An agency creates its own tool which gets acquired by Adobe

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Today’s guest launched an agency, created software for the agency and grew that tool into a successful software company. way harder.

Not only that, he also got to the finish line–he sold the software to Adobe and now he’s traveling all over the world. I want to find out how he did it.

Alex Packham is the founder of ContentCal, a social media planning tool.

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Alex Packham

Alex Packham

ContentCal

Alex Packham is the founder of ContentCal, a social media planning tool.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: All right. I was gonna go with the usual, Hey, they’re freedom fighters, but I gotta start off with saying this, Alex dude, you did it. You sold your company.

Alex: It happened? Yep. It happened that’s for sure.

Andrew: you launched an agency, you created software that first of all, launching an agency. Okay. Maybe it’s, maybe it’s not as hard as other things, but you did it. You started a business going from agency to software, hard, going from software to successful software company, way harder. And then to get the finish line and sell, not just to sell to some Schmo, but to sell to Adobe.

Alex: oh yeah, it’s been a wild ride. Put it that way. It’s been like a crazy 10 year, the typical 10 year, overnight success stuff. Right. But it has been a crazy, crazy ride, so yeah.

Andrew: And I see the smile on your face. Like you appreciate it, right? You’re not one of these guys going, this is just the thing that happens, right.

Alex: Oh, no, I absolutely not. Yeah, exactly. Like it’s, it’s so, Ugh, it’s surreal in many ways or, you know, it happened about six months ago now, so I’ve kind of come out of the crazy phase, if that makes sense. Once you go through this process, but like yeah. It’s, it is an, it was an incredible experience to go through firstly, but also, you know, it’s, it impacts your life in so many different ways at the end of the day.

So I am

Andrew: wanna know why we gotta get specific about it. Don’t don’t hold back on me. No false modesty. No life has not changed. Tell me how it impacts your life in so many ways. I should introduce you properly. Alex, who I just mentioned is Alex Packham. He is the founder of content. Cal. They allow you to create collaborate and publish social media content.

It. Feels like, you know what them two I’m with you, dude, if you’re out there saying there are other there’s other software that does this, maybe not the same way. Maybe you could say not as good, but they, they do I’m with you. So how, how did he do it? Why him? How did he get this to be so successful? How did he get to the finish line?

We’re gonna find out here are thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, if you’re hiring developers To build your amazing business, go to lemon.io/mixergy. And if you’re doing email marketing, start off right with send in blue.com/mixergy.

I’ll talk about those later. But first Alex, tell me one way, one amazing way that life has changed for the positive after the sale.

Alex: sounds. But like you find most entrepreneurs start out. It’s not really for the money at the end of the day, in any way, shape or form, you’re trying to solve a problem, being an entrepreneur and going through the business phase and stuff like that and scaling it, et cetera, it does have way more freedoms than a lot of people realize even when you raise VC and stuff like that.

But I think once you’re at the other side, it’s like, it’s like completing a video game. That’s one of the best ways I’ve describing it to people. You know, you kind of go through all the levels there’s challenges associated to. Um, but once you get there, it does feel like that kind of ultimate sense of true freedom.

Um,

so I’d

Andrew: What do you mean freedom to do what? Freedom mentally? From what that were you? The type of person like me, who was always thinking disaster’s gonna happen? I’m gonna be out on the street and then you need some external thing, some documentation, some bank documentation to say it’s

not happening soon.

Alex: Exactly. Some like rainy day fund, even though, you know, if you’re in a good role and stuff like that. And hopefully for most people, that’s the case in never rest, but like, you know, just some kind of weird. Buzzing rainy day thing in the back of your mind, like you say that the world’s gonna end and you’ve gotta go and do X, Y, and Z, but it’s like, yeah, it’s very hard to articulate, but it is mental freedom and it is, you know, there is financial freedom attached to it to a certain extent as well.

