Tristan Rogers: A business built on chance encounters

Tristan Rogers counts several big-name retailers amongst his clients. And with ConcretePlatform - his online photographic storage firm - turning over millions, he's now got his sights on America.

For Tristan Rogers, the 1990s dotcom boom came at the right time. A 24-year-old digital media student, he began building websites for blue-chip firms. "There was little competition. If you said you could build a good website, companies took you seriously."

He won contracts with Diageo and the BBC. When he finished his course in 1997, he built up his new firm, ConcretePlatform. "Things soon got a lot more competitive", but Rogers had a head start and by 1998 the firm generated sales of more than £200,000.

But then a chance encounter in a pub with a man selling his classic car restoration business saw Rogers switch industries. "I knew straight away it was what I wanted to do." He mothballed ConcretePlatform. His timing was spot on, as the dotcom bubble burst, but later he returned to technology.

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"I was approached by a French web design agency to open their London office." A "great opportunity", it ended badly in 2002 when the head office stopped paying its bills. Another chance meeting, with a celebrity photography agency, led to his next venture an online database of celebrity photos which lasted two years before "my partner closed the business and started it up again on his own". Rogers had since developed a program that could store data-heavy images and present them online. He resurrected ConcretePlatform in 2004.

In the first year, he kept the firm afloat by helping photo agencies store digital images. But, eager to expand, in 2005 he won a contract with Vodafone. "They had lots of images that needed to be stored at their different sites." Rogers upgraded the system until it became "a bucket of everything" a comprehensive digital storage system that could help Vodafone control and distribute data, images and programs across its stores. "I realised our program could help clients improve their business processes."

Rogers approached Marks & Spencer. "They had a problem with their international franchises. They found it difficult to monitor them and make sure that they were all delivering the same level of service." Rogers knew that he could help Marks & Spencer, but wasn't sure he could convince them. "IT departments in large companies don't like solutions coming from an outsider." He went direct to the marketing and franchise managers. "They loved the idea. I offered to charge them a subscription rather than an up-front fee so that they could pay for it out of their budgets and bypass IT."

The program allowed head office to see photographs of store displays and layouts alongside customer numbers, sales and purchase orders for each franchise. "It meant that they could break down a store's performance." ConcretePlatform developed tools to interpret the data and make it more presentable for Marks & Spencer's staff.

"The IT department eventually found out and they were furious. But by then it already had strong support from management." ConcretePlatform later won contracts with Tesco, Clarks and Debenhams. Last year sales were more than £4m, but Rogers continues to expand, signing a deal to launch in America and even planning a return to the car industry. "If our system can work for retailers it can work for almost any large company."

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.