Andrew: my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I wonder how many people are even going to think that what James Layfield does.
Is even necessary. And I’ll tell you why James, everybody was listening to this interview. I feel like they’re just so into software. They’ll read product hunt. They’ll understand what everything does. I thought. Well, let me introduce you, James Layfield is the founder of clear find what their software does with their platform.
Does, is it analyzes your software ecosystem? Uncovers what products you should keep, remove or consolidate? I thought the win here is. Lots of different people and company all seemed to buy the same piece of software. How about we just analyze a credit card statement or the QuickBooks, right? You guys work with QuickBooks and other accounting software and say, Hey, consolidate this, you have better control over the software.
And it’s cheaper. Save money. James told me actually, yeah, that’s the, what we do with this. Not that smart, Andrew. It’s not enough. What we do is. We take a look at people’s software company software. And we say, you know, instead of these three pieces of software, what if you just had one and then it wouldn’t have to use Zapier to have all three of those pieces of software communicate with each other, and guess what?
You’d have better features, better, everything that you’re looking for. That’s what your software does. Right. You’re smiling. As I say that.
James: I am smiling, as I say yes, that’s correct. Yeah. So what we found is, I mean, as entrepreneurs grow by companies and they become bigger and bigger beasts and they start to be spending multiple millions a year on software, this challenge. Rings true for everyone. the bigger the company, the more complex the ecosystem, the more employees you’ve got, the more people you’ve got looking, the more of a mess you will have that.
and what happens is over time, that mess just gets more horrendous. Uh, and by the time we find you typically companies have 25%. of their spend is a total waste of money that they could redeploy into any
Andrew: 25% of their software spend is a waste is wasted.
James: Completely wasted.
Andrew: And you were saying, in addition to that, they ended up getting software. That’s not optimal because they’ve just cobbled together, different software, uh, accounts over the years.
James: Exactly. It’s the things you mentioned before. They’re a given, which is basically in a, in a company, some random will have a credit card and we’ll have bought licenses to assume while someone else will have someone licensed to zoom. You don’t realize that’s a problem, but it’s not the problem. The problem comes more from the fact that it’s really hard as the company grows to fully comprehend the level of.
Software you have in the company, you might know we’ve got a CRM system, but you don’t know all its capabilities. You might know you’ve got a video platform, but you don’t know all its capabilities. Our system knows all the capabilities and therefore going to help you create the perfect jigsaw puzzle of software for you.
Um, and as I said, most companies have sat there and at least 25% of missed deployed fund. If you think, if you’re spending a million dollars a year, Quarter of a million dollars you could spend on anything else you could go on holiday. The more likely you can be deployed into better software.
Andrew: here’s an example where I think this makes sense and then I’ll give you one word. It doesn’t make sense. And by the way, this is not me shooting your business down. I’m an all that you figured this out. And I don’t know how you get to this point. How do you understand that this is a problem?
That’s what this interview is about. And then how do you get
James: no, I can tell you.
Andrew: but, um, I did an ad for RingCentral about two years ago. And I guess the, I didn’t do that well because they didn’t re up with me. But when I wanted to communicate to people was with RingCentral, you get a phone number for your business, where if it rings, it could go to multiple cell phones or it could go to multiple people’s desks.
What I wanted to say was we’re all still using zoom. Their video conferencing at RingCentral was fricking zoom. They had a partnership with zoom. So basically for the price of zoom, you got all this basket of the other features. It’s a no brainer. If you want. I have a phone service to say let’s just port our phone number over to ring central and, and.
If you’re, uh, if you have the phone service and zoom, it’s a no brainer to say let’s just use RingCentral. If you have zoom, it was a kind of, Nope, not exactly a no brainer, but it made sense to say, let’s just switch over to RingCentral. We’ll use zoom through them and get all these extra benefits. That part makes sense.
Right? You can uncover that.
James: Yeah, we can cover that for show. Cause we look at the features. So what the cables and features of that.
particular tool. So yes, we could easily see that,
Andrew: All right. Here’s where it doesn’t make sense to me. We spend money on a zoom at my company. We also, I guess, have Google meet that comes with our, um, our, our G suite fricking Google meet is such a pain in the neck to use and comparison. If you just look at features, the features of meet and zoom are practically the same.
How do you, how can you come back and say, Andrew? This is not really going to work for you or, or do you, or is it just, Hey, there are all these features already in G suite and it’s all integrated and congratulations. You’ve got it already stopped paying for zoom. How do you, how do you deal with that?
James: So, as you can imagine, as you’ve pointed out, this is a more sophisticated tool than that. Absolutely. Um, you can’t look at the world info such as embassy way, and that’s why it was exciting problem to crack. So to give you a little backstory, um, so my business partner, Jocelyn.
Andrew: the way this whole interview is backstory. So don’t like, don’t blow it all at once. Maybe you could just tell me about that. And then we’re going to go back into how you came up with this idea. Cause I know it wasn’t, it wasn’t a clear path for you either. What’s how do you deal with this issue of Google meet and zoom clearly different products.
If we’re just looking at what you have already in consolidation, it seems a Google meets a better solution, but for us in many people, it’s not.
James: We spent two years, the first two years of a company working out, how do you create an accurate taxonomy? Or feature data. How do you understand the difference between Slack, which has got video conferencing and zoom, which is . And as you say, Google meet, which is video conferencing and teams, which is video conferencing and Cisco, which is video and blue jeans.
Why did anyone come with any blue jeans,
James: jeans, which has video conferencing? And the answer is there are many, many ways as a human I can discern, but this we’re using zoom right now is a preferable platform with better features, better functionality, clearer. Imagery than some of the other competitors.
How do you then translate that into a set of features that an AI can manifest to a user that then can give them accurate readings on how they’re using the tool? So that was the first two years of our business looking into that, um, because only with that level of subtlety, Does the product become useful?