You can kind of do what you want, um, which is just a, a really nice and lovely place to be. And I’m very appreciative of it, but like, it’s also just the, the experience. Like I said, I’ve been through the whole, doing a business from zero to one, going from one to 100 and then actually kind of like building that company up. and then actually selling it to, like you said, a business, which is, is phenomenal as Adobe. It’s just an amazing experience to go through. So I’m really appreciative, even though it was absolutely grueling at times to

Andrew: Have you bought, have you bought anything? Have you done anything fun yet?

Alex: I’ve been on a lot of vacations and treated some family to some great holidays and stuff like that.

So I haven’t bought

anything

Andrew: gimme an example of

one.

Alex: Uh, I did a weekend IBI there and a big Villa, which was a lot of fun. I

actually just got back from, uh, LA and, and Vegas with some friends, which was also very fun as you could imagine.

Um, but yeah, but mostly spending, spending the cash on some good holidays and getting some downtime.

Andrew: All right. You’re not gonna tell us how much you sold for. I, I, I’m glad that Adobe’s letting you do this interview with me, but they’re not gonna tell me how much you sold for. I will just say this Bloomberg estimated that it was for a hundred million dollars. You’re not gonna confirm or deny it right.

Alex: Afraid not.

Yeah, no, can’t say on that one, afraid yet

Andrew: but you did raise, you did raise a little bit of money. How much did you raise?

Alex: Yeah. We raised, uh, about 13 million, 10 million pounds. Um, mostly outta the UK as well, almost, almost all out the UK, um, of which it was actually half of that. Well, just under half of that was from different angel investors again, U UK based and then two VC funds over in the UK, one called fuel ventures and one called Guinness asset management.

Um, so yeah, we we’ve raised yeah. Yeah. 13 million give will take along the way.

Andrew: Okay. The whole thing started out 2014. You decide you’re gonna create some kind of agency. What type of agency did you set out to create?

Alex: Uh, so originally set out to create a social media and content marketing agency. Um, I worked at two large corporates here in the UK before that mostly managing social accounts, managing social media, presences, et cetera, et cetera. And

Andrew: set out to create? Hmm.

Alex: like every business, whether you are a massive company, whether you’re a small business like creating the volume of content that you have to create now is really challeng. And with these internal teams we worked with in different agencies, you could see that there was just something missing in terms of like, well, particularly in the UK market, someone who could really tap into like that true. What I would call social media experience, where they’ve been on the ground, they’ve written content.

They’ve also worked in the big business, et cetera. And I’d worked for lots of small businesses along the way as well. So. Like version one of my business life was set up an agency, you know, there’s no real overhead to set that up. It’s a

website in you, realistically, and a laptop. So it’s nice and low cost. And then spend a few years learning the ropes of running your own business. And, um, yeah, we built, built, built the agency up to about 20, 20, 30 people at one point, um, couple of million in revenue, nice and profitable business. Uh, 20 to 30 people. Uh, 30 was our peak, I think at one point, but easily 20 and.

Andrew: Wow. How much. How did you get customers?

Alex: well, my first two customers were the two corporates

I worked at before, so I had a really

Andrew: This is

ODN, the, the movie business, the cinema, and then, uh, B sky B that you used to work for. You went back to them and you said, look, I did social media for you before you could still have me now, but it’s my agency. That’s gonna be doing this work. Do you wanna hire

us? That’s

Alex: Pretty pretty much. Yeah,

pretty much. I mean, it was, yeah, exactly. It was very open dialogues.

And then I I’d worked with a lot of small businesses before, so we

had a couple of those come on, the come, come on as well. And then I hired a guy called Noel who was fantastic at just like sales and networking and things like that.

And he really helped job like new business consistently. And then in London at the time, the scene was quite small. So we became quite well known quite quickly just for doing really good social media content or campaigns. So it was quite well.

Yeah.

Andrew: was Noel’s approach?

