Ed (2:43): Welcome to another episode of Scaling Up. And for those that have been listening, there’s certainly a sub theme to this series and that is to tell the stories of wonderful Australian companies that are truly global success stories but are relatively unknown and probably largely underappreciated. We’re talking about substantial businesses that have grown into highly profitable operations from the ground up, but without the usual fanfare, without the press releases. And today is no different and it’s perhaps one of my favorite Australian success stories than it is Phocas software. And I have Myles, Co-CEO and co-founder with me. Phocas is a business intelligence software that was started 20 years ago, bootstrapped from the ground up at the start. You just set out two take away the paper pane for distributors and their salespeople and it was grown into a global business. But I’d, love to hear that founding story.
Myles (03:38): Yeah, fantastic Ed. It’s a, it’s been an honor to be on the Scaling Up podcast, I must say. So, after sort of getting out of university here in Sydney as a, failed bio technologist, I ended up backpacking around the world and ended up in London having run out of money in two weeks of my, my backpacking trip around the world and figured I had to get a job and earn some money quickly. I’d spent a lot of time working in in hotels gym over university years. Ended up running a crazy backpacker in Brixton in southwest London, which in the late nineties was a pretty dangerous wild place. Not the gentrified place that it is today, but at that backpack as I, met a guy called Paul McGee who was one of the real pioneers in the enterprise resource planning space.
ERP is software that companies use to run their business, think MYOB or QuickBooks, but, maybe on steroids, a bit more functionality. After working with him for a year, he pulled me into work a little bit in this ERP space in, in London. And, and what we saw at the time, and this is sort of the late nineties, is that particularly for the companies we were working with, these manufacturing distribution and retail companies, the businesspeople, particularly the salespeople in those organizations were really struggling to access the data they needed to sell more to their existing customers. Because these companies had lots of products and lots of customers and it was very difficult to identify the link and cross and upsell opportunities. So, the reason they couldn’t do that is they didn’t have access to the data. They’d walk into a big air condition room and the IT guy would roll out this big elephant toilet roll of paper or maybe they had what was becoming a business intelligence tool then, but it was very, it driven, someone would write a report for you. So, it was a real struggle. we felt that’s where we had the opportunity to solve that particular problem around helping people get access to the data they needed to sell more.
Ed (05:31): And from that point, as you mentioned, it started in southwest London and you’ve now got offices around the world, but each time you’ve opened office it’s been new that has gone to that new market and hustled and I’m sure that’s come at some personal cost.
Myles (05:46): Yeah, well it was great fun to be honest because I think when I started out and I left had this idea to sort of, I wanted a global business because I wanted to travel, right? And that was it, that was essentially the strategy try and get a business that’s, that’s global. But as you get older, and you have families that that’s definitely the case. But it from that first point in the UK I flew back to Australia, pulled my brother in who was a computer programmer and we knocked out the first version in about three months we flew back to the UK and it sold like hot cakes, but you’re right, as soon as we had it up and running in the UK I brought it back to Australia which at least I’m from here we knew a lot of people.
Then as soon as we had enough money, I went to New York at the height of the financial crisis. And this is the first time it got really tough, right? Because I had literally arrived by myself in New York City, which wasn’t the best place to set up a business, but it’s where I wanted to be. So, let’s start there. And the high of the financial crisis didn’t even know lawyers or accountants and basically just started picking up the phone and cold calling distributors within 50 miles of New York City. And the first three phone calls I made, I actually got an appointment, and I signed up the first three meeting like, this is going to be easy. And then the GFC, and it was really tough, I think I thought sold six customers in the first year, absolutely killed myself. But I had no doubt I was going to succeed I was going to do whatever it was required. And over really six or seven years in New York, we built up a really good solid base of people paying us on recurring revenue.
Ed (07:17): And you were one of the few that saw that this SAS business model was so strong, high margins. It allowed you, despite being boots strapped and capital restrained to be profitable from essentially day one.
Myles (07:31): Yeah, very much. And we were very, I was very lucky, I wish I could claim this, but really Paul McGee, my co-founder was really the brains behind this. And he’d sold as an ERP software for, for years and he got fed up of the pressure that you had of having to sell these big deals and he was very keen, he had a lot of real estate, and he loved that idea of just sort of that recurring revenue. Really in the late nineties, early two thousands before most people were doing it, were selling software on a monthly subscription basis, which made it really easy to sell, right? Cause I’m saying initially in the UK, give me 500 quit a month, thousand pounds a month. Gosh you can’t afford that. So, it made it really easy to, to sell and you’re running from there.