So the way I think about it is in many large organizations in order to make that assessment, you would potentially bring in not necessarily in the zoom versus the zoom example. Cause that’s relatively simple, but in a more sophisticated example, you might bring in a third-party consultant. You might bring in Deloitte Accenture, someone that someone who’s an expert in the particular discipline.
So we had to create. Hey, an AI and a methodology to look at features that could compete with that human level of the summit.
Andrew: Okay. And when I started this interview saying we are passionate about software, we spent a lot of time looking at product hunt is there for, for someone who’s that into it. And I imagine a bigger companies or people who are that into software too. Is there still more that you can uncover for them and say, you may have looked at products on everyday, but you probably didn’t realize the blue jeans did blow up and become a better software.
James: Yeah. I mean, there’s a few things. So firstly, just how many tools do you really have a look at? So if you look at forwards and you look at, let’s say you’re a fanatic and you look at products, that means you look at 365 products. If you looked every day, if they’re all on
Andrew: they come up with 10 or 20 a day, but yeah, I get your point. I’m basically scrolling through them and I’m not reading them anymore.
James: Exactly. Very few people really, really don’t. And now our system, for example, just in CRM, we have over a thousand tools that we look at for you when you come through that process. So if you’re just looking at CRM and you give us some basic information, we look at a thousand tools for you. No matter how fanatical you are as a prominent
James: you ain’t doing that work, uh, and nobody’s doing it.
Uh, and the reason they’re not doing it is because it’s incomprehensible for human to try and do that. Uh, and that’s where the power of AI comes in. That’s where we really leverage. The fact that we have an incredible set of data and an incredible way to think about that data to make it usable, to make it practical, to analyze hundreds of tools in the same sphere at once.
Andrew: Yeah. All right. You came up with this idea AF I should say this interview is sponsored by two sponsors, HostGator for hosting your website. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy top talent. If you’re looking to hire developer or go to top towel.com/mixergy, I’ll talk about those later, but I wanted to introduce him.
I’m contractually obligate. Actually, I’m committed to supporting them. It’s more than a contract, but you came up with this idea partially when you were working for rise, what is rise?
James: So rise is a concept I developed, uh, for a big UK bank. There’s a big bank. And if you live in New York, you may have seen it. Um, if you’ve ever been to the boxing center, the Barclay in Barclays center is a British bank, not where people realize that, but that’s the reality of it. Also, if you walk in times square, there’s a large building that used to be Lehman brothers, but boxes are quiet, but now it’s Barclays investment bank.
Um, those guys, um, came to my company and said, well, look, we really want to get. Close to technology, particularly FinTech. Can you help us create a platform to do that? And so eight years ago we created rise?
Rise has a footprint in Tel-Aviv London, New York, Mumbai Cape town and Eastern Europe. And its job is to find the best talent in the world, the best fintechs in the world and help bring them into Barclays bank.
Andrew: Oh, it’s a it’s recruiting. It’s not
James: No, it’s finding, it’s nurturing.
it’s investing, it’s not recruiting in terms of it’s talent. As like these guys have gotten amazing, whatever it might be, um, platform for doing blockchain bill of lading, we’ll bring in that technology into the business. And that was the moment of friction.
Andrew: But they were saying, look, we want to support this technology. We’ll give them space to work. Right. Well, I think they’ve got an accelerator according to the website, which means that they’ll invest in the business, but they’re doing it. Not there. They’re doing it. Not as an acquisition, not to have a team internally, but because they want to be clients, they want to get closer to new technology.
So they’re fostering it. And this was you founding it.
Andrew: Okay. So you felt, how do you get to found that for them?
James: Oh, my goodness. Well, it was a lot of stories. So basically back in the day, the brand 10, 11 years ago before the word we work existed. And before the word coworking existed, I found that a company in the UK that was the first of its kind, which was a thing that became known as coworking. Um, and off the back of doing that, um, we got introduced to Google and Google wanted to do something similar.
Uh, and we got invited to help them create some called Google campus, which again is if you live in Tel Aviv. I think there’s one in San Francisco. There’s one in New York. There’s one in London. That concept we helped develop for Google many, many years ago.
Andrew: What does that concept mean?
James: So basically they wanted to create something called it’s called Google for entrepreneurs.
And the idea was to create a campus that would attract entrepreneurial technology talent. Um, not that would work for Google, but again, would be people that were creating apps, ideas, businesses that they could nurture. And again, buy from, invest in work with. So in a way, Google campus, Was actually the catalyst for rise because Barclays said to the mayor of London at the time, Boris Johnson, Hey Barus um, we want one of those Google campus things please.
And boys kindly said, meet James. He helps Google create that, and now he can help you create the same thing.
Andrew: got it. So you’re creating it and by the way, that’s a fricking cool job to get. Don’t you think?
James: Fabulous. I mean, obviously, obviously to me is one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on in the lab. Well, since this is my career began. Sure.
Andrew: And one of the things that you learned from them was how much they struggle with technology.
James: Well, imagine this, I think it’s hard for anyone who’s entrepreneur who hasn’t worked in FinTech or with a bank to understand the scale of these entities. I mean, they’re literally unstoppable. You’ve got a business that has unlimited resources and limited financial resources, unlimited human capital, unlimited political capital.
I mean, when they basically go bust the government, bails them out, they are phenomenal beast. So imagine a business that has a limited everything. Can’t bring technology into it. You have to ask. Why not? Why would it be, why would it be hard for you?
Andrew: You’re going back and saying, why do they have to talk to Boris Johnson about getting this thing? What’s the problem. That’s so painful that when they’re talking to, to the governor and talk, right, they’re there. Got it to the mayor.
James: That’s right. So why is it proving so hard? And then having had the privilege of building rise with, and for them seeing it over the last seven years, not really do the thing that we hoped it would do. And I’m like, this is bonkers. So I basically, um, when we, um, in back in 2017, I thought I’m going to move to New York.
Honestly inside my office for rides. And I want to just watch how they work with us and where it goes wrong. And that was the starting point for this idea.
Andrew: And so what did you notice that, that helped you understand why they’re struggling with it?