Alex: do you know what? Very, very standard stuff. Right? Relationships, um, family, friends, referrals, uh, networking, not really going to networking events, but just meeting, meeting people like going out and meeting as many people as you could. And then the typical, like outbound find the list, send the emails, book the meetings, you know, there’s no like wild stuff

in there. Uh, we did some, we did a lot of PR like, again, this was a, you over 10 years ago now, but like we managed to PR ourselves very, very strongly off the back of sky and Odie being really big names that suddenly we became like one of the kind of hot agencies to work with for this part service. So yeah, we were very, very lucky.

And then this like kind of segues into content Cal because we’ built our own software. Eventually we became known as an agency that also had this kind of piece of kit basically that you could use as well. So it became our

edge for a little bit, basically as the agency.

Andrew: Let’s pause for a moment before we get into, into that, I wanna understand a little bit more of the agency business. Give me a few examples of the things that you did that were so impressive that customers would refer you to others or talk

about

you.

Alex: Mm, well, we would grow audiences quite quickly and consistently, so we weren’t like an influencer marketing agency or, um, running huge, huge, like paid advertising campaigns. What, what we really focused on was like, Truly understanding the business dynamics of what the company wanted to achieve. That could be brand awareness that could be growing their following, obviously then trying to result in lead generation or, um, well obviously paid customers if its an e-commerce business and stuff like that.

So we spent a lot of time actually understanding what the, what the company actually wanted to achieve. And then we would build a strategy which would focus on overarching big goals. So that could be, I wanna have a social following of this. I wanna try and drive this much organic traffic to our website from social. And then I wanna amplify it with paid for these particular goals. And so we would just laser focus on creating campaigns that actually only ever were measured by business outcomes. And. These were in the early days of social where like people were creating followings just to have the vanity metric of I’ve got, you know, a hundred thousand followers or whatever it might be. And we were one of the first, I guess, agencies to really say, well, forget all of that, cuz that actually doesn’t really matter that much. Like if we can actually impact the underlying like fundamentals of your business using social media, you know, we can actually actually have a positive impact on what you’re trying to achieve.

So. It was really getting to the crux of like, we are not the fluffy creative type agency, which you need, cuz you need great creative to make all these things happen. We’re not branding agency. I was like, we are social media, like experts. We are complete digital natives. All of our team had grown up in the social media

phase if you like.

So they’re all millennials, which are now old. like me but like, you know, there’s gen Z and probably whoever, whatever the next generation coming up. We were very much of that first group that really experienced social media and really knew how to use it and figured out how to like, make it work for business.

So I guess we became semi famous, again, very focused in the UK, London for that kind of service.

Andrew: And so then you started to create your own tools and that’s what became the software that you sold to customer? What’s a tool that you couldn’t find that you decided you were gonna create for

yourselves?

Alex: I mean, that was content Cal fundamentally the tool that we created for ourselves,

Andrew: but I, I mean, the original thing was a few tools that you built in house. My guess is my understanding is that it was one or two that you started off with and you just kept building

out the

Alex: Oh, I see. Yeah. Go. Yeah. Okay. So we, man, we tinkered with loads of stuff. I mean, one of the ones that worked really well before content catalog different tools we built. So we built a very simple like landing page, population product. So. When a client didn’t want like a WordPress full website or, you know, a different product, but like another full website experience just wanted a real quick branded. I wanna capture leads for this use case or whatever it might be. We had almost like a, like a tick box exercise and it would literally create it in the background within. 20 minutes, you know, and therefore, again, clients loved it cause they weren’t being charged X to go and build like this full experience.

We were like, we can pop that up in a day, basically. Um, so we built like a product that does that. We built a lot of automation around creativity. Um, so when clients had big teams, big national teams, um, that would be head office and maybe they were on site. Like one of our clients was a gym. they wanted to get content from all of these local gyms and, and cinemas in audience’s case and others. So we built a product which was themed around contributions. So anyone in the business could submit from their mobile phone, um, and like a content idea, a photo from the gym again, or whatever it might be, or like a selfie. And it would come through to like head office or to our team. And then we would amplify that on behalf of the brand.

