase your ROI on marketing, all the way to providing your sales teams with daily lists of hot prospects to contact. 

From a Group perspective, to receive over 50 orders in the first month of the service going live is an exciting start considering even at the tier one pricing, a sale is 10x the average sale for NewOldStamp and 2x that of Black Pearl Mail, our existing SaaS services. The compounding nature of this higher monthly recurring revenue significantly impacts the Group’s annual recurring revenue. So, we’re really chuffed, to say the least, even though it’s still early days.

You acquired NewOldStamp late last year. What’s that process been like? What drove the acquisition?

On the whole, it’s been great. They’re a talented crew and great people – which makes things easy. The acquisition of NewOldStamp helped us scale (we got 27 high-class developers, marketers, and sales staff). Additionally, NewOldStamp has over 100,000 organic site visits per month. The acquisition of the NewOldStamp business, together with its broadened lead utilisation from the number of organic site visits, provides opportunities for Blackpearl Group to cross-sell, up-sell and increase conversion opportunities across applications.

Our primary challenge was getting some of the NewOldStamp team here to NZ (immigration took four months to issue visas!) so we could get the integration process underway, but once that was unlocked, we’ve paved the way for future growth. 

NewOldStamp and your flagship application Black Pearl Mail both involve email. What’s driven your passion for this space, as opposed to other areas such as social media or blockchain? Do you feel people underestimate the power of email?

Email still is, and will for the foreseeable future, be the number one form of business-to-business communication. It’s still growing at a tremendous rate. Yet, despite its massive size, it is in many ways underdeveloped and under-utilised. It amazes me that people are drawn to the next shiny tech trinket and overlook the elephant in the room! 

Our Blackpearl Diver product is a great example of this. The demographic and firmographic data points you get from email help transform a record from a high-level resolution (i.e. the company, but not the individual), to individual level. We’ve created a market of one for Blackpearl Diver by leaning into our decades of email experience. The enhancements to the Pearl Engine not only identifies anonymous website traffic but also overlays that with your daily email interactions to define levels of engagement, providing real-world insight for businesses to act on. This, in turn, enables the conversion of more leads and puts our product head and shoulders above the competition. 

What’s the biggest lesson you can share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?

Einstein once said “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” My advice to anyone in business is to get your energy right, and once that’s done, everything else will follow. 

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