Felicitas Betzl’s multi-lingual, full service digital marketing agency might be based in Edinburgh, but she’s a woman who’s truly international in her ambition and outlook.
Since setting up Serps Invaders in 2010, Feli (as she prefers to be known) has already built a company with staff and partners in 35 countries, and has the whole world within her digital sights.
With Serps Invaders (the name is a mash-up of Search Engine Results Pages and Space Invaders, the latter a youthful favourite), Feli provides a border-crossing, international digital offering. With services including multilingual SEO, PPC, email marketing, and UI and UX design, the whole world is within reach for this trans-European, world-beating entrepreneur.
One company wasn’t enough for this serial entrepreneur, as she launched live music discovery platform and real time community Rockifi in summer 2018. When the COVID19 pandemic caused havoc to investment plans, she pivoted the business and, together with co-founder Ruaridh Currie and CTO Greg Fyans, launched it as Rockifi: The Heavy Streaming Platform. The site enables artists of rock and heavy metal to monetise their music and merchandise – a lifeline during these times without live music. The main goal is still to create a one-stop shop for the global community of rock and metal fans, and the platform has innovative fan engagement features and can be also be rolled out to other genres of music, record labels and artist management companies.
She may be a jet setter nowadays, but Scotland seemed the natural choice for Feli to lay her hat, after years of holidaying here with her parents. She arrived in Auld Reekie to study business and HR Management at Napier in 1997, but even back then, this young German was a grafter, working pretty much full time as well as studying.
Her studies were followed by stints with other agencies, but Feli soon felt frustrated and wanted to do digital marketing in her own unique way. She set out her business stall to fit with her own principles and ethics, and was pleased to be able to take everything she’d learned in working life, the good and the bad, and apply this hard-earned knowledge to her own digital venture.
Year one with Serps Invaders saw Feli running the business solo, but right from the beginning, she applied plenty of start-up savvy to her plan for steady expansion. She turned down investment and loans in favour of keeping control of her own vision, and operated on organic growth principles alone, not an overdraft. A member of staff was added after the first year, but the addition of extra full-time staff added some initial sleepless nights as Felicitas learned to live with the responsibilities of being an employer.
The Serps staff are one of Feli’s main business assets, she takes great pleasure from having a great team, and from the positive feedback she gets from them about being a good employer.
As a truly modern company, Feli introduced the 4-day week, work from anywhere and has been a truly remote agency since 2013. This has really helped her to attract and retain the best talent. For Feli, trust in her staff is critical to Serps’ success, because this is a truly trans-European enterprise. Some of her staff have lived in more than 14 countries whilst working for Serps. In 2015 Serps Invaders won the Guardian Smarter Working Award. In the digital age, Feli Betzl is living proof of a business ethic that can work anytime, any place, anywhere.
Feli managed to retain 100% of her clients during the pandemic with the development of the Serps Academy, a learning programme to sharpen digital minds whilst learning by working hands-on client projects. This enabled them to continue servicing clients on a pro bono basis, whilst helping graduates and people seeking to improve their digital skills. Serps’ has been able to land big clients despite the relatively small size of their operation, and their client CV already features household names like Olay, Gillette and Seat. 2021 is looking positive for Serps Invaders with more new clients and staff in the pipeline.
And the next steps for Rockifi are the focus to build meaningful partnerships within the music industry with radio stations, magazines, artist management companies and take Rockifi to the next level making it a scalable, globally operating company. It seems certain that we’ll be hearing much more of Feli and her businesses in the future.
My biggest challenge was
I was getting really frustrated with losing staff to big agencies who could afford large financial incentives to attract talent. But when I introduced the 4-day week and flexible working from anywhere in the world in 2013, I started not only retaining but also attracting talent.