Yeah. So we actually built that in content care later, properly as well, but. loads of ways to like automate these really tricky things. Um, but make it really easy.

Andrew: That makes total sense, especially the part about getting some content from the people who work at your clients, companies. So that it’s, it’s not just from you or from the top people who hired you. All right. So you’re building this at what point do you say, you know what? This could actually be a thing that standalone business, what made you say that?

Alex: Well alongside all of these little ideas, content Cal, or the, the theme of a calendar based social media product was really the centerpiece because. Most social media managers still now let alone 10 years ago create their content calendar. So their calendar of their weekly posts or monthly posts or whatever it may be, or the themes, what they wanna talk about, they create it in Excel or Google sheets or some version of that.

And, um, Do it very, very manually. And I knew this even from when I was working in those big corporates, when I was actually writing content myself, like I would create huge spreadsheets. I would then go through this massive approval flow manually over email in meetings, just chatting to people by the coffee machine or whatever, and be like, I wanna get this campaign approved. And it was hugely elongated. And then whenever we brought an agency in, then there was another third party, blah, blah, blah. So it was really complicated. And what I’d realized from these big brands, as well as working with these agencies. Oh, sorry. Working with SMEs as part of the agency was that whether you are a huge organization or you are a 10 person or two person company, The actual process of creating content is the same.

You need ideas, you need a calendar, you might have an approval flow, you need to be able to visualize it. And then you want to automate it as much as possible. Like they all wanna do the same things. Just some people have really big processes and some people have very, very small ones and. once we’d built the prototype of content Cal.

And once we’d shown all the clients who all signed up to use it and then like bought it as an add on to the agency piece, I was like, okay, this is not a, it’s not the typical SAS journey or software journey you would do now where you build it. Totally standalone. Like we were generating revenue on this software product from day one, um, as additional like line items or additional costs within the agency model. then we thought, okay, can we sell this standalone? Let’s let’s try. Let’s like go out and test this. So then we started to go out and actually sell it to people who had nothing to do with our agency set up a, again, a basic website, new brand content, Cal cuz the agency was called something else and raised a little bit of money and then went out and kind of just built like the basic sales pipeline and stuff like that, which was as much product dev, you know, development, getting feedback it to rating.

And then eventually through that cycle, you know, hundreds of times. We built this product that people stand alone were really willing to pay for. And then it’s a typical journey. Like, you know, we got five people to sign up in a month. Then we got 10. Then we got 30. Then we got a hundred and it was like, okay, this is really starting to take off.

Andrew: before you continue the first people who you went to and you said, would you buy this

without

the

agency? We’ve just created it. Who, who were they? How’d you

Alex: Mostly originally my network, cuz again, in the social media space, in, in London or the UK, I’d become relatively well known, not well known, but the social media management group I’d attend all the meetups, all the online chats and the forums and stuff. So I’d go out and say. Hey, you know, can I show you this more than anything else?

I’d never try to sell it. I’d always just say, can I show you love to get your feedback? And I, it got, you know, reasonable traction through doing that. And then lovely guy called Andy joined the business, um, who I met through one of our angel investors. And he had a background in software sales. and he looked at me and was like, Alex, you are not a salesperson.

Like, because I’m not, he was like, you’ve got no idea what you’re doing. He’s like, you’re doing stuff really organically, which is working, but let me go out and actually build up this pipeline. And so he took my network and then he almost systemized it back into like, okay, we’ve got a hundred people here.

Let’s go out to the secondary, like connections of LinkedIn for them and go out and find out who else we could go. Let’s sponsor, let’s sponsor this event and see if we can get some lead. You know, we did all, you know, typical stuff, but this was all new to me. Cause I was very product and social media orientated and just like attacked, you know, literally just had tons and tons and tons of meetings gathered.

God knows how many requirements and bits of feedback, but really, like I said, started to sell, um, And it was a phenomenal experience. It was very much the whole do what doesn’t scale, you know, to make it work kind of thing. And it really did. Um, but we were just, so it was like operating a thousand miles an hour.

