In this episode, Tom Lawrence, the founder and CEO of MVPR, talks about his experience in the PR industry and the story behind his company.
In this episode, Tom Lawrence, the founder and CEO of MVPR, talks about his experience in the PR industry and the story behind his company. MVPR is a platform that automates PR by connecting companies with journalists through a two-sided marketplace.
Charles Brecque: Welcome to The Tech Story Podcast, the place where we interview founders and people from tech who are building and working in very exciting tech companies. Today I'm very excited to welcome Tom Lawrence on the show. Tom is the founder and CEO of MVPR, a platform which is automating PR. Tom, thank you for taking the time to be with us, would you mind sharing a bit of background about yourself and the story behind MVPR?
Tom Lawrence: Yeah sure, thanks for having me on. Yeah so the, the, the background is, is reasonably simple, I've been in PR for nearly ten years, worked at a number of different kinds of agencies. And then in 2018, after I'd finished working on my first company, I was pulled into it again, and I went to work for Edelman, which is the largest PR company in the world, and we built their offering for startups from scratch. They'd tried a few times before, and it hadn't really ever worked out, and then, yeah, they bought myself and Camille, who's actually just joined me, in to see how we could build a service offering for early stage companies. And, we, kind of, just felt our way to be honest, and we slowly but surely built an offering for, kind of, early stage startups, but we spoke with, goodness me, we spoke with close to a thousand companies in two years. And Edelman's brand was such that as soon as we started talking about doing PR for startups, everybody came through the door. And so, you know, Edelman is a-, is maybe the premium PR agency globally, and we had a, sort of, starting price, which is about 15k a month, which is, kind of, unaffordable for anybody that hasn't, like, raise more than 25 million and above. And so we rejected a lot of companies, and we naturally worked with scale ups, but it didn't stop us from speaking with all of the startups, and learning about what they needed, and it was off the back of that that I decided to build MVPR, which caters towards that market. And when you've worked with as many companies, and startups, and as many journalists as, as we did, you learn that actually journalists don't really wanna be speaking with PR's anyway, they wanna be talking with founders. And that means that you're always in this really awkward situation where you know the journalist doesn't really want you to be there, the founder, like, happy you being there but doesn't know that the journalist really wants to speak to you in the first place. And so as an agency, you're, kind of, gatekeeping this relationship, and unless you're offering anything above that, it's an unsustainable model. And so left to essentially connect companies with the right journalists, and give them access. And so yeah, so that's what we've built with MVPR.
Charles Brecque: That's really interesting, as a startup that tries to do PR, we, we definitely tried to do it ourselves and then we eventually found you, and, and, and use your platform, I can definitely see how you help and how you've helped us, and great media placements, which has been really helpful, thank you. For I guess early stage startups, what are the things that they need to be aware of when thinking about PR? For example, how would MVPR help them?
Tom Lawrence: So as-, so basically what we've built is we, we automate how companies get written about in the press, and to do that we have built a two sided marketplaces, you've got companies that want to share content on one side, and, and journalists that want to find it on the other. And everybody knows that journalists receive hundreds of emails a day, and they struggle to filter their inboxes, and yet there's this PR, kind of, world that's, kind of, perpetuating that problem, and that's because no one really understands what journalists want to receive. And if you do, it's, kind of, this, it's information, it's why PR is such a black box, you, you always think, 'Okay, what shall I reach out to this journalist with? When, like, what do they want to receive from me?' And so what we do is we analyse what journalists are writing about, we do 90 days trailing of analysis of everything they write, and we pull out the very, very granular topics they have been writing about, and use that to infer what they will want to be writing about in the future. And because we have that information from one side, and we also have the company content from the other side, we're able to match make really effectively. And so on the one hand it's about making that connection and facilitating it, allowing companies to reach out to journalists on their own, but it's also about providing them with the data that helps them understand what they should pitch, and even, you know, what times of the week, what times of the day. Specifically which journalists at which publications are writing about what that would be relevant for them because nearly always whenever I speak with founders, you typically know what you wanna write about, but you're not necessarily always sure with who, or what they want to hear from you. And I find that founders tend to think in publications. So you'll, you'll always think, you know, 'I wanna be into tech, I wanna get into TechCrunch, or I wanna go into Forbes.' But PR people might know that, you know, Forbes has 150 contributors that all write on a, like, various number of different topics. Now if you pitch a false contributor that writes about fintech companies, something to do with the health tech space, they're not going to be interested, and because they don't have any time, they're not gonna give you feedback either, so you're not going to learn for the future, which ones you should pitch. And so yes it's about facilitating the exchange, but it's also about educating companies on what they need to share, so that they can do it themselves.
