But Eatock suspects Duran Duran probably “got more female attention than we did”. The revenue from the games paid his way through a business and accounting degree at Birmingham University. After graduating, he spent three or four years – rather unsuccess- fully – writing film scripts with a university friend.
During his scriptwriting phase, Eatock funded himself almost entirely through buying cheap office furniture and computers from Government auctions and selling it to technology colleges.
Realising he was unlikely to become the next Steven Spielberg, Eatock went back to his first love – computers – and started writing software for small accounting practices. In 1994, he first heard whispers about the internet and thought it sounded like something that might catch on.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could write some of the business software I was doing at the time but do it over the internet, which was way too early in truth for what I was trying to do, but through that, I wrote a set of technology.”
Eatock had teamed up with another friend, Andy Young, to create Eatock Young Consulting Services, which changed its name after three years to Intelliflo. They came into contact with IFA network Inter-Alliance at the end of 1997 when the network was looking for a software system for its front and back offices. Eatock’s company offered to build a system for Inter-Alliance and were taken on.
“When we were looking at the software that was needed, we were just amazed at how backward the industry was and how it was crying out for technology.”
The firm focused on building something that any size of IFA could use and after a year and a half, the software went into operation at the end of 1999.
Inter-Alliance bought Intelliflo in house in 2000 because Eatock realised that together they could raise more money to invest in the software.
Although the firm had an exclusivity contract with Inter-Alliance, Eatock says it was always his intention to take the software to the wider market once the Inter-Alliance contract was finished.
Inter-Alliance went through a rocky period with at least one aborted merger with Berkeley Berry Birch before merging with Millfield in 2004.
This was Eatock’s escape route. He had been trying to buy out Intelliflo from Inter-Alliance for a while but the network had resisted by asking for “tens of millions of pounds – silly sums” and the situation had become impossible. “If the Millfield merger had not happened, I don’t think Intelliflo would have happened. I don’t think we would have got an MBO away.”
He eventually bought out Intelliflo for £250,000 and took half the staff with him. He says it was easy to get people interested in the Intelligent Office software and one of its first clients was National Australia Bank which helped to cement Intelliflo in the marketplace as a serious contender.
Since then, Intelliflo has grown to over 50 staff, 6,000 users and 750 clients and it made a profit of £1.6m last year.
“We were very lucky last year because we did not grow just through new business, that is, new clients coming on board, but we also grew through existing clients expanding their user base.”
He says the firm is unique in that it has customers who range from one-person bands to companies with 1,000 staff. “Everyone is on the same piece of infrastructure and software so if there is a defect affecting a one-man band, it is affecting the 1,000-man band. It is the Google and Amazon business model. It is what any emerging software player is doing.”
Eatock is upbeat about the potential growth opportunities despite the economic climate and says he expects to end the year with 7,000 users.
“It is not a great climate for anyone but we are quite excited about what it brings to us because in the last three or four months, we have experienced an upsurge in orders where people are saying to us, we need to be more efficient.
“If you are an IFA and you are earning a proportion of your fund-based renewal, your income, no matter what you do, is down because markets are down. It is a fact of life so you cannot do much necessarily about that end but you can make yourself more efficient and more cost-effective and technology is a great way of doing that.”
Eatock says Intelliflo’s automated commission and valuations means that 60 per cent of everything an adviser does is automated and more efficient.
The company adds 1,000 enhancements every year to the software, with 80 per cent of these suggested by clients.
Web-based software can offer some advantages in terms of data security. Eatock believes, as none of the data is stored on the user’s computer and to gain access to Intelliflo’s database, a hacker would have to get through a range of firewalls and gain entrance to data centres.
The latest development is Project Nio, which stands for Next Intelligent Office. Eatock says: “Everything is configurable and can be moulded to a particular business and crucially it can be moulded to that business by the business itself.”
Part of Nio is operational now and another phase based on commission will be going live in April.
Intelliflo has integrations with 23 product providers, fund supermarkets and platforms and aims to continue these partnerships. It has been approached by a number of European companies about Intelligent Office. and the company is also talking to a number of mortgage firms which are confident they will survive the credit crunch.
Eatock’s aim is to make Intelliflo number one in its market and says at present it probably sits second to 1st – The Exchange.
“The future is incredibly rosy. We have grown faster than any other web-based solutions provider.”
Born: April 2, 1968 in Nairobi, Kenya
Lives: Kingston-upon-Thames with wife and two children
Education: 2.1 business and accounting degree at Birmingham University
Career: 2004-present – founder and CEO of Intelliflo; 1997-2004 – Intelliflo & Inter-Alliance; 1994-97 – Eatock Young Consulting Services; 1990-93 – film scriptwriter
Likes: Food and wine, films, watching and playing football, rugby and tennis
Dislikes: Lack of ambition
Car: Volkswagen Passat
Book: Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien
Album: Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie
Film: The Godfather
Career ambition: For Intelliflo to realise its position at the top of the tree
Life ambition: To continue to laugh and love life and hope that the arrangement is reciprocal
If I wasn’t doing this I would be…Writing or directing films.