James: firstly, I began to realize just how many people are involved in looking for software. So in, uh, in most large businesses, everybody in every department at some point in their job is looking for a tool to help them. It’s a ridiculously time intensive labor intensive thing. And as you say, there are some people who are super geeky and on protons, but again, there’s some people who are not, so they’d been asked, well, what do you need?
Or your new legal software, what do you need? Are you new? Find something. And they say, well, I need this. And then there’ll be someone whose job is to put in a spreadsheet, all of the random requests for all the people who are stakeholders in this problem. And then you end up with this curious situation where you have a laundry list of requirements that are based on something that they’ve made up.
They’re not based on the real world, they would just ask them what you want. They’ve told you what they want, but that’s not necessarily what’s available. Um, you then go to market and try and find companies that fit this bizarre square peg round hole list. Well, there aren’t many that necessarily do, and also vendors are not set up to just tell you everything they do.
If you get into to the vendor, firstly, sadly getting vendor to respond to you off the bat is not easy. They don’t respond like that. They qualify all their leads and they’re very careful about it. They’ve got a five or six or seven stage process before you get the final person who can do the deal. And that’s normally the person who can answer your questions.
So there is a lot of wasted time And energy. It’s not unreasonable for a large company to spend 18 months looking for a new piece of software. That’s insane. And that’s the reality.
Andrew: And this is, if they say we need project management, if we need a real alternative to Salesforce, which is CRM, all these things touch lots of different people within the company. Got it. Some of them have requirements that make sense. Some have requirements that don’t even, because who knows until you start using it.
Got it. And so they have to go through that whole process just to find software.
James: And they do it every time from scratch. So if someone in the office in London starts looking for something and then someone in the office in New Jersey wants to look for something six months later, There’s no transfer of information. They start again again, again, again and again, we had a great example.
We were working at sea with Airbnb when we first started the company and they had been looking for two years for a piece of software and that software’s job was to help them, um, in a particular area of compliance. And they had a list of 108 specific requirements that they’d gone around and all the departments, blah, blah, blah, talk to everyone.
They gave it to us. We run it through our system and our system says, good news guys, three of them matter. What do you mean? Well, you haven’t thought about this holistically in your ecosystem. You have Zendesk. Zen desk. Yes. It’s in the marketing department. Yes. It’s not for the thing you think it’s for, but it has all the capabilities of the thing you need.
So that can take care of nearly all of it. You’ve got this other tool, this tool, and this department, it can take care of that. 25% of it. You are left them with three things that neither of these tools can do, and that we can find from this company. And it just changes the game. Um, in the way that you look at the world of software, it becomes so much more efficient.
And what’s also wonderful is they’ve been, and this is not an exaggeration. They’ve been looking for 24 months. We did this work in seven days.
Andrew: No. I freaking love that. Use Airbnb as an example, as an early client, because it’s very easy to say, Barclays is not in the tech business. Of course they’re going to have problems and they have much more money and like, right. Like you said, they’re, they’re not going away. So if they make a bad software decision and they call and it spent, they spend more money or more time, they’re fine.
Airbnb is a tech company here in San Francisco, right. There’s a, there’s a knowledge and intelligence to it. Okay. And so you understood this by sitting in a rise office and watching what Barclays was trying to do. Do you have an example of what you saw them do that made you realize, Hey, they’ve got a big problem here and now I get it.
James: There are a lot of things, but the most interesting, I think it.
was, we sat down with the legal team. And they were looking for basic documentation, our systems systems to bring in documentation, um, watch version changes, and then put them on the other side. And they said in that meeting to us, like almost like embarrassed to say it, like the problem is.
When we meet a software that we like we are to find, to buy it. Right. Why? I said, well, we don’t know if it’s the right one. And we said, well, why not? We don’t know what else is out there. It’s like, Oh my God. So you’ll basically say because you cannot, no one can have an awareness of what’s in the market.
You’re paralyzed because you might make the wrong choice, but you’d only know it in hindsight. Wow, that’s scary. Uh, and, and it’s also understandable in an area that is innovating constantly. Interestingly, with Airbnb, the solution, we gave them to fix those three problems. They had looked at two years before, but imagine this, if you spent two years in a large organization, looking for something, an innovative company has evolved in two years or is not. So actually the perfect solution they discounted 24 months ago. I never looked at again, because that makes sense. But
Andrew: that too. Right? You see software, it doesn’t make sense. A couple of years later, the only way you start to look at it is if other people tell you, no, this actually solved our problem. They improved and they see it with fresh eyes. All right. I got it. How did you decide that you wanted to go out and look for customers like Airbnb?
W when did you just figure out, you know what, I’m going to go out and start this business.
James: So it was back in, uh, I want to say November, 2017. So November, 2017 is when we started trying to crack the problem. Um, which is how do you do this thing that seemingly impossible that no one’s ever done before, which is create a taxonomy. Um, and a comprehensive set of features for software, not for a particular software, but for all software, that is a big nut to crack once we’ve cracked that nut.
Um, which again, as I said, 24 months ourselves to work out how to do at scale repeatably accurately, um, we realized that the, whenever we would meet with someone, the reaction that they would give us was, I mean, it’s a beautiful thing to see, like, so we launched it October of last year. And when you have a sales meeting and in the sales meeting, the client in the first demo is sent to you.
Oh my God, this is amazing. How do you do this is cool. You know, you’re onto something and it gets you excited.
Andrew: You’ve got Airbnb as a client before. Uh, what is it? You said October. So yeah, at some point you said this is a business we’re getting into the business and then you had to adjust to figure out what the business was. What was that moment that made you say this is a business and what’s the first version that you launched when you decided that.
James: So, yeah, you’re right. We worked with them. They were very, they were great with us. Basically. My co-founder used to work at a bank called simple and the lady that was our client at Airbnb had been one of her team at simple. So there was a great relationship there, which got us in early Dorsa was that could have been hard.