Charles Brecque: So you're creating the news?
Tom Lawrence: I wish we were creating the news, no readers create the news, you know, it's, ultimately a journalist is only beholden to their readers, they are the, you know, they're effectively, to an extent, a gatekeeper for their readers. And for companies, if you're-, I think the thing that companies often miss is that they often think that you have to, kind of, brute force your way into a readership. Now if you-, if you look at the readership of the publication, or perhaps the specific readership of that journalist at that publication, and you look at your own customers and your own ICP, your own ideal customer profile. Now if you're able to match up your own ICP, your customer profiles, with the readership that that journalist is writing for, there's a really good chance that journalist will be interested in knowing about you as a company, especially if you're a similar sized company to companies they've written about in the past. And so actually understanding what a journalist is going to write about, and making sure that you're pitching the right journalist, is very much to do with you as a company, and your understanding of your own market, and who you're going to sell into.
Charles Brecque: That's really interesting, I guess one, one thing that I often hear from, whether it's journalists, or PR agencies, when sharing feedbacks of startups about what they need to do to grab their attention, one thing they, they, they tend to say is that the news needs to be, or the content needs to be newsworthy. Which I find, unless you're a, a, a rocket ship going at a million miles per hour, or something bad is happening at your startup, it is really difficult I find to create their news. So based on what you've just described of locating the, the ICP, the readership, and then matching the journalists-, well identifying the journalists using, for example, a platform like MVPR, are they still looking for news? Or how do you, sort of, create news which isn't necessarily newsworthy from the generic point of view, but maybe is for their journalist writing for that audience?
Tom Lawrence: So there are lots of different kinds of content that journalists write, and so what you're talking about is, kind of, breaking news, whereby it's typically about a trend, or a topic, or something has come out from a, like, the Government's released regulation which means that everyone has to abide by these new rules. And you'll have journalists within a publication that specifically write just about breaking news. So something like we've just released a report, and we've just talked about Dan Taylor in that, Dan writes a lot of breaking news, e wrote something, like, 200, it's a crazy number of articles, like 250 articles in a three month period, and that's because a lot of that is about, yeah, funding announcements, things that are breaking, are time dependent, and at the moment about regulation, and that's also the, the, like, trending topics. But then you also have content that's not necessarily breaking but is still valuable. So you have things like profile pieces on specific companies, you have things like thought leadership pieces, or opinion pieces, and those can be about the specific vertical, or they can be about the, I don't know, some piece of regulation and your perspective on it, but they can also be about, like, horizontal topics as well that we would call an evergreen. So things like how to grow culture as a remote company, things that are applicable to most companies that as a founder often you have the authority and credibility to actually comment on. And so-, and so that's, kind of, yeah, again, kind of, down the thought leadership side of things, you have interviews, you have podcasts, you often have opportunities to actually pitch publications analysis that you've done. So it would be really interesting for you for example to look at trends in, yeah, data across contracts, for example, you could take that to a legal technology publication, who would be interested in that data and information because it would be valuable for their readers. And so when you're thinking about getting into the news, it's about thinking about the kind of-, the kind of content and kind of information that you have, and then ultimately you need to know who within that publication is responsible for those different kinds of content, and that's often something that founders or companies never know anyway. So doing your research on who is-, you know, what a commissioning editor job title means in a-, in a-, in a publication means versus a reporter. Or yeah, what a, yeah, content planner, or etc., like, what those job titles means is actually really valuable because it will give you an indication into what kind of content they're interested in, and subsequently make you more successful in actually pitching them.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, no that's good, good insight, I guess, yeah, founders tend to just think of the breaking news but actually there's, there's so much more.