You know, we’re doing this, but all day, all night kind of thing for a couple of years,

 

Andrew: So was it agencies that you went after, right

from the beginning?

Alex: We went after both agencies and like businesses directly. Um, and we actually thought we’d have more traction with businesses, but in the early days we had more traction with a with agencies, which looking back makes perfect sense, cuz we built it for ourselves as an agency. So like we had a hunch, the businesses would wanna buy it directly.

And eventually over time as we add more features, they. But we realized like the calendar experience, the approval flows and basically the features and the way it worked really suited agencies managing like 10 to

hundreds of clients, basically, which was really interesting at the time.

Andrew: It feels like going after agencies makes a lot of sense instead of individuals, because they could add it as a line item to their clients. They have

clear needs. They’re buying once, but really buying multiple

times. Am I right about that? I.

Alex: Yeah, you’re a hundred percent. Right. And in addition, we were getting exposure to these clients without ever

having to sell them. So like, if an agency had 50 client, 50 clients and two or three of them were like, Amazon or whoever suddenly content cow was being used in these huge businesses. So like, it was a great fun experience watching, like, you know, the signups come through and we’d see some of these huge brands come in and we’d never even spoken to them. And then suddenly, you know, you start getting into the networks of those businesses as well. So it was, uh, it

was a lot of fun kind of figuring that

out as we went as well.

Andrew: you even beyond the

Alex: yeah. Nearly every time. Yeah,

exactly. And then when you get the

flywheel working, you know, you, you are

signing up agencies, which means you’re signing up brands and then you start signing up brands directly as well. It becomes this like self-fulfilling prophe.

And you become because of the way the product works.

It’s so integrated, like into the process of how these businesses built their social presences. It’s very, very hard to want to change. And, um, you know, therefore you get low churn and stuff like that. So we, we really started to fly well quite quickly, cuz we were keeping most of our customers and then obviously adding more and more as we went and then we had this network effect of the agencies on top.

So it really started to feed quite

nicely.

Andrew: Before we continue. I should say if you’re hiring developers, go to lemon.io/mixer G great developers, reasonably priced. And if you, my URL it’ll be even more reasonably priced.

lemon.io/mixer G for details.

Um, how did you charge for that? If an agency was paying,

how

do you also get more

revenue from each extra

person at the company that hired them?

Alex: we would typically charge by, we had like a two-pronged approach by a number of users as, as standard, but there were very, very low cost. We, we decided that users would be something we needed to charge for, but we’d make it really low, low price. I mean, I think it was literally like five or six bucks a user, so it was, was not expensive.

And then we’d sell them in bulk and stuff like that as well. and then we’d also charge by what’s called calendar in our experience, which you can think of like a workspace if you’re using like a sauna or something else, like a different environment. So if you had like 20 clients, you’d have 20 calendars and then you’d have within each calendar five to, you know, hundreds of users. And so you had this two pronged pricing approach, um, which worked really well. Again, we, we, we constantly went around the houses, like how do we price this product? And sometimes we thought this was not the right way to do it, et cetera. But when you look back, we had a lovely, like two-pronged approach, which worked really well.

And it was, you know, we were always built on making a great product affordable. So we were never trying to be enterprise. We were always trying to serve that like mid mid-market

SME market.

Andrew: But

if an agency

paid and then their people, the people at their clients company started adding more features. Were you billing both

people separately and you would manage

that.

Alex: no. So if an agency came on board, the agency would handle all of the billing and then however they dealt with the clients was up to them. We would never like, you know, those onto that. They would have to like add, basically add, accounts for those clients as well. So they would have to almost absorb the cost and then figure out how they charged it on.

Um, and we were dealing directly with brands, then we would do

deals directly as

Andrew: Got it. So it was the agency that was just paying every time somebody

else came on, even if they weren’t directly related

to

them. And for you, it wasn’t, you weren’t charging, you weren’t billing the agents, you were bill,

the agency was paying and then they had to just keep billing their client for it.