Ed (08:10): you mentioned it started in these verticals of manufacturing and retail and that’s really the space that you still own. It’s a software that has great customers across the world in the mid-market in these verticals. And yet a lot of your competitors have gone wide, they’re generic sort of BI tools. Let’s talk about winning against these global competitors because this is a theme that I think sums up the ambition that you have been able to execute on. We’re talking massive global nationals Tableau, I think last year spent 400 million in R&D alone, and yet here’s this Australian software story that is spending a fraction of that and yet winning deals consistently against them. There has to be some secret sauce here.
Myles (08:58): Yeah, there is. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. And there’s no one ingredient to the secret source. There’s multiple ingredients. I think that all come together to do that, first of all is that very much fanatical laser focus on our verticals that we know well. We understand those companies and our staff understand those companies. we’ve got a product that’s designed very much for their needs and what they’re trying to access. But more importantly, we understand the systems that store their data, the ERP systems that do it. So, we have not just integrations with those tools, but we have solutions out of the box that they can get up and running in no time. So, what we are giving is a solution very much out of the box that they can go and customize. But where you’re dealing typically with those big generic people that solve a problem for anyone, which are fantastic, those tableaus clicks, power BIs wonderful tools, right? But you’re starting from scratch when you buy them, you need a team of consultants or experts to build it for you over time. So, you end up with this huge cost to try and get these tools up and running. And at the end of the day, what you still end up with is a series of reports or spreadsheets. Whereas with a tool like Phocas, you’ve got something that is very focused for those particular users that allows them very easily themselves, the business user can drill down into the underlying data.
Ed (10:13): Sounds like it’s a great lesson of knowing how to win and sticking to your lane.
Myles (10:19): Yeah, definitely. And we learned that around 2016 where we started swimming in multiple lanes. We thought, wow, this tableau’s a great idea. Why don’t we just try to sell to everyone? We’ll build it online; you can just trial it and everyone will just buy it. And that was a horrible year for many reasons, and we very quickly refocused on that. Got back to what we good at. And double down on that.
Ed (10:38): You talk about go to market traditionally as being this direct selling to the point that you were hustling the cold calls in New York City all those years ago. But now as you’ve grown, you’ve realized there’s benefit in partnering with some of these large global ERPs and that sort of channel distribution has been really important in the last couple of years. And moving forward, how do you think about pulling those go to market strategies so that they are working in your favor? Yeah,
Myles (11:07): I mean, you’re right. We sold direct for a long time, and we worked out how to do it, but it was just a lot of hard work, and it was really hard to scale, particularly as a bootstrap business where you weren’t putting in hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and sales behind it. And we came across these ERP partners because we’re selling in their space quite a bit and we were lucky enough to, to sign up a huge number of their customers, which generated some interest from them. we had one or two of them, people like Epic Core, probably the world’s fourth or fifth because ERP system people like mem and automotive. we’re lucky enough to get some partnerships up and running. And I guess the way we see those is it’s a lot of hard work at first you have this wonderful idea, you think, Yep, it’s going to be easy.
We’ll just sign up the partnership and they’ll sell it, and they’ll market it, and they’ll implement it, and we’ll just count the cash. And in reality, it doesn’t work that way, right? In reality it has to be a true partnership, almost a marriage for it to really be, it’s not about just getting a sort of referral part, like you’re really a partnership. Are we each a part of each other’s strategy? Is there a line in our strategy and your strategy that has our company names in it? Are there some numbers attached to those? And that’s what we learn over a lot of hard work with those initial partners is trying to focus on how we can help each other around the strategic opportunities that we’ve got.
Ed (12:22): You talked earlier of the benefit of, of working deeply in these sort of verticals is you have that domain expertise as to what the customer want and that plays out in deep customer love and every review that you read of, Phocas software talks of how easy it is to start and how much they love using the tool.