But what we realized was, as you say, seeing. A company like them, a company that people aspire to be like a company that’s phenomenal it’s sector coming to this, breaking all the boundaries, struggle with this problem alongside a company like Barclays sort of its problem makes you realize how big an opportunity this really is.
Um, and so our first iteration of the product we thought would be about such a. And so we got, we got so excited that we cracked the problem search what we, what we now call a smart RFP. So smart response for a proposal. Um, and. Yeah.
Andrew: Right. Yeah. Oh, okay. All right. But this is what, this is what, this is what companies put out and they say, we want you, which we’re looking for this. If you can do it, come to us,
James: That’s exactly
Andrew: which would seem like the answer, but why was the standard request for proposal not solving this problem
James: Well, the main reason is, as I said, that the challenge is the people looking to buy don’t know what’s available in market, don’t know the capabilities. And so they offer, if you put up there just a general request response, uh, that you’re asking someone like, tell me how you can solve this problem. That gets back many different companies in many different sectors, trying to use their squats square peg to fit your round hole. Um, whereas with our system, you’re going into the particular, so be it.
video conferencing, be CRM, be all of the features are specific to that discipline. And then you’re saying to the people, all of the features that are specific that discipline 200, whatever it might be, what’s the most important one for you and why.
And then we’re going to return that people that deliver best against the things that you care about in ARP, in video conferencing, whatever it might be.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor. And then we’ll come back in here. My first sponsor is a company called top towel for hiring developers. Here’s the beauty about top towel. Whenever there’s a topic, whenever there’s an area that’s especially like hot, they’ve got the top developers already in their network.
In fact, I’m noticing artificial intelligence coming up a lot more in my interviews. It’s hard to hire an AI expert. Right? What do you look for in an AI? How are you able to hire so quickly?
James: it sounds like when to talk to these guys. So give them my number.
Andrew: I give you.
James: It’s hard. Of course. It’s because also I’m a finding the talent at the right time and be attracting the talent. So, absolutely. This is a problem for sure.
Andrew: What top does is they say, tell us what you’re looking to do. And we will find people who’ve already done the work in this space, so that there’s experience in there. And we can get, you started with them faster because they’re in our network already. All we’re doing is making the introduction. You have a conversation with them.
If it’s a good fit, you test them. If it’s a good fit, great, you get started right away. If not, nothing lost here it is. If you want to work with them, I’ll be happy to make an introduction for you, James, or for anyone in my audience, to my personal, over top tile, I’ve used them for years. Just email me. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org or if you want to.
Go directly to them and talk to one of their mattress. Go to top towel.com/mixergy that’s T O P T a l.com/mixergy. And the reason you want to use that is because you’ll get 80 hours of developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours, in addition to a no risk trial period, they’re that confident that they can get you what you’re looking for.
So talk to a one of their mattress right now by going to top is top of your head towels and talent. T O P T a l.com/m I N E R G Y. Okay. The smart RFP did what? That was the first version.
that was the first version. And we thought, wow, this is awesome. This is a no brainer. And one’s going to love this. We get up last summer to launch this thing. We were so excited. Um, I w we literally w we were, we were, so this was working. We spent an enormous amount of time, like crafting and perfecting the UI and the UX when you had it.
Perfect. Was a disaster. Why? Well, because. What we underestimated initially was just. There were so many players in the software search space from people like the G2 crowds, this world, the Gardener’s of this world. Those guys have been at this forever and they’re spending more money than you could possibly imagine on keywords, search SEO, Google aware, committed is this little men minnow going, Hey, trying to find plea fine.
We’ll help you. Um, It was a nightmare. And we basically got pretty much no traction. I mean, literally it was a hilarious disaster. Like when you were an entrepreneur and you go out there and you put your heart and soul in somebody it’s very humbling when you fall on your face. So fundamentally, especially when, you know, for certain that you are onto something.
So that was an myths unmitigated disaster,
Andrew: the problem was just that you couldn’t compete with them for attention because they had so much money and their model is I I’ve interviewed, I think the founder. Yeah, I did a good art Abel, the founder of G2, uh, and a couple of other companies do the same thing. Their model is basically to become a search engine for software, with reviews and they make money by promoting the companies that pay them.
James: Exactly. So, so there’s two things that we are completely against. Um, not that we don’t like them. Um, the first thing.
is just like, I mean, I’m in New York right now. I’m saying, uh, the meat packing district. And if I was to Google, like I go on Yelp and say, Oh, I want the best restaurant in the area I would happily end up at.
McDonald’s why they got more five-star reviews and other restaurant. Is it the best restaurant? No, but if you want the best restaurant, it might have less five star reviews. Why? Because the people that go there may be more discerning, they’re less likely to give a five star review. There are less of them.
And so if you think about it, if you’re going to deploy a quarter of a million dollars into a particular system, how useful is it that someone gives you their sentiment on it? We think useless. Um, also if my business model predict is predicated on the fact that. In order for you to see something, they need to have pay me money.
And the more they pay me, the more you see it. It’s not always going to give you the best result it’s going to give you the one that has the most money is the one that has the most money, the best result. Again, look at my dolls, but those is definitely more money than say shake shack is a better burger.
I don’t think so. So I think that is our inherent challenge with that methodology. But when we came to market, the reality is we can’t cut through that noise. And so that was not the way to launch this business. We found very, very quickly.
Andrew: You know what the other problems with those, I have to say that I don’t fully get, I’ve interviewed so many of the top players in that space. I don’t fully get why that model makes sense. Like if I just typed in CRM right now, they bring in fresh work CRM, active campaign. HubSpot and Salesforce all as the same result, these are technically all using the same CRM title.
It’s completely different in my, in, in the way that I use it. I’m not going to say what right. There’s some aspect of active campaign, again, a sponsor that some active part of them that really wants to be doing what Salesforce does, but there’s no one who’s going to say. We’re on Salesforce. We got to get rid of them and go over to active campaign.