Tom Lawrence: On, on the newsworthy side of things, I think there are-, there are some-, there are some core, I would say, markers that you'll see in newsworthy content, sort of, localisation is one. So how, how, how local is the information that you're sharing? So for example, if you're pitching a, a journalist in London, rather than one that's based on, like, like, reporting on Europe, they're, like, UKTN for example, UK based technology companies, they're predominantly interested in writing about UK companies, if you talk about a, I don't know-, I don't know, a company that's based in, say, France for example that's launching into the UK, they're less likely to be interested in that than a company that's, yeah, based in the UK obviously doing something like expanding into different, different regions in, in the UK. So how-, basically, how, how, yeah, how local. There are a number of other markets, like, yeah, are there interesting people attached with that news that will pull in more readers? Yeah, you have, sort of, urgency as well, so is there a timeline on it? Yeah is there a current trend for example that's, like, kicking off? Yeah there are a number of things I could share with you afterwards actually, it's almost like a list that you can just-,
Charles Brecque: Okay.
Tom Lawrence: Go through and be like, 'Okay, does it-, does it-, does it meet this criteria?'
Charles Brecque: Yeah, yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing the list and-,
Tom Lawrence: (talking over each other 12.29).
Charles Brecque: I think, yeah, our biggest (mw 12.31) right now just for being in the news is just bandwidth, but yeah that's something that we're addressing.
Tom Lawrence: No it's an interesting point, right, I think we, we saw that-, in advance of Christmas we saw that across one of our companies, it was one of the biggest challenges that we had, and then obviously GPT-3, was it three? Yeah it was GPT-3.5 came out before Christmas, and yeah, and, and actually it solved a huge number of problems for us in terms of how quickly companies can create content.
Charles Brecque: Yeah.
Tom Lawrence: I think the challenge is using it in the right way, and so, you know, creating an article from scratch, using GPT-4, and being like, 'Look, this is the context as a legal tech company, I want this to be written from the perspective of the founder, this is, kind of, roughly what I want to say, go write it for me,' is not very useful, and you'll end up with generic content. But if you feed it in the right way, and it's really down to, like, the prompts that you feed it, and we've done a lot-, a lot of experimentation on this, and we have really honed it down to, like, something that's incredibly valuable. You can-, you can feed it all of the context and all of the information that it would need in order to write you a really, really strong outline. It's good at doing things like pulling stats in from different places so that you don't have to do it so quickly, it's good at, yeah, obviously assimilating information, it's also really useful for research purposes. So if you're writing a piece, and you're, like, you wanna ask all of those, like, you know, those questions that you have in your mind, like is this the right way to write this terminology? Easy, it will give you the context for it, so you can pull it in there. But the whole purpose, I would say, of getting the best out of it is actually, it's about creating an outline first that then you can complete as a human because, yeah, if you're pulling stuff directly from the internet, it's, it's not original, and it probably means it's not going to be valuable as a result.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, no that's, I mean, yeah, in, in almost every single episode we've talked about ChatGPT-,
Tom Lawrence: Probably, right, yeah.
Charles Brecque: Cause it is-, it's, it's definitely creating noise for all of us, and I don't know if you saw but Sam Altman is doing a tour around the world, and he's gonna-, well to meet users, customers, whatever, and I signed up for his London meet up, but I don't know if-,
Tom Lawrence: Nice.