Myles (12:44): Yeah. Our mission is to help people feel good about data and I guess loves a pretty feel-good feeling, right? And it really is. I think if you talk about where we really differentiate ourselves amongst the big guys and any other players in the market is there’s this special love that it creates. People love using the software, it makes them feel good, and that’s a really strong thing. Emotion I think is the fundamental thing that drives decisions at the end of the day. And you’re never going to lose a customer if they’re in love with you, hopefully. I think it’s focusing passionately and relentlessly on ensuring that we can, generate and maintain that love again, through being innovative on the product side, but also on how we look after them support the customers as well.
Ed (13:27): And it’s not easy to do that. You’re talking about millions of data points, big data, really helping these probably non-business people make smart business decisions. And to simplify that much the same way that Xero has done that for accounting is surely going to hold you in the hearts and minds of all your customers for years to come.
Myles (13:49): Yeah, well hopefully so. It seems to be the case that at the end of the day more so now than ever people need to make timely, accurate decisions and they need to do it often in a distributed situation alone. So, they need tools to be able to do that and they need tools that are easy to use. I think that puts us in a perfect position to ensure that they are using us for another it’s 40 years in some way.
Ed (14:13): You talked of the growth of your business being mildly constrained by being bootstrap. By any measure you have seen phenomenal growth from zero to over 40 million of revenue at the moment. But that constraint must have always been just in the back of your mind, you see venture capital pouring and huge amounts of money into, into similar software business like yourself that then have the turbo charge growth. Did you ever look over the fence and think, I know we’re doing this in an old-fashioned way and it’s the right way for our business at this point in time, but I wonder how big this business could be if we just get the rocket fuel happening?
Myles (14:54): It was very easy for many years because strategically we made the decision not to do it. We said we are going to sell fund. That was the strategy and every couple of years we’d review it. No, let’s stick to that. So, it was really easy. We kept the blinkers on there, which, which may have been crazy, but we did. But then it was probably two years ago when Phil my Co-CEO, I really started to, to think about it. well gosh, yeah, what if, what else could we do? But at the time we realized we had to get a really good leadership team in first. So, we, we did that and then over a year or so we got our ability to get that leadership in place, which gave us the time to think. And then we sat down, so that was 18 months ago, we sat down and said, okay, what could we do if we remove that constraint of just funding the business ourselves? And we got pretty excited, and we’ve been on an awesome ride since of what we could potentially do now with a bit more rocket fuel to fire the rocket a bit faster.
Ed (15:46): And that’s not to say that the company hasn’t been good to you, it has been profitable. You’ve obviously reinvested a lot of that, but you have built a very successful business with that constraint regardless. But I’m curious as to, as a leader of the business strategically, how do you find the natural growth rate for your business when you are funding it yourself, when you do own every dollar that’s coming in and also coming out.
Myles (16:12): Yeah. Probably you find it on a Sunday when you’re completely shattered and you’re just all doing too much, right? And I guess that can happen when you are maybe even more so when you’re getting funded, I guess we’ll find out. Yeah, I probably haven’t thought about how you find the natural rate. I think you, for us, the culture’s really important, right? it’s meant to be fun, and it is fun, and it is fulfilling and it’s, I guess the simplest way that, that we find the actual growth rate is more often than not am I saying it’s not fun to go to work. And that’s probably the point where you’re going too fast or too hard than you can with the amount of cash you’ve got, or you’ve made some wrong decisions and you need to look at the strategy and make some different decisions, I guess.
Ed (16:53): And fun is one of your core values that we will touch on. But I want to talk about the technology itself for a moment. And it’s in a way a tip of the cap to the durability of, your business. But you have started a software business as a on premises software deployment and then the private cloud emerges and now, we’re in the era of AWS and the public cloud. And I know that you are in the final throws of a, of a lift and shift completely to AWS. I’m sure there’s been a lot of stress at each point of these macro technological shifts. Very few people have seen all three in the Australian technology landscape. So, I’d love just to start at a high-level view. There are a lot of listeners who deeply understand software, but I’m sure there are plenty that don’t. So maybe let’s start with this last shift towards the public cloud and what it has done for your businesses. The advantages of shifting to the public cloud.