Interesting, Interesting,

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, totally. And some agencies like just absorbed it as like a cost of doing business, basically, cuz the client loved the product and it

made their life that much easier

that, you know, they could redeploy the time elsewhere and some build it on, you know, it was up to them really. We, we weren’t really, to us, it made no difference.

You know, we were, we were charging X, Y, and Z for this.

And whatever else you do is

Andrew: I’ve worked with consultants who do that, who say Andrew, in order to do my job really well, I need this software. I go, okay, great, fine. They either they either sign up and then I pay for it or I pay for it myself and then they use it. But regardless, it’s now embedded in the relationship. I see. I’ve also seen some companies turn it into a white label product where the agency then gets to.

Present it as it’s their own

software. And then they let the client

go in and add

as many seats as they want. and now they’ve got SAS revenue

sort of coming in from from a customer, but you didn’t do that right from what I

can see going through the

internet archives.

Alex: no, totally. We did one white label deal five or six years ago. And just decided off the back of that one that we weren’t gonna do one again. And it wasn’t because it wasn’t a good opportunity. Like actually the deal worked really well and the way it was set up worked really well. But we came to the conclusion, like we wanted to build not just a, a business, but we wanted to build a brand and a name in the space and white label. You become one of the brands that is white labelable and you are in one of those boxes

at the end of the day. And that, and you’re part of that category. Whereas we wanted. Like, you know, for the last two years, pre pre obviously acquisition, one of our big goals was make content Cal famous, and we could never have truly, obviously quantify that.

But like we knew if we did webinars, if we did stuff with influences, if we did these blog posts, you know, that would all contribute to the concept of make content Cal famous. And, uh, you know, I, I’m a big believer in that you’ve gotta build a brand that has some equity, not just the

business itself.

Andrew: worked well for you for making content Cal famous.

Was the best.

Alex: The best thing was webinars. So we would bring in like industry

names or super like semi-famous marketing influencers who had like real audiences, like true, true fans. And then we would just interview them and they’d be really fun. You know, we wouldn’t make them serious, but we’d bring in loads of insights from these individuals who had like amazing. Experience like Anne Handly if you’ve heard of

her, she’s based out in the states and, uh, she’s a legend and she did a great like webinar with us, Steve Bartlett from social chain. Um, God, we had tons of people, but like people were delighted to come and listen to these like very, very knowledgeable people.

And sometimes we’d pay for them and sometimes we’d do them in partnership and stuff like that, but it really helped associate us as like the cool place to come and hang out to hear an interesting interview in the content, social media marketing space. We also learn a bit about our

product as well.

Andrew: I get that. And then I guess part of it sometimes is that they’re promoting it to their list. Is that right? And you’re promoting it

to your list and then you both make each other famous

through that process. Yeah.

a, you know, you mentioned Noel earlier.

I looked him

up. He was, uh,

he was what is as.

P your agency, And then at content

Cal he’s listed as a co-founder.

How did you decide to make

him a

co-founder? What was your relationship with him?

Alex: ah, Noel’s a great friend of, mine. Like Noel came in. So when I started ASTP the agency, I was 24. So I was a young man. I was fresh out of like a couple of couple of jobs, like I said, and I’d learn some of the ropes to run a business, but he more was slightly, slightly older than I am way more experienced.

Like I said, very solid, solid commercially. And he was actually a client funnily enough, like a very early client of me building this. And just was really fascinated. We’d worked together before OD. And so again, we had this very close relationship and he was like, I want to come on this journey. I’m really interested in kind of being part of a business.

He’d worked with corporates before, but really wanted to like dive into like startup land. So. We just got in the trenches in the early days. So he, you know, it was absolutely part of the co-founding team. And then two, two other people along the journey who just been so critical. So Andy who I’ve referenced came in a couple of years later when we were starting to make the pivot towards content Cal, but he joined again through like an introduction from an investor and really was like our founding commercial leader really.