Charles Brecque: I'll get a spot, but-,
Tom Lawrence: I'm sure you will.
Charles Brecque: Who knows? Who knows?
Tom Lawrence: You'll have to have him on the podcast.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, I'll say, 'Hey Sam, you know, why don't you just come on the podcast?' But yeah, and I guess started the company three? Four? Less?
Tom Lawrence: Less than two years ago.
Charles Brecque: Less than two years ago, wow.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah.
Charles Brecque: I guess, what's been your favourite moment so far?
Tom Lawrence: My favourite moment so far, I mean the first customer is pretty special, right. Yeah we had our first customer when we didn't have a product yet, we had a notion page which was dressed up as our product, yeah and we charged them £40 a month, they're our first ever customer, this was in April 2021, and we started building the product in April 2021. And yeah I think my, my second favourite moment came about a month after that when the founder, this will never happen again, but the founder messaged me and he was like, 'I don't think you're charging us enough for, for, for, for basically what we were receiving, we think you should double it.' And so I doubled it to £80 a month and we-, yeah we obviously doubled our monthly revenue. So that was-,
Charles Brecque: And then he asked you to double it again?
Tom Lawrence: Oh no, well I mean we've, we've, we've, yeah, it's interesting, right, our base price is now eight times what it was when we started.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, yeah.
Tom Lawrence: Which is, you know, crazy, just shows you how much you get wrong in-,
Charles Brecque: Yeah.
Tom Lawrence: In the early days, but, you know, we were looking for customers at the time, and yeah, who knows? If they hadn't told us we should double our pricing, maybe, maybe we'd still be charging £40 a month.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, but no I think-, I think we've gone through a similar process as well of charging £10 per contract and ultimately it was great to get early adopters feedback, but actually the product and value that we create is worth a lot more than that. And so we have increased our prices, and it, it's something which obviously might mean that you're out of budget for some of those early customers-,
Tom Lawrence: Yeah.
Charles Brecque: But, but, but ultimately I think we're, we're building a business, and for the business to survive you need to have a business model which, which works and scales, and also justifies the amount of effort you put into the customer, and, and the product, and yeah I, I think we, we, we've definitely given some of those £10 customers, you know, the VIP, you know, experience.
Tom Lawrence: You do.
Charles Brecque: You have to, and we do, but, but, but then sometimes also it's the customers who complain the most, and that's obviously something else to manage when you're building an early stage, stage company.
Tom Lawrence: To be honest it's the bit that I like the most, and maybe I've, sort of, like, sadistically trained myself to enjoy it, but yeah I, I love it when customers complain about your product. You know, if they didn't care they would just turn right.
Charles Brecque: Yeah that's right.
Tom Lawrence: They, they do the equivalent of quiet quit, and they'd, like, yeah they'd unsubscribe and they'd leave.
Charles Brecque: Yeah.
Tom Lawrence: But when they complain about the product, they're like, 'I really wish it would do this.' Or, you know, there's a-, you know, you send me a bug request all the time, like, you know, there's, there's, by the way, there's a-,
Charles Brecque: There's another one.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, there's another one, yeah, yeah exactly, yeah I love it, I'm like, 'Tell me more, tell me more.' And I mean ultimately, yeah, your customers are only going to tell you how to build the product, and it's up to you how much you decide-, like, how much you listen to them versus the vision that you have in your mind.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, no it's, it's, it's a constant battle, but, but I, I agree, I agree, if the customers aren't complaining, that's, that's in itself a, a problem, saying that, you don't complain about our product, maybe there's a problem there.
Tom Lawrence: I'm not sure there is, I would be pretty forthcoming with my, my-, well I mean as a-, yeah as a founder, you, you, like, I obviously value the-, I mean bug, bug feedback is my favourite kind of feedback, right.
Charles Brecque: No absolutely. And I guess, so-,
Tom Lawrence: Also love it by the way when you tell me that the UI is, is, is looking really nice, was that you? I think I can't remember.