Myles (17:53): Yeah, I mean the cloud, it seems so ubiquitous now for many of us, but of course it’s not a lot of companies are still relying on software that’s sitting on servers or on their computer. So, if you’re a personal user and you’ve got word or Excel just on your computer, that’s great, right? But obviously you have to buy that computer, you have to set it up. If it falls apart you’ve lost all the data, for example. So, what we’re now seeing is everyone try and move towards the cloud. So, they don’t need to invest in the infrastructure to support whatever applications you’re running. They don’t have to invest in the people to support those applications. And they’re also ensuring by being on the cloud that you’re always on the latest release of both the underlying technology, the databases that you’re using, but also the software itself. So, you’re not having to go with this old process where you have to upgrade every three months or six months and vet it, for example. You’re always on the latest in the greatest of the tool you’re using and, on the platform, as well. And that’s a huge benefit in cost and in performance.
Ed (19:12): And I’m sure there’s been a lot of stress, as I said, in terms of performing that lift and shift and any software business that has been around for 20 years is always going to suffer what technologists call technology debt, the customer needing your code base to be as sharp as possible and up to date. How have you thought about that over now two decades?
Myles (19:35): Yeah, I mean we’ve been, as you say, through everything. We started off OnPrem with some old database engine called DBI Sam, which a few old people will get excited that I said. But apart from that that’s about it. And it went from OnPrem local where we used to send CDs out to sales reps to get their monthly updates, for example.
Ed (19:52): There will be people listening that that blows their mind that there was software that was deployed by CD into a CD rom.
Myles (19:58): Absolutely, it was a hundred, that was the way it was deployed. It wasn’t even like the sales rep in the field, for example. We get a CD with the update of the software and the update of their monthly set of data with their new sales figures and they plug it in, and we did these wonderful wizards so that these big fat fingered sales people could update the data and it was great. But we went from that to the position to obviously to client server which improved that somewhat to terminal services type applications to various types of cloud, however you want to describe them, to pure cloud with Rackspace, which have been phenomenal now to AWS. And in the mix of that, the big change probably was the move to mobile and that really happened as much as people talk to Mobile for years, it happened when the iPad came out in our world and I was in America and all of a sudden, every president was walking around with an iPad, so you had to go mobile.
The way we’ve approached it is we’ve just reacted quickly to be honest with the small teams as best we can. I’d like to say that we were thought leaders and were way ahead of the game, but we weren’t, we didn’t have the budget to do that. So, when the iPad came out, we were probably behind, but then in six months we made a decision to go to a certain technology and we built out the web version in six months and it worked. And that’s still the fundamentals of what’s in there now. The same happened with cloud. We realized we had to go cloud, so we got our ass into gear and dig cloud in the quickest, best way we could with the small resources that we had. It’s not too bad now, we’ve got a lot bigger teams, a lot more confidence perhaps than we had in those days it’s just driven by market necessity, right?
Most of the time I suppose the difference though, with the movement to the cloud more recently is we’ve probably driven the movement and like a lot of the software vendors are trying to move it may be faster than the customers were because it’s better for us if it’s on the cloud, it’s cheaper for us to maintain and support. We got to a point where we thought, wow, we’ve got 1500 customers, it’s going to take us seven years to upgrade them all, but it’s also far better for the customer. So, I think we tried to really drive that, but very quickly the customers have followed on that.
Ed (22:06): What I’m hearing is just deep strategic pragmatism, understanding what is required and moving heaven and earth to get it done. And that is deeply inspiring actually hearing it play out. There are a few people who are as passionate about people in culture as I am, but you are a shining light for anyone that wants to pop onto Glassdoor. I think your approval ratings a hundred percent, the glass stores at 4.9 just tick downwards from five. So, I don’t know what’s happened there, but your constant winner of people and culture awards worldwide and we touched on fun as a value fulfilling and forever of the other two. And what stands out about your values are they are short, very understandable and I’m interested in how they play out in in practice.
Myles (22:58): Yeah, culture is definitely something I’m passionate about. And the reason for that is I think culture drives performance more than anything. But the values fun fulfilling forever, the fun that came about because it was, it was how the culture was probably reflection of my values. But fun to us at Phocas is the work itself is fun. I love being here on a Sunday night. I look forward to going to work on a Monday morning and that’s really our, it plays out. It’s never been about the perks cause there’s a bootstrap company. There wasn’t any apart from maybe getting drunk together on a Friday night, that was it, right? So, the fun had to be the work. So, the work itself has to be fun. I’m enjoying and having fun here and, we muck about, and everyone has fun’s different to everyone, right?