And, um, and then one additional guy called Lawrence. Who is a phenomenal UX UI designer, but just one of those amazing thinkers, like in product as well, and just challenges, everything which drives people crazy sometimes, but is like the right thing to do to get like amazing results when it comes to like building great product. Uh, and Lawrence joined

us again in the kind of pivot to content Cal phase, uh, and was actually like working with me in the agency stages as well. So the journey’s a misma. It’s not like five of us sat down in a room and kind of decided to go build this business and product like. It was very organic in terms of how I met people and brought people into the journey.

Andrew: then why you, why did you do so well, I’m thinking about all the people who I’ve interviewed. I’m now looking at Laura rotor’s website, she had, what was it? Meet Edgar.

Alex: Mm-hmm yeah.

Andrew: many others. I saw a

smile of recognition. Come on your face. Right. You know, these

people, I can go through the list, social B and others.

Why do you think content Cal did so well when there’s so many other people, why’d you

do better than others in the space.

Alex: Yeah, I

think. I think there’s multiple things,

I think. Well, in fact, not even think, I

know,

um, we were the first to pioneer. If you like the

calendar interface, hence the name content call is literally short for content calendar and the craziest thing. And whether it was copying, whether it was just the trend, it doesn’t really matter.

But like, If you look at the history of like any product in this space could be hoot. Suite could be buffer. Plannery meet you. Say I could name them all kind of thing over time. None of them at the start had calendars. Whereas we were very focused on the calendar experience and the process of, um, planning and building content, not the process of scheduling content, scheduling content for us was like the byproduct of the automation.

You know, you can get, get a Facebook post to be automated. It’s actually the creative. That needs to happen upfront and then needs to be planned within a calendar is the really tricky part. We focused on that we did, we built in my opinion and still had the best calendar experience and the collaboration experience on building content plans of building content in the market. We scaled to a good stage. And then obviously we had amazing dialogues with Adobe that led us down the road to being acquired by them. But. We really focused on a very, very, very good user experience in that calendar piece and in com competitors, again, through chance through copying through research combination of all of the above, everybody started to add a calendar to their user interface. And I think there’s a big difference between adding something on as a feature, because you’ve seen it in the market or you’ve, you know, your users are asking for it, et cetera, and therefore building that functionality for that reason versus. We started to

build the best calendar experience for social media and content in the game. And we were obsessed about it, you know, this, this whole calendaring experience. So like, I think personally, if you go down into the roots of it, there’s a million of other things, great people, good brand, you know, right place, right time and a load of other stuff. But like, we were relentless about the quality of the product in that, that experience.

And I think that’s a big part of why we stood down. Hmm.

Andrew: the ability to. Communicate around each piece of content. That, that was kind, that, that was important. That was a big reason. The collaboration part. All right. When you’re talking about all the features that go into making a calendar, be so, so,

good that people

ignore your competitors at

times. How did you know What

made it that good?

What was your process? Was it bring people into your office

and watching them? was it

interviewing clients about

problems?

Alex: A combination. I think the first thing was myself. I mean, I’d only ever worked in social media. I’d worked in businesses. Like I said, that were huge where we had, I mean, sky had hundreds of people doing social media. And in some instances, you know, 10 plus people approving a tweet, which is complicated, as you can imagine, different time zones, different reasons, why, et cetera, um, through to like working with businesses that had no approval and just wanted to create a calendar and automated.

So I had like a huge amount of context on the different angles and different challenges. These businesses. So that got us so far, you know, my, my knowledge ultimately got us from, from zero to one, if you like. And I could pretty much instill in some ways now I just think it’s so ingrained in my mind. Like almost always solve a mini challenge around.

Should we do this feature? Should we make it look like this? I can almost always just from that social media manager experience, I’ve had. Answer the question and come up with a good experience, but over time you then need to do exactly what you’ve said. You’ve gotta speak to users. You’ve gotta do it pretty much every day. And you’ve gotta get like a broad church of feedback from different people in different settings, in different countries, with different languages, et cetera.