Charles Brecque: Okay, well no, we, we, we actually just redid our front and rebuilt it from scratch, completely changed the UX, UI, lots of things that we thought made no sense, and we found out through our, our customers. But, but yeah I mean if you have time after this, I'd love to show you the, the, the new version.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah I would love to, I think it was me that was pushing you to increase your prices, as a customer.
Charles Brecque: We can have a conversation around that as well.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, am I on the legacy?
Charles Brecque: You're on the legacy.
Tom Lawrence: Am I?
Charles Brecque: Yeah.
Tom Lawrence: Perfect, I love it.
Charles Brecque: Yeah. Great, cool, well, and I guess, you know, what do you wish you'd known before starting MVPR?
Tom Lawrence: What do I wish I would have known before I started?
Charles Brecque: Yeah.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, honestly I think the thing that I've come to realise in the last, especially, like, three or four months, is how valuable your founders network is. I think before when I was-, before, I, I had a previous startup before this, and I didn't come from the-, I didn't come from the startup world. And so everyone always tells you, 'You need to build your network.' And, and you think, 'Okay, well yeah obviously I need to build my network, But with who?' and I think the, the natural tendency is, 'oh, I need to build my network with investors' or 'I need to focus on building my network with developers' or you should always be doing those things but I think the thing that is, like, I think massively underrated, maybe by a lot of early-, really early stage founders is how valuable your peers are because now I feel like the, kind of, peer group that we're part of is, like, coming up together and we're all experiencing stuff that's the same. Some of us are, like, you know, further ahead than others but also behind in other areas of the business. You always nearly always have, like, the same issues but applied to different industries and so, yes, it feels really powerful having such a strong cohort of people that are, you know, a combination of bootstrap companies versus companies that have raised VC rounds at, and Series A and beyond and then knowing that you can draw on that advice. I wish someone had told me that in my previous business, just, you know, focus on your founder network. Like, build a really, really strong cohort of peers because, yeah, ultimately, you learn from them.
Charles Brecque: Well, I mean, but that's how we met and I-,
Tom Lawrence: True.
Charles Brecque: I agree. I mean, I think that's one thing that I wish I'd known and, and I think, for me, it was more that I found being a solo founder quite lonely and meeting other founders was a great way of having, well, peers who have gone through similar challenges or can, sort of, share feedback but I agree, the, the network is something which is really valuable, not for the sake of building the network but more in terms of finding the problems and I think it even goes beyond just founders. One thing that we, we always tell our team is, like, operations, you know, join-, find your peers, you know, marketing, sales, find your peers because ultimately, everyone is-, it's not that we're doing the same thing but chances are someone has experienced your problem at some point and can maybe share some tips in terms of how you can be better or how you can continue to grow.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, that is one of the privileges, that's for sure.
Charles Brecque: Great, and in another life, I remember you were training to be a chef or a sous chef.
Tom Lawrence: That was over a decade ago but yes.