But it has to be fun. What we’re doing the fulfilling bit, the way that pan’s a nice counterbalance to the fun. So, it’s not that we’re mucking around, but the fulfilling bit is it professionally rewarding? Am I growing and developing? We ask people to say have I got a meaty meaningful role? If not, why not? And then the forever bit is interesting for some of our people they’ll say to me, you’re going to have to carry me out of here a box. I am here forever. And if that works for both of us, that okay. But forever is more of a, from a personal point of view, they may not be here forever, but the skills they’ve learned, the time they’ve had, the experience they’ve had is forever. And hopefully, and I’d be just so proud of some of our graduates who end up running companies in the future. You imagine if they took this fun, fulfilling forever philosophy to those other companies as well, then that would be forever as well. So that’s hurt pans out from a, from I suppose a people level.
Ed (24:33): It’s nice to hear you explain them because I’m sure there are people listening who think forever there’s a shade to that that might not mean high performing. It might be once you’re in you’re in, it’s very hard to be out. So, it is nice to get that context.
Myles (24:48): Yeah, and I think to add to that, it’s I had a new VP of sales joined recently in the US, and he goes, oh, I understand this fun fulfilling forever now. But at first, I thought it was some summer camp theme. And, and the forever bit is actually the really serious part, right? Cause it sort of says, well if you want to have fun, be fulfilling for our people, for our customers, for our shareholders, for our partners, if we want all of that. And we would like that to continue for the long term, however long forever is, you have to have the financial performance. That’s the fundamental thing that drives the high performance. And for us it can only be that if we grow and grow as much as we can and we’re profitable. Those two things are the counterbalance to those. So, everything we have to do is focused on driving growth and driving profitability.
Ed (25:32): One thing that is highly unique, and it might have been strategic, I’m keen to understand this, it is certainly unique. You have officers now around the world and I wouldn’t call them deep software pools of talent. We’ve got Orange in country, New South Wales, Reno in the states, Christchurch in New Zealand, Coventry for those that don’t know, somewhere between sort of Birmingham and Northampton in the UK. But these have been shaped around the best people. So, one person that you’ve found that needs to do a specific job and they have built out an office in some really quite random locations.
Myles (26:10): Yeah, I think if, from a retrospective rationalization point of view, it’s strategic, but I think it’s just how it happened, right? And it’s worked out. It’s worked out great. I mean we’ve added an office in Christchurch just recently and we’ve almost got 38 people there, software developers in, in Christchurch. And that happened because the best chief product and technology officer we could find in the world was a great guy called Blair and he was there and we’ve ended up building an awesome team around him and that’s grown really well. Orange came about because, Phil Dodds, my co CEO has a massive farm out in Molong and he had a small development team there and that grew from four people to 40 people. Reno, Nevada. We had a really great, customer experience lead in in the US and she was based in Reno. We now have about 20 people there. It’s a nightmare sometimes, but I think for the first 10 years we didn’t even have officers, right? So, we are very used to working in a distributed type of environment.
Ed (27:05): It shows to me that great people can attract other great people. That strategically has probably actually helped you in terms of gaining talent into the business.
Myles (27:15): Yeah, I mean the culture has been our greatest recruitment weapon that we could possibly have. And I think about across all levels, when I think about Phil Dodds, he doesn’t have to work. He’s been a very successful software CEO for a long time. But he wants to be here because he’s fun. Karen Haywood, we got her who’s our chief people officer, we got her probably three years before we could afford her, but she came here because she just loved being here. Blair Cassidy’s another one, Ang Kent our marketing people. I think the cultures allowed us to get a lot of these great people maybe ahead of when we could probably afford them.
Ed (27:49): You touched on Phil, your co CEO who’s based out at Orange. It’s a unique setup Co-CEO, he’s a professional CEO, you’re a co-founder, your other co-founder, Paul’s the chairman of the board as a leadership triangle. How’s that relationship evolved and how do you really maximize the impact that you can all have?
