On why computer keyboards are outdated, how to instill work-life balance in a company, and his tendency to jump off of things.
FORTUNE — Growing up in England, Neil Capel spent a lot of time working in his father’s greengrocer shop. His father knew all of the shop’s regular customers and always strived to give them a pleasant experience. Working with his dad showed Capel the power of brand loyalty, and he would later tap into this ethos as he started to build his own company years later.
After earning an undergraduate degree in computer science from the University of Portsmouth, Capel, 34, moved to the United States and settled down in New York City. He held a series of executive and advisory roles at various companies, but eventually decided to start Sailthru in September 2008. Sailthru is a marketing company that helps businesses maintain relationships with their customers. As CEO, Capel wants to figure out how his company can facilitate the best possible customer experience.
He spoke with Fortune.
1. Which business or technology person do you admire most? Why?
I really appreciate the people who have been able to pull off startups more than once. The double-hitters, as it were. I think for me, the top of the list is Elon Musk. There are not many people who can do that again and again. He’s proven that multiple times. There’s also Jack Dorsey with Square and Twitter TWTR . Being able to pull these things off twice in succession is amazing. It’s hard enough to do once, but to actually be able to hit twice in a row, that’s incredible.
2. Which technology sector excites you most?
The fact that [traditional] keyboards are going to go away very quickly. I think that with the interactive experience of a computer or a tablet, the keyboard algorithms that detect what you’re actually trying to say and spell are getting better and better. So the acceleration of algorithms on the data side and the fact that the keyboard is really an outdated mode of input — especially since we’re all using the QWERTY keyboard which we all know is designed to be slow as hell — makes me think that we’re not far away from removing the computer keyboard altogether. The keyboard when you’re typing on your phone is not responding to the letters so much as the little movements of your thumbs on the screen. It takes the big data of algorithms and personalizes it to the user.
3. Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?
Having done very badly in school, I would say it would probably help. What I find really interesting are all of the career accelerators you see these days such as Codecademy and General Assembly. They’re focused and in very quick succession and get people motivating themselves to learn. I think that’s a really interesting space, and we’ll see more out of that because if you’re providing things that people want to learn, then it’s a massive benefit. We’ve hired people who have changed their careers because of these career accelerators, and it shows that people want to learn and do what they can. It’s about personal growth.
4. What is the best advice you ever received?
I would say, “Know what you don’t know.” Going along with that, “Hire people that are stronger than you.” That comes from an old boss of mine. I think that it’s very easy to get caught up in your own experiences and focusing on that. You’ve got to be open to arguments and new ideas because that’s the only way you can grow personally.
5. What is your greatest achievement?
Can I be totally ego-driven and say Sailthru? It’s my greatest achievement personally and professionally. It came out of the idea behind my dad’s shop of scaling brand affinity for our customers. I very much enjoy being able to give people the opportunity to grow and learn. It’s coaching people up to the next level. I love doing that.
6. What is one goal that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?
I want to build a company special enough to go public.
7. What do you do to live a balanced life?
It’s been one of the core things that I tried to instill into this company. It’s not one of the best things I do to lead by example, although I try very hard. One thing is that we’ve created a result-driven work environment. That’s really about having people perform at work and track the objectives so that they can grow. At the same time we want to give them the flexibility to work how they want to work, like if they want to go to the gym in the middle of the day. Let people do what they want to do so that they can have that work-life balance. If they want to work late into the night, then they don’t have to work early in the morning. We have meeting and schedules to adhere to, but at the same time, we try to make the work as enjoyable as possible because life is too short to not enjoy it.
8. What was your first job?
Working at my dad’s shop. I would often sell Christmas trees and flowers there when I was a kid. I would go off with my dad to the market early in the morning. Dad would go around buying everything, then we’d drive back to the shop. I learned a lot from him. He worked with customers to give them the most enjoyable experience. I did a lot of hard work and had a lot of early mornings and late nights standing out in the cold. It was a good learning experience.
9. What do you do for fun?
I ski whenever I can. When you have no engine or anything, just an attachment to the mountain, you have to focus on just yourself.
10. What is one unique or quirky habit that you have?
It’s an odd one because after my accident where I fell off a cliff 12 years ago [and was badly injured], I still have the habit of jumping off of things. So I did a canyon swing recently, and it was all because of [Olympic skier] Ted Ligety. He’s a bit of a hero of mine. He Instagrammed a video of himself on a canyon swing, and I thought, “Oh, I can do that!” I’ve also done some bungee jumping and other things. The larger the better. I think it’s because I experienced a little bit of vertigo after I had my accident, so I don’t let that come back and I keep challenging the vertigo by jumping off things.
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