Right? It’s it’s just not no one. It’s not, it’s not apples to apples. It’s not exactly the same. The customers also decide, um, it’s different. It’s different for each customer. Right? I, I, I see how you were up against a wall. Do you feel like then your first model, the smart RFP would have succeeded if you could have had access to customers?
Is it just that.
James: Oh for sure. Well, what’s been fascinating Is so the way we got to our next iteration was we had a meeting with one of the biggest tech companies in the world. You’ve definitely heard of them, but I’m going to say their name. Um, and. We try to pitch them smart RFP, and they loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it, but they were saying, well guys, hang on.
If you’ve got all this information about features, what if we tell you the software we already have? Could you tell us whether duplication is? And we’re like, yeah, of course we can. And we left the meeting and didn’t hit him, which was insane about a month later, suddenly in Azov moment of like, what the hell are we gonna do with this thing?
It’s going to die. If we don’t sort out, one of us remembered that meeting. Uh, and so we started thinking about it So look, the clients just told us what they want, why don’t we just build it for them? Uh, and so we went away and reject our entire. System looked at it and the opposite way, starting from the software you already have, and then look using the same fidget data to work out where you were overextended, where you were overspending.
Oh my goodness. Once you do that.
why don’t you have someone ecosystem we’ll you can also really help with a smart RFP because. We know what you already have and therefore we know what’s really great to fit in with that. And because we know all of your features, we can prevent you wasting money on buying tools that you don’t need to buy because you have the capabilities in house already.
Andrew: But the first place that it came from was them saying help, make sense of what we have here. Are there duplicates? It’s that simple idea that I came up with and you still to this day, clarify and do that. You do right.
James: That’s the lead in now. So what we did is, so back in October with them, we, we finally rejigged and we went to market. We really fortunately, already great little article in tech crunch and off the back of that, we won some serious clients and we were sort of gobsmacked at the response because when you go to a company and say, Hey guys, look.
We can look at what you’ve got and we can help you deploy that money more efficiently. You’re going to spend X amount on software spend in the right way with the right companies that are going to get you the best results. You’re not about spending money. You’re about using that money to make more money.
How are we going to help you do that?
Andrew: What’d you do? It’s like you said, a small article, it’s a small article. They didn’t, they didn’t give me enough meat. I was trying to figure out who you were trying to get so much more about, about the business, but this little article, didn’t give it to me by the way. Nice. A nice touch going in there and commenting being the one and only comment on that post.
But all they’re saying is your model is showing businesses where they’re overspending on software and then collecting 1.20 cents for every dollar of annual software spend.
James: Sort of, I mean, instantly, typically as again, anyone listen to this podcast will know if you’re an entrepreneur. One thing I would just say for sure is to not be too rigid in the way you do things. Pricing is one of those things that you do not get right off the bat. We didn’t get it right off the bat.
We’ve totally changed our pricing model since then, What we now know.
James: What was interesting is people are such cynical people. Um, I was gonna say something else then that, um, they tried to game the system. So the way that? this works is if we know the tools you have, then we can save you money. If you, um, if we were trying to buy tool that you were well, I think this tool is fine.
So I wouldn’t tell you about that one. Actually. Don’t worry about
Andrew: then you don’t get the insight that you need in order to give them the savings that they they’re coming for.
James: you could give me half the children. Yeah. You save the money, but you don’t because we can’t see what you’re doing. Um, and so instead we said, look, this is bonkers. We need to think about it as much smarter. So we said, look, what if we just charge 1.5% flat fee of what you spent, and that, that is a management fee on your entire ecosystem for 12 months.
And for that, we going to save you time, effort, money, and get everyone working at that day job instead of looking for software, which is what
Andrew: didn’t you say we’ll save you we’ll charge you based on savings.
James: Again, what’s fascinating is we’re not selling savings. As I said, sort of at the beginning, really, if you’re spending a million dollars a year on software, you’re not looking to spend 800,000 years. A year or so forth. You’re looking to use that million dollars as effectively as possible. And that’s what we’re giving you as the CFO, we’re going to give you the capabilities to ensure that your company is spending the money in the right way.
You don’t, you want the best talent in your business that you you’re talking about a recruiter before. They’re going to bring you the best talent to your business. If you had 10 people, I need to spend a million dollars a year on those 10 people. If you could get. Five people for twice the price who were five times debtor, you would deploy your money like that.
And that’s what we’re saying. Look, use that money more wisely. Get the best tools for your business, not just the random tools that you happen to have collected over the last five, 10, 20 years. Get the best tools and then deploy your money as efficiently as possible.
Andrew: Okay, so this is how you realized it. I didn’t give you a chance earlier when you were starting to say how you figured out how to get all the features of all this different software into a database that’s usable. How did you solve that problem?
James: Okay. Wow. Um, that, as I said, that’s two years of, um, trial and error trauma, uh, good fortune. Um, the main thing we had to start to do is just obviously the way that humans think about software is very different than the way the machine is thinking about software. So if you think about it, simple like this, like if I said to you.
Let’s finish this. Let’s do categories of software because obviously it seems obviously the CRM there’s video conferencing. The problem is we’ve already got 800 characters of software. Again, no humans thinking like that. So we then said, Oh my goodness. It’s not as simple as that. You have to almost think about a software almost been like Lego.
If you imagine a piece of Lego, a single piece of like R has a function and a value, it might be that one’s a wheel and one’s a steering wheel one. When you combine those pieces of like a, you create the end result. And so what we went out and did is worked out what are the component parts? So, as I said, Slack has video conferencing.
Zoom has video conversation. Are they inoperable? Not really. They’re very different. Um, but they both have the simple idea of video conferences. Then you have to get so much more granular about what does it mean to be a core product, a core feature, a non-core feature. And that was a phenomenal piece of work.
It’s a bit like asking McDonald’s to tell you what Is the secret sauce behind the big Mac. They’re not always going to tell you, but they’ll give you an indication. And this has been sent to you. Here’s my indication of what our secret sauce is.
Andrew: Is there, is there a person or people who did this? It kind of reminds
James: goodness. No, that is a huge team. of people.