Charles Brecque: So, how, how-, well, A, how did that happen or, or what-, yeah, how did it happen but also, is there anything from being a chef that has influenced your style of being a founder or-,
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, having, like, twelve things on the go at once, trying to work out, like, you know, which dishes had to be ready for your head chef in time so that you didn't mess up his dishes. Yeah, he, he-, to be fair, he was great but how did I get into it? I love cooking and still do. Yeah, trained when I was eighteen. I thought I wanted to be a chef. I've loved cooking for a really long time. I lived by myself in London during the last couple of years of my school. My parents were in Amsterdam and yeah, got into cooking a lot then, yeah, and then trained and then worked in a kitchen in the year after that I left school, thinking maybe, let's try this out, see if it works and I loved it but it's impossible to sleep afterwards. Yes, not sleeping is where maybe another, another thing-, yeah, but, but, yeah, I mean, it's just-, it's such an adrenaline-fuelled, yeah, occupation to have. You always end up working really, really late, long hours, on your feet all the time. It's incredibly intense. You always-, you have this, like-, you have this mental timer in your head of literally-, that's like going on everything, so, you, you, you work-, you've got four minutes for something, you've got, like, three dishes you're working on yourself that's for you, like, eight that's for other people and when you have, like, I don't know, covers-, I don't know, 100, 120 covers in an evening, yeah, it's pretty intense and I realised that I also don't like cooking other people's recipes. I like cooking my own recipes or recipes that I find, cooking, like, someone else's way of doing something for-, yeah, ad continuum wasn't that tempting but I still love cooking and yeah, I cook a lot. And so, what did I learn? Just, to be honest, yeah, resilience, probably and then, yeah, how to have lots of things going on at the same time and you to keep some semblance of reality but it was really fun. Really, really fun.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, well, I mean, I wish I knew how to cook. I mean, I guess my, my founder food-,
Tom Lawrence: Maybe I can-, maybe I can reciprocate and we can have a, yeah, a podcast. I lived with a food photographer for-,
Charles Brecque: Really?
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, when I lived in Berlin, I lived with a friend who is a food photographer and yeah, he would often do shoots in our kitchen. Yeah, that was fun. So, we'd have a similar setup but in a kitchen and you and I-, it'd be like the worst version of Saturday-, yeah, Saturday Kitchen Live ever, just you and me, yeah, trying to make, yeah-,
Charles Brecque: Spaghetti bolognese.
Tom Lawrence: We'll do-, we'll do ragu. We'll do ragu.
Charles Brecque: Okay, ragu, fair enough. Great, no, thanks, thanks for the insight and yes, really interesting and I can definitely see the parallels between working in a high intensity environment in the kitchen and being a founder. At least you can't burn yourself or chop a finger off.
Tom Lawrence: Well, not too many times anyway, yeah. We, we should do a founders, like, cooking session.
Charles Brecque: Well, I don't know what the turnout would be but, but I'm sure-,
Tom Lawrence: I think it'd be pretty strong.
Charles Brecque: Well, it all comes down to PR but-, and, and I guess, yeah, back to PR and MVPR, what's the vision for the next three, five years?
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, so, I mean, ultimately, we want to become the largest content marketplace for company content and I can see a, a moment in time when-, so, we, we also work with a number of publications who work with a lot of journalists and by, by working with both, I think we've got ourselves in a really, really strong position. We get to learn more and more about what journalists want to write about and ultimately, we're beginning to see how readers are engaging with that content as well. So, yeah, I see as us, yeah, content distribution, essentially but to all publications. At the moment, we're focused on the tech space in the start-up space and that makes a lot of sense but we will soon move into the consumer space and a number of other verticals that exist and obviously, also internationally as well. So, that's, that's the plan.