Myles (28:09): Yeah, so it’s evolved obviously massively over 20 years. I mean it was predominantly myself and Paul McGee for the first 10 years running the business and then sort of transitioned to myself and Phil and Paul running it. And then more recently just Phil and I with, with Paul taking more of a, chairman’s role. I think the dual CEO ones that that worked it’s probably getting more common now. I know people are Allbirds who you’ll know well and Atlas good, good examples. But it’s actually worked really, really well so long I suppose as you’ve got people on exactly the same level that understand each other and have built a high level of trust. And I think it probably took Phil and I six or seven years to really do that, but now we know we are thinking the same and you can take any of us and we any person and we’ll know that area of the business pretty well. So that works really well and then in terms of then involving Paul on then working with the board effectively to do that
Ed (28:59): And how do you distribute the roles and responsibilities in a Co-CEO relationship?
Myles (29:05): Yeah, so again, that continues to evolve as we work out what works best. what we’ve tended to do is we’ve got in our senior line of business leadership team, he’s got sort of three or four people that will report to him and there’ll be about the other six I suppose report to me in that’s terms of more of performance and coaching type aspect. But what we actually do is we have every two weeks we have a one-on-one with each of those line of business leaders that we are both sitting on the other week. We have a one-on-one just alone with them if that makes sense. So, that pretty much how it works out and we share it from there.
Ed (29:38): Let’s talk about the impact of Covid. We’re sitting here early October, I’m sure it’s been a roller coaster, and many sensors for the last six months, but there are a few businesses in the world that get direct insights into the impact that their customers are experiencing. And you would’ve seen firsthand specifically in the retailing sector, the impact that Covid was having on your customers. Maybe just at a high level you can discuss what you were saying for the last six months.
Myles (30:06): Yeah, you’re right. I mean firsthand we had some really great access to talking with our customers relentlessly and also access to working with them on the data across retail distribution and manufacturing globally. And it was a really different story within those, those areas. And retail particularly is interesting, right? Because you had some people, we had in the UK, a major drinks manufacturer that supplies to pubs. Literally that sales dropped overnight. What’s interesting about those customers, we thought, oh no, they’re going to call to cancel, ask for a rent holiday. They actually said, oh we need, can we do this? Can we help with that inventory database? So, can we look at a lot of other stuff? So, we saw in the retail space, a lot of businesses overnight go to zero sales, but then we all saw a lot of other businesses like another UK company that does ski helmets and bike helmets see an impact on their sales but move radically to ramp up their online business.
And we saw how that happened and again, that’s a story we’ve seen really effectively through a lot of players in the distribution space. It’s been very much you can see by the type of products they’re selling, right? You’ve seen our medical customers unexpectedly do well. You’ve seen people like your Repco and your Bursons in the automotive sector actually do really well cause people want to pimp up their cars. You see a lot of things like that where other people that are affected by tourism or travel, clearly not. So, it’s probably as you expect.
Ed (31:23): What about the impact covid’s had on your people across the world, disperse workforce culture at the heart of everything you do? How have you managed to ensure that your business was still functioning as you would like?
Myles (31:37): Yeah, I think the thing we are most proud of as a company is we’ve come through the other side of Covid. If we are on the other side, far stronger than when we went in and that was really the aim financially actually okay with financially have come through really well. But as an organization we were probably set up better than most companies did with Covid, right? Cause we’ve been remote forever. But it radically improved our ability to communicate with each other. We moved to rather monthly meetings, daily standups at the high of it or weekly standup. So, we communicated far more effectively with each other, so we all have a better idea what’s going on. The other big thing I think we’ve communicated relentlessly every single day during Covid I was doing a recording updating of what’s going on, letting them know what was happening. So, I think our role in that is in the uncertain period was just trying to be honest with people. And I think out of that we’ve built far more trust. We’ve always been transparent, but even more transparency and we’ve built huge trust out of that. So, I think that we’ve come out of that really strong.
Ed (32:35): There must be now some risk in your mind that a lot of your people would be feeling burnt out and tired and, are we through it? Who knows? But this could continue to go on. How are you thinking about what the next six months holds and your people?