Andrew: huge team. It actual is human people in your company. We’re doing
James: So humans like company, um, AI machine learning, scraping mechanical Turks. This is a multi-faceted approach to this.
problem because it. The, the reason is from existence as any of your listeners can find out. If you go to a website, if you want the best test in the world, go to Oracle, go to Oracle and try and find out what any Oracle product does.
Good luck. Um, it doesn’t tell you what they do and you can’t find out what they do. So we had to work out how to do that, go to a small company, a startup, and yeah, they might tell you some of the features, but they do not list all the features. Um, so we’ve had to find the way to discern information at scale, using a whole host of different means and obviously having relationships with the vendors.
And we’ve now got to the point where large vendors, the Microsofts of this world have relationships with us, where they want us to know the features of that party of the market. And we then have the capability to test those features to make sure they’re real features, to make sure they’re credible features and then to put them into our taxonomy so that we can use those features.
Andrew: I still don’t see how you’d be able to get somebody to test say you and I were on Riverside to do this interview. Riverside has all the features to do an interview. Right? We could see each other by video. It was going to record your side of the conversation from your computer, mine side, from mine in the cloud record, both of them as backup.
It just didn’t work. It was, you couldn’t hear me.
Andrew: How, how can, how can software AI, anything captured that little detail of how it doesn’t work well enough? And I’m not saying that Riverside doesn’t ever I’d like to switch to them, but didn’t for us.
James: it’s true. I suppose I think the instant thing is we. Absolutely look at the cables of The software. And there will be instances as in that instance, weather extraneous factors that are outside of my control and your control, and that control, for example, bandwidth would be one that would impact that. Um, so we, we make it clear to our end user, whether a factors that are not within the
Andrew: The the only way to know that though, is I don’t see how you could analyze this. I don’t understand. It’s not that I don’t agree. I just don’t understand this part, how you could analyze it, feature for feature and still say Riverside wins every time and sales and still say zoom wins instead of Riverside, because Riverside seems to win for interviews.
The only way you would know it is if you talk to a real interviewer who used it, Once or seven times, either way you get to, you get to understand the problems. The first time is the initial problems of setup and initial problems of a newbie. The seventh time is the problems of an experienced person.
Those are two different types of problems and you get that. How can software tell you that without using it and having an expert whose job is to use it, use it.
James: Absolutely. I mean, I suppose one is, I mean, the vendor themselves are experts, so what’s interesting is not surprisingly zoom would love to tell you why Riverside doesn’t work and Riverside will tell you why SIM doesn’t work. So we can take into account expert as in manufacturers’ viewpoints on the competitive landscape.
That gives you a whole new dimension because they know the holes in their competitive software and they can poke on them. And so we get, see a really wonderful, um, view. And he’s obviously not just taking a zoom and thinking about this on Riverside, but we can take the whole market view about each support.
Uh, and the reason that when it’s do that is because we can then share competitive data with them. So if you’re a particular vendor. You want to know how you perform and in return for Tanya you, how you perform, you share with us your insights into certain tools. And that really gives us incredible expertise.
Andrew: Here’s what I’m thinking. And you tell me if I’m wrong. I’m thinking James, that the very first version. What it did was clarifying, just had some kind of a feature list. And you did your best using software and people and mechanical Turk people to Chronicle all the feature list. And then as you continued.
You improved it with feedback from vendors, talking about each other vendors, talking about their own problems, your customers, and other research enhance it. But the very first version I think I might be overthinking it. I think the very first version, if you just knew the features that were in a product, you would be very helpful, maybe 75, 80% of the way there.
James: I mean the same, the one in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King is far from the truth, which is basically when we started this process. And even now no one else does it. So it’s not like you can go, well, we tracked out this website and this website, and then we’ll look at cliff. I said, you look at cliff.
I know you’re not looking at anything cause it doesn’t exist. And so
Andrew: Right. And I keep asking, how did you make the first version as perfect as, as you’re describing here? And my, my better answer is what did that first version look like? And it seems like I kind of hit on it. It’s somewhere I’m oversimplifying it, but it’s closer to a set of features for software. So when a customer comes in and says, we need these features, or we have this software and we need these features, you tell them what what’s missing and what they can
James: Absolutely. Even at that basic level, it was. Head and shoulders above anything else in the market, because it was based on reality instead of hypothesis. Uh, and it was, it was a cross category and it had this amazing taxonomy on it. So that’s where we started. And as you say now, because we’ve got a brand in the market of people have heard of, especially if members have heard of, and we have relationships with vendors we’re just increasing and improving the richness of that data, but at its base level, it’s head and shoulders above anything in market, because there is nothing else in the market.
Andrew: What’s your revenue now.
James: We are heading towards around 3 million, um, AR this year. Um, so we are, yeah, we’re in a great place. We’ve got some of the world’s biggest brands working with us. Um, and it’s, uh, well, it’s a very, very exciting time to be
Andrew: Still bootstrapped.
James: today, but we are fundraising now. So if you’re listening in, you can get in on the action in the next 30 days.
Andrew: Where are you fundraising for? Clarifying
James: Yeah, we did a 5 million raise right now,
Andrew: Oh, you’re just doing the one-on-one directly. We’re not, you’re not using like Republic or one of these platforms.
James: No, no, no, we’re not. We’re doing, we’re just talking to VCs early. We’ve closed the round at the end of June. And we’ve had our first few meetings this week. The response has been very positive because again, we’ve got amazing traction since October.
Andrew: Great. It’s a great fricking model. I even think the simpler version is a great model. Tell me what you think it is. So my second sponsor is HostGator. I’m going to come back on. So I want to find out about the Richard Branson thing that I didn’t get to find out like what he what’s he like and all right.
Um, my second sponsor is a company called HostGator for hosting websites. Obviously my site is hosted on them. I, I thought in the past that it might make sense for somebody to say, I’m going to go to HostGator, put up a website and say, I’ll be your negotiator. You hire me. I won’t change your software at all.