Charles Brecque: Really, really exciting and, yeah, I can definitely see how in time you're, you're learning more about your journalists, more about your companies and then-, and then ultimately-, I know you said readers are creating the news but you will, I guess, be creating the news if you have all that understanding, which is really exciting.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, I hope so. I, I think-, you know, we'll-, everyone's, everyone's beholden to a reader's attention. I think it's, it's really interesting the way that readers are consuming information now. If you look at the way that-, yeah, if you look at the way that you or I, for example, or actually read the news or found out about things, it's usually in really small communities. So, what's happening is this, kind of, like, yes, disintermediation of the news and it's filtering down into lots and lots of different social networks and I think that's very interesting. So, yeah, I think, I'm, I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do, especially because I don't think we're quite there yet but I think we're-, yes, we're fast approaching a moment where people want to know, like, how factually accurate is the article that I'm reading and the interesting thing about the way that we collect information now is we are collecting that information in a way that is traditionally double-sourced. So, basically, verified across two sources and means that it can be-, it can actually be, like, verified and checked in its use over time. So, I think one of the things I'm also excited for is a moment where it becomes a prerequisite but content has that, kind of, almost like a watermark that it's factually accurate and we'll be able-, we'll be in a position to actually be able to provide that and when you can break the, the individual pieces of information down like you can, it also allows us to place that information programmatically. So, there-, at the moment, if you look at the, the publications that are experimenting with AI in the newsroom, for example, AI in the newsroom is about sourcing information and I'm excited for a moment in time where we are ready to deliver content directly into the newsroom but API to API, rather than necessarily via the platform and into journalists and then for that publication to know where that information came from and how factually accurate it was. Yes, that's something I think will happen in the next three to five years, let's see.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, that's really exciting and I think around the-, obviously, with the AI content being-, well, now that it's so easy to create content with AI and there being so much content, one reason why we decided to switch the podcast to in-person and high quality was also to, sort of, differentiate ourselves and make sure that, yes, this is content produced by real humans that exists, you know, that are real and not just some, some AI because I think that's, that's something that I think, as you said, readers want to know where the information came from. Was it from a human, was it from an AI or-, and is this information even correct? Great, and as a tech founder and you're on The Tech Story, I imagine you use quite a few tech products. So, what's your favourite tech product? I know we were talking about the (inaudible 31.22) earlier and I understand that's not your favourite tech product but yeah, what's your favourite tech product?
Tom Lawrence: Not at the moment. Are we talking, like, SaaS or are we talking-,
Charles Brecque: It could be SaaS, hardware.
Tom Lawrence: Interesting. I mean, I really enjoy using Asana at the moment. Yeah, I know. Bizarre, bizarre pick. Yeah, strange pick. I think it's-, looking at the way we, yeah, balance, yeah, tasks that happen within the team, I have genuinely been enjoying using it but if I look at, I don't know, the tech stack, did we talk about Cledara the other day? Was that you and me?
Charles Brecque: Yes, yes, because our payments were declined. I was trying to reassure you that there is money, just not in Cledara.
Tom Lawrence: No, it's funny. As soon as you start using a product like that, you begin to realise how many subscriptions you have and which ones are valuable and which ones are not. So, on the SaaS side of things, I've actually really enjoyed putting a lot of process behind all of the work that we do. Putting, yeah, infrastructure behind ourselves process and our marketing processes and now we have more people, so we can actually do that and it's not just me. So, that's actually been, I mean, oddly, really fun. For me personally, on the tech side of things, like, consumer tech, I actually don't really have anything that I, I really love. There is plenty of things that work for me and do, do things for me but yeah, depressingly, I can't-, nothing, nothing, like, springs to mind immediately. I like my watch but it-, you know, it tells me the time and it no longer needs to tell me what my, yeah, blood sugar is because I've got my Whoop hopefully in the future telling me that. Not quite, we'll get there.
Charles Brecque: Interesting. I mean, Asana, I mean, what I've noticed with various products like Asana that have been around for some time is, when I tried them maybe five years ago, I, I just really didn't like, like them and that's definitely I, I felt about Notion.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah.
Charles Brecque: Somehow, in the past couple of months, I've been using Notion and actually really enjoying it and-,
Tom Lawrence: Do you remember Notion in 2018?
Charles Brecque: I, I, I didn't try it then but not too far.
Tom Lawrence: Man alive, yeah.
Charles Brecque: It was-, it wasn't good?
Tom Lawrence: No, no, it wasn't good but it was a start-up. I think when you're using a start-up product, you have to expect that some things might not work quite as they seem but the-, you know, you could see the vision there. No, I think, honestly, with using SaaS products, for me and the way that my mind works, I just need to know-, I almost need to know which tool is used for which kind of information. So, like, using Notion, for example, for FAQ's, documentation that is going to last for some time but not going to change is a really valuable place to keep information like that. Yeah, Asana is obviously for day-to-day tasks and projects that you can, like, plan well in advance and then work out, like, who is gonna be responsible for what over time. We use Shortcut, which used to be called Clubhouse, unfortunately for them, but is a fantastic dev tool that we use for everything that's product related and then designed as Figma. So, like, you almost just, like, think your way through those kinds of products in terms of-, yeah, and in terms of what kind of content they should have on there. Otherwise, you know, you end up with looking for-, searching through Slack for goodness knows what in however many channels that exist.