Myles (32:54): Yeah, I mean I was burnt out two weeks ago, thank goodness the school holidays came across. I think you don’t realize how exhausting this year’s been emotionally and doing all the Zoom. So, I think the approach we’ve taken has continued to listen to obviously governor advice about what’s going on. We are now investing more than anything we’ve seen, certainly from our customers’ perspective now more than ever, they need to invest in their digital transformation. They need access to timely data more quickly than ever. So, we’re seeing people wanting to spend and get involved and spend money. So, we how’s it going to turn out from what we can see in the three regions in the markets that we are in is just continuing on doing what we’re doing now but being sensible about our investments. So, we’ve been probably a bit more conservative than we’d normally be. We’re keeping cash higher than we would normally be because we don’t know how things will change in at any time.
Ed (33:44): We talked about the bootstrap nature of your business, but you are also going through a really exciting stage at the moment and your first ever major fundraising 20 years on from starting the business, giving as much detail as you are willing to give. What are the lessons or reflections to date of we’re in the middle of a fundraising round at the moment that you could pass on to other founders who might be doing their first fundraising?
Myles (34:09): It’s been awesome. It’s been really, really awesome and made my advice is do it earlier. I don’t know, I’ll let a bit later, but so it’s been a really awesome experience and because you’ve got some really smart investors, some smart people that are looking into the details of your business. And that’s great, right? Because every one of those, it’s advice. You’re learning how to run your business better. You’re hearing from their experience all the time. Sometimes it’s pretty cutting, but that’s great because you can learn and improve. So, I think from that point of view, it’s been absolutely awesome, and we’re really excited about what we can potentially do. The advice I give for people is obviously get the best team around you, whether it’s your bankers, your finance team to, to work with you that will reduce the workload. But I found, whilst I’ve loved it as it goes on the, it’s hard to switch off. This has been my business for 20 years. I’m so excited about the next phase, but you keep on thinking about it. Probably I’ve been looking for a lot more at mindfulness and meditation just to switch off occasionally to give yourself a bit of a break from thinking about and dwelling over what you could do here and there. You just need to switch off during the process, I think.
Ed (35:18): Wonderful advice and fundraising in the times of Covid undoubtedly is hard, particularly when cultural fit is probably at the top of your list in terms of investors and yet you are dealing in short zoom meetings. How’s that been managed from your point of view?
Myles (35:33): Yeah, that’s probably been the biggest challenge. It’s been really easy in the early stages because you can have your little your initial meetings via Zoom in the US and in the UK and obviously even in Australia. And they were fine, but as you go along it’s really hard for both sides, right? Because it’s important for the investor and for us to really try and get a sense of who are we working with and spend the hours to really ask those questions. So that’s been a real challenge and we definitely, there’s a chunk of investors we had a huge interest, which was great but, a number of them dropped off. Cause at the end of the day when we got to it was just really hard to make a decision because it was very difficult to make it happen during an owning.
Ed (36:11): That’s must be an odd courting period almost you’re after the perfect marriage, but you’re dealing with marriage at first sight in in in many instances.
Myles (36:20): Yeah, maybe that’s the thing of the future. We’ll all be having relationships with people via Zoom only and I think it’s amazing how much you can achieve via Zoom and it’s been, for me personally, amazing in the last, since Covid, because I’m not in the UK I’m not in the us I’ve got far more time overall I got more time for myself and more time for family because I’m not doing crazy stuff overseas. So, I think that’s probably the good impact over time, but it does make things like this really hard. So yeah, we’ll see how that goes.
Ed (36:50): That is one last question that I ask every successful founder, and that is, if they could wind back the clock 20 years and give themselves one piece of advice, what would it be?
Myles (37:02): Oh, I don’t know, if you’re in India and you’re catching the train from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal, don’t eat food on the train. You, you’ll be wiped out for five days. You might know yourself that, but the one bit is invest in people and culture early. We always had a pretty good culture because we cared and we’re decent people, but we didn’t know how to recruit. We didn’t know how to help people develop better. And I always wonder, wow, imagine if we could’ve done that a lot better in the early days, that would’ve really helped. And I think following on from that, involve your people and culture experts in almost every decision you make because everything’s got to do with people, right? And they’re going to help you make far better decisions for the growth of your business.
Ed (37:47): Myles, thanks for joining me on scaling Up. Your story as I said, at the top is one of my favorites, and if ever a founder was to knock it out of the park from here, it’s you that I’ll be cheering on mate. So well done and thanks.