Let me just have your software. Can you start listing to what your software is? I’m going to call up the vendors on negotiate down. Let’s split 50 50. What I saved for you. And that could be like an entry point into a bigger software based business. That’s what I thought would be a good business. You’re smiling.
Let me add to that. And then you tell me what you think of this study, what you did it clear find. I thought the next version up from this could just be, give me access to your QuickBooks and obviously other accounting software. I will then see what you’re spending a lot of money on. And I will have already the relationships with most vendors.
I’ll say, look, give my people the price that they need. Great. And we’ll keep it in. And then maybe relationships with similar vendors so that if I see that there are a bunch of people who are using pipe drive, I might say, look. I can negotiate pipe drive down 20% less. Sales flare basically does the same thing.
They’re half the price. If you want, we could switch over to sales. There you save money. And maybe I have a relationship with sales fair, where they kicked me back some bit send money. That seems like a good model to take the HostGator, put up a website and start pitching the service. What do you think of that?
As somebody who’s been in this space?
James: I think it
James: doesn’t take into consideration that businesses are not all the same. And so each business will have specific requirements that are essential to it being running out at optimal level. Uh, and when you take a sort of more generic we’ll look, which one’s the cheapest product or which one can we book.
Andrew: Bye. I keep your software. All I do is negotiate. And in time you have the negotiating relationships and you know what to, what to charge. Yeah.
James: I think that’s a great thing. I mean, why wouldn’t you do that? It’s a bit of a no brainer. Um, I think obviously that’s some of the information we have and yes, we can do that. But again, there, there is a point at which you stop being able to do that. Um, as in yes, each year for the first few years, you might be able to haggle down cause you get in more places and yes, you’ll be able to buy it cheaper.
The question is not, can you buy the software cheaper? The question is easy to write software fee and of course, can you buy cheaper? But if you’re buying the wrong software cheaper, what’s the point of that?
Andrew: Well, what you’re doing is you’re thinking a better, deeper, harder business model. No doubt. I’m suggesting if someone’s sitting, listening to me going, I’m hearing all these entrepreneurs come up with business ideas. I don’t have a business idea at all. And Andrew keeps pitching me on wholescale. I don’t even know what to put on HostGator.
Maybe a certain like person in the audience could say my first shot at this entry point into helping businesses is I’m just gonna put up a one page, a website and all I’m going to pitch on my one page website is I will negotiate your current software. I cut it back for you. We split the revenue. If I don’t save you 75%, or if I don’t save 25%, you don’t pay me a dollar.
Right? What do you think of that? As a model for me to tell my audience to go and have somebody go
James: Yeah. And then to do it clarified or sponsor. So how skates or in clarify, we’ll both sponsor them. They’ve got a great. business opportunity and we will go into Polish. Let’s do it.
Andrew: great. Because you know what it is because they get the basic entry point. Then they partner up with clear, fine to get the deeper savings. How do you fry? So they become an onboarding. For you. All right. Listen to me, people, whether it’s that idea, any other idea that you’ve got? If you need a website for your idea and who doesn’t go to hostgator.com/mixergy, because frankly HostGator does hosting, right?
You’ve seen it with me. I’ve used it for years. You haven’t had problems with my, with my site you did in the past. But since we moved, I was getting you do not just fricking works. It’s inexpensive. And it’ll scale with you. I’m going to start you off with the cheap plan they hate when I say cheap, I should say an expensive inexpensive.
Here you go. Everyone.
James: And we’re going to go shut it down from there.
Andrew: Right. And it’s like $3 a month. There’s just like, listen, go out there. hostgator.com/mixer to get a great price on a great site and build your business. Hopefully you’ll be on here to do an interview about a people. All right. You know what I mentioned, Richard Branson.
Let’s take a moment away from what you’re up to right now with clear. Fine. I grew up admiring Richard Branson. He’ll be all these crazy things that he did. Right.
James: Beautiful man. Beautiful man, with a beautiful bushy beard and a lot of lovely sweaters.
Andrew: How did you, how did you get to meet Richard Branson?
James: Firstly, as a child. I, I thought that man has got something going on the idol, like, uh, and it wasn’t just the facial hair. Uh, and so I, I set off in a desperate bid to become an entrepreneur. And I like a little, uh, put, uh, a knapsack of my shoulder. I went to London to seek my fortune, um, and was very, very fortunate.
I firstly, started out working in an industry where I got to work alongside, um, flourishing. Um, and that meant that I could. See how the magic was working with win inside the Virgin business. And then I saw an opportunity which was Virgin, were recruiting someone in marketing. And I thought, well, hello. I could be that person.
So I put myself forward. I said, I’ve got the perfect candidate. I know him. He’s brilliant. I can give you amazing references. His name’s James playfield and unbelievably and Shockley that worked. And so I went forward, um, and. Got to this job. Um, from there, I was in my sort of relatively young age. I was in my twenties.
Um, I progressed relatively quickly in this company and I got to be someone running, um, a BR a Virgin company at a young age. It was called, this is a weird name, but it’s called Virgin student.com. what it did was basically, um, you may remember, and you may not remember. There was something called college club.
College club was a precursor to Facebook before my space before Facebook. Um, and we had licensed that technology and set up in the UK. We were sorry, Mark Zuckerberg. We’d beat you to it. We were the number one student website in the UK for some email@example.com. And as a consequence of that, why used to go.
Meet with Branson. So I go to his house and imagine that like, as a child, you aspired to meet This person and you now get to go to the guy’s house to have a meeting. I
Andrew: was, he was the Elon Musk of his world. Elon Musk, bill Gates. So many others wrapped up in one because he was also a music executive, right. At a time when people cared about music. Okay. So you go into his house too, and what’s he like when you first go to see him?
James: Well, the thing that was a little bit spicy, it was firstly that when I was met at the door, because I was a young chap at the time, um, the, the housekeeper I thought I was that says son, I was, I know I’m here to see Richard’s you’ve just gone through and then walked through.