Charles Brecque: No, interesting, interesting. I'll, I'll take a look at Asana and, and see-,
Tom Lawrence: What do you use?
Charles Brecque: Well, Notion. I mean, I think-, I, I-, for my reminders and to-do's, I use notes in Superhuman but-,
Tom Lawrence: Superhuman is great, yeah. I have recently been thinking about going back to Outlook though.
Charles Brecque: Really?
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, I know. Well, the thing is-, yeah, Outlook Copilot, well, obviously, Microsoft has Copilot now and, yeah, interested in that but largely speaking, I'm a-, I'm a believer in, yeah, finding something that works and then sticking to it, rather than just changing to any new tool that exists on the market.
Charles Brecque: No, I agree. Well, I think especially in the world of SaaS where it is so competitive and there's always new products, I like that philosophy. Great, and what piece of advice would you give an early stage founder listening to this podcast and-, well, whether they're a founder or not but considering an entrepreneurial journey?
Tom Lawrence: Get to revenue as fast as you can. If you can, obviously, it's not possible for all companies, especially if you're deep tech or, or, or health, health tech often or biotech but yeah, get, get your first customer before you start building the product. Not least when you go into conversations with investors, you'll have a lot of leverage and one of the more powerful things that we were able to do when we did our round, we were actually-, we were-, we were balancing investors who were looking to come in with whether or not we should just bootstrap it and continue to go and so, it wasn't like those investors were even competing against each other. There were but, like, it was more that they were competing against us and what I wanted to do with the business and how, like, yeah, how much I felt like the, the cash that they were gonna bring in would give us, like, that much acceleration. And that felt like quite a powerful place to be, even as, yeah, even as a start-up that had only been around for eighteen months. So, yeah, that's, that's probably the advice I would give. I, I often find, I speak to people who are thinking of starting businesses and they talk about building their product first and you just think, don't do it.
Charles Brecque: It's, it's obviously risky. I mean, I think we, we were fortunate to have clients relatively early on three months in and that was on the actual SaaS platform but-,
Tom Lawrence: But you also went cash positive pretty early on, right?
Charles Brecque: No. Well, I mean, I think, you know, there are many ways to get cash positive, right? If you're by yourself or, or, or not paying yourself but, but I think in, in hindsight, sometimes I just wish that I could just, now that I know what we need to build, could just, you know, put revenue and clients aside and just focus on building it but, but maybe that's just an ideal world that, that doesn't exist.
Tom Lawrence: I think it depends on the business, yeah, for sure. It depends on your access to companies, your price points, like, whether the economics work for you. It just depends, I think, ultimately.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, there's, there's no right or wrong way. Every way can, can work, you just need to, with persistence and, and time, get there.
Tom Lawrence: I think that's another really good point, yeah. Like, persistence is pretty much-, is the name of the game.
Charles Brecque: Right at the center of it.
Tom Lawrence: Yeah, right. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other together for a really long time and you'll get there.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, well, Tom, thank you for taking the time.
Tom Lawrence: Thank you for having me.
Charles Brecque: And is there a, a closing question that I should have asked you that I didn't ask or that you-,
Tom Lawrence: Not that I can think of. You asked me about, yeah, my, my cooking but no, I think you covered everything, mate.
Charles Brecque: Perfect. Well, thank you for being on the show and best of luck growing MVPR.
Tom Lawrence: Thank you. Well, you'll know about it, so.
Charles Brecque: Yeah, I will.