They say it takes three data points to signal a pattern. So as we begin Volume 3, and kick off a new year, it feels like a good time to summarise what we’ve learned so far.

Investors

You do have more power than perhaps you think in that relationship. So back yourself and ultimately, don’t undersell yourself because there aren’t actually a million companies out there doing the exact same thing as you in the same way.

Harry Keen, Hazy — read the full interview here

Before our pre-seed round, <investors’> attitude was: ok you’ve had six months, how many customers do you have and what’s your revenue? I kept telling them, actually it doesn’t matter. These are the wrong questions.

Cristina Vila, Clear — read the full interview here

The first drone cost me all my savings from the research lab and I flew it and crashed it. Before I met that investor, I pitched to 100 investors and only two took meetings. Of those two, one invested. It’s a numbers game. Either you get really lucky and someone believes in you or you just keep persevering. 

Cyril Lutterodt, Zoi — read the full interview here

Because Element is an unusual mission-driven project to build the missing communication layer of the web, and not Uber for dogs, that doesn’t seem to sit well with your typical Silicon Valley investor. There seems to be a lot more “bigger picture” thinking going on <in Europe>.

Matthew Hodgson, Element — read the full interview here

I always used to find that baffling when VCs were talking about it: “go get your friends and family” and we’re like: “where the hell do you think they get their money, they’re teachers!” It really hammered home how non diverse but also how frigging difficult it is to get into this space sometimes.

That’s why I think EF is amazing because it takes someone who is just talented and they have a great background (although there are challenges with that as well because they will target Oxbridge graduates and there’s already bias and lack of diversity built in there.) 

Brittany Harris, Qflow — read the full interview here

What I didn’t fully understand was that I was now on the treadmill where that money was going to run out and I needed to raise more money and raise more money and raise more money.

I had this naive idea that you can build stuff in a specific amount of time, like: Oh, we’re going to launch in a month. And that is not true. You will launch in two years. 

Sofia Quintero, EnjoyHQ — read the full interview here

Sales

When we sell our technology into the new market, the ROI is crystal clear and that segment is used to buying tech — so our sales cycles are faster, they’re much more repeatable and the deal sizes are much bigger. As one our investors always says: “go to the fastest running water.”

Jenna Brown, Shipamax — read the full interview here

Actually the competition is for capacity of the customer to change. Your key director who will decide has a finite capacity for change each year. They cannot do 100 changes a year, or even 10 depending on the size. So you’re competing for those slots of change management in a year.

Hugo Macedo, Unbabel — read the full interview here

We have been doing longer free trials — but then it’s very easy to get someone to not pay for something. Until they’re paying, you don’t know what they’re going to do with it, whether they attach value to it, and how much value they attach.

Syd Lawrence, The Bot Platform — read the full interview here

If you’ve read all the books that say: “always get cash up front, get that buy in” you just wouldn’t get through the door with a lot of these guys <in our industry>. Because it’s about building that relationship and being pragmatic and humble.

Coming from the industry background, we could understand how immovable some barriers are, and how flexible others are. We know that the difference between asking for 500 pounds and 2000 pounds is pretty negligible — but even getting 500 pounds can be really painful depending on who you’re working with, what stage of the process they’re in, the contracts that they’ve got set up and all the nuances of their procurement systems. 

Brittany Harris, Qflow — read the full interview here

I’m now very strongly convinced that procurement teams in organizations are the real reason why innovation doesn’t happen. It’s not product teams, or research or marketing. I’m astonished about how much of a bottleneck it is. It’s a desperate situation when you have a team in the organization that is trying to build a new product and it takes a year to source any tool that they need today.

Sofia Quintero, EnjoyHQ — read the full interview here

Everything else

If you want someone who has already succeeded in an area — that will ensure you’re kind of okay. You’re on the average, right? You have people who know how to do what has been done until now. So “best in class” technical experience is always about what worked in the past. Anything that goes into best practice is already average. 

Hugo Macedo, Unbabel — read the full interview here

It has been a very conscious cultural brainwashing exercise to go and turn the ship around <toward design-led culture>. <We said> to everybody here, even the backend guys: you are here in order to take this beautiful artwork and these beautiful interactions and make them exist as efficiently as possible.

Matthew Hodgson, Element — read the full interview here

I have loved building the client relationships. Really understanding their problems and when you present them with something that looks really simple but can fix something for them, the look of realisation on their face and joy in the opportunity is just so priceless.

I even had a client call this morning and as I’m showing them the system, they’re like: “Oh, my God, it’s like the thing we use for expenses.” And I was like, “Yeah, Yeah, it is — we’ll automate that.” 

And they’re like: “but you can do that on site???” and I’m like, yeah, we can fix that for you. “OH MY GOD, REALLY?”. And we can say “YES! This thing that has clearly been bugging you is now over!”

Brittany Harris, Qflow — read the full interview here

When we got into Covid, we said let’s focus on the most agile and talented team members, and what was left was a really, really strong team. And we didn’t feel we lost productivity over it, there were just fewer distractions for the really good developers and product managers.

It’s not just the tech team where I see this — our sales team was about 70 people and we brought that back to 15 people. We still have a huge funnel and we’re just declining customers, whereas previously 70 people working 2000 leads were engaging with junk leads. Because there were so many salespeople, they kept engaging to show that they were busy. 

Matt Welle, Mews — read the full interview here

I think we got quite lucky that we started the company in the era of open banking, which I believe has created a shift at big banks to open their minds to data sharing, working with FinTech, working with third parties and even allowing third parties within their own apps. I think this would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Veronique Barbosa, Flux — read the full interview here

I’d argue that most B2B softwares could have a kind of B2C component, like B2C2B. Once a user adopts something and finds value in it in daily life, they will inevitably want to bring it into their organization. 

Oluwaseyi Sosanya, Gravity Sketch — read the full interview here

A lot of companies start with a vision that they are going to be the one tool that does all these things, that their customers can’t live without, or a platform that unifies X, Y, and Z.

I realized very early on that this will never really happens. Never. I think that insight is still our competitive advantage. We’re not fooling ourselves.

Sofia Quintero, EnjoyHQ — read the full interview here

About the Author

MaxTB

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, the entrepreneurial communications partner for "unsexy" tech.

View All Articles