I noticed. The restaurant doors open and there’s Richard Branson happily going into the bathroom, as I
Andrew: He’s been with the door open.
James: know, but obviously I just like to sneak back into the kitchen and pretend I haven’t seen him, uh, sat there waiting for someone to call me through. And I was like, it was very strange. And then I went into his front room, uh, had a meeting with him, thinking I’ve just seen you in the bathroom, but I’m not gonna say a word.
And then at the end of the meeting, which is special, he gave me a salute like this. Little salute. And he sent me on my Merry way. And as I, as a 20 year old kid, I was over the moon, um, to have seen him in his house, in his element, relaxed. Okay.
Andrew: How long did you work on Virgin student.com?
James: Uh, five years, Uh, so the five years and then, um, It was a great company. Virgin is a phenomenal brand, a brilliant come to work for it. And what was wonderful is at the end of that time, we realized commercially it was challenging because we’d go to people to try and get advertising revenue. We’d say, well, Hey look, um, blah, blah, blah, mobile phone.
Do you want to work with us as well? No, no, no. You’ve got Virgin mobile, so Hey look, blah, blah, blah, airline.
Andrew: meanwhile, it’s not really the same business. Yeah.
James: And so anyway, so it wasn’t going to work out commercially, but What was wonderful? I persuaded them to let me leave on great terms and start my first company. And they became my first client. So for all the friends out there, instead of getting VC funding in this instance, I got my client to pay me for a year upfront on day one, which meant that I could start my company.
It was a wonderful way to start
Andrew: What was the business that you started?
James: Um, it was in the world of experiential marketing. Uh, and so we were creating Virgin mobile was the company that backed us. Uh, we were creating experiences to sell that product. And back in the day, obviously Virgin, mobile doing okay, but they were doing a lot better by then.
Um, and we had a phenomenal business with those guys. We, we worked on, um, the cool men’s deodorant brand and, and lots of other things, Jack Daniels.
Andrew: marketing. Got it to, uh, was this escape airports or that whole other
James: airports was even more interesting. Um, so as back in the day, back in, uh, early two thousands, if you were flying around anywhere in the U S you would have experienced, and this is still some days to some degree true.
The horrific nature of airports. I mean, Airports in the U S were built like bus stations. And then suddenly you had to be there a long time. Suddenly you had lots of lines to get through. Um, uh, the security suddenly the dwell time for increasing and the facilities have not improved JFK. Sadly God bless his heart is a really rubbish airport.
Um, and so we created this idea of escape airports, where you could pay to come into our executive lounge, no matter if you find business?
class or not. And have the sorts of experience you’d expect in a five-star hotel, which is what you should be getting in an airport. Uh, and so we created this product.
It was wonderful. Um, after JFK went down very well and that see my business partner at the time has now got quite a number of these around the world. So he’s done very well off the back of it.
Andrew: It still exists.
James: It does. It’s not on called escape airports and probably what it’s called. I think it’s called number one.
Andrew: That makes a lot of sense too, I think. And then I guess American express kind of jumped on that too, where they created these lounges for their card
James: In most cases like people are. So we had 20 carriers working with us, normally people at American express outsource a bit like Barclays did with rise to us, which is it’s American express that are amazing at credit cards. They’re not so great at airport lounges. They probably have a supply of building that for them.
I would guess.
Andrew: I imagine. All right, this, I feel like I’ve got everything asked. I’m really excited about what you’re doing here with your business. Let me, I guess what I didn’t ask is where do you get your customers? Now, if you can’t, you couldn’t compete with G2 on online ads, what are you doing? It seems like it’s all consulting and who, you know, and working the
James: Well, what’s been wonderful is because our product is generally differentiated and it’s a significant step forward for where people are literally living in like the early nineties right now in the way they look for software. And our tours is very much of the moment we’re finding major consulting firms are using our tool for their clients.
And so. They are helping us find clients. Those companies that are already tied to CFOs are already working with the best chemists in the world are helping us find clients and selling our tool into them.
Andrew: Like what, what’s, what’s an example of a type of customer that would be doing that, or a type of a consultant that would be doing
James: Sadly. Um, I’m not at Liberty to say, but basically think of, let me just say, if you think of the top five accounting firms in the world, two of them are already clients and a third one is about to become a client. I haven’t dropped a name of just
Andrew: Yeah, but it’s anyone who’s. It makes sense. You know what? I just interviewed, I keep talking about the, I freaking love the founder of kayak. I interviewed him, um, Paul English. He’s got a site called lola.com. What they do is they help CFOs control the spending within the company.
James: Send me his email address.
Andrew: A company like that would be a good intro.
James: Please make it. We’ll do that. We’ll have that chat. That’d be great. He would be a wonderful button chanting. That’d be
Andrew: Freaking. I love that guy. I didn’t expect to. I just thought he would be so cerebral that it would be a little challenging to talk to him. He’s incredibly creative. Now I knew with you because of the Richard Branson, like a fondness, that there’d be like a panache, you know, with him. I thought he’s an engineer who.
I don’t know, I just had this vision of what he would be like. He didn’t end up being like that at all, but it’d be on the spectrum in an awkward way. He wasn’t, he, he might be on a spectrum, but it’s not awkward at all. All
Andrew: All right. That’s his business though. Let me tell everyone that the best way to follow up with you, if they’re at all interested is to go to clear find.com and, uh, I, I’m freaking excited about what you built here.
This is such a short amount of time.
James: It was crazy. So get involved. You have software, you need to improve. I guarantee you come and see us. We can have
Andrew: All right, consultants. Like, can somebody go and say, I’m going to do this and sell it as a, resell it as a service.
James: indeed, we have a number of who will do that.
Andrew: I imagine. All right. Yeah. It seems like enterprise. A lot of who’s the agent, who’s the agency that does the thing. All right, James. Congratulations. Thank you so much for doing the interview. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first we’ll host your website, right?
People go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second one, you ready to get the top? The best, the people who really can get the job done, go to top talent.com/mixergy. James. Thanks.