Andrew: you do that?

Alex: Uh, live chat. My

friend, like Intercom was our

Andrew: chat. You mean you would man, the live chat

and see what problem you would.

Alex: I, I

I looked at

Intercom every day, like, and I still kind of do I, I, and in the first instances,

absolutely, I was on it.

All of our team would use Intercom. This was another thing we did actually, which I, you know, you look back on tape for granted. Everybody did customer service. There was no team at the start, literally product design. commercial, you know, me, everybody finance did customer service. And so everyone knew the ins and outs of customers and their challenges.

And I think again, because that became so ingrained, we all had this intuitive, like knowledge about the customer problem and how to solve it. And then over time we systemized that, you know, then there were teams and there were feedback meetings and we did user interviews and all the stuff, product teams do, but like, it was really part of our culture to speak to users every day,

basically in the early

Andrew: Your phone might just go off in the middle of dinner. If you and I were sitting

down your phone, did it just go off now?

Alex: no, I thought it did When you said that.

Andrew: okay.

Alex: Okay. Oh

Andrew: but it might go off in the

middle of dinner with someone on your site asking a question and you’d

look at it. and if it was, oh, I see your eyes light up,

then you

might respond to it right there at the dinner, or at

least keep an eye on the fact that it’s.

Alex: Dude E every night I would look at Intercom and I would go through the feedback we were getting or the comments and questions. And often I, because by the time we had like a customer service team, I wouldn’t respond cuz it would annoy people, but there would always be

like one or two where I just couldn’t resist where it’s like, Hey blah, blah, blah person.

I’ll help you with this.

Or I would tag the customer service rep and be like, Hey, we need to solve this. This is a really big potential client or whatever.

I, yeah, it was like, I, you know, it’s fun at the end of the day. Like you can raise VC money and you can run KPI meetings and stuff, but like speaking to customers is just something fun about it.

Yeah. You get a real feel for like, what’s actually going on.

Andrew: I get that. All right. I should say second company send in blue. Second sponsor. If you’re sending out email marketing, I want you to do it right. Send in blue has the feature. Beyond just email, but also segmentation. So you could respond to people based on what they’ve done and what they’re expecting from you.

Um, and they also have landing pages. The works, Alex, I’m just gonna say this to the audience, great price. Doesn’t

Jack up on you and starts off

even lower fuse. My URL go to send in blue.com/mixer G send in blue.com/mixergy. How did sale come about

Alex: So we had had, we’d

had other approaches actually fun enough over the years. And that’s when. you start to build like the kind of, well, not playbook, but like the playbook in your head as to how you might approach these things. And we’d had some that went somewhere and, but didn’t happen for whatever reason we had somewhere.

We’re like, no, it’s just, you know, not the right time, et cetera. And, um, so Adobe, uh, came to us. So I can definitely say that, like we, you know, and it was a very generic type of conversation. It wasn’t focused around M. Um, it was just, you know, there’s potentially opportunities to partner and stuff like that. And the conversations initially were very fluid, you know, very and very informal. Um, and you know, we just very early on, um, like started just to, to hit it off the kind of personal basis with the guys I was speaking to, but also just really align quite quickly on the challenges that obviously Adobe are trying to solve of which I’m a massive part of obviously now, but like, The big creative challenges that they’re trying to crack and the, the kind of content Cal ones we were trying to obviously do.

And they’re just, just naturally through the conversation was a huge map of. Um, and then obviously throughout the process, all of those things get more formalized in terms of catchups and figuring out who the right people to speak to are. And then you suddenly realize as you’re going through some of these meetings, that this is getting quite serious, it’s not just informal chats.

Um, but it was a phenomenal process. You know, like I said, I can’t get to all the details for obvious reasons, but like, It’s intense. Like once you go through like past the stage of like, you know, where you stand and you’re gonna theoretically do this deal, um, you know, that naturally, and not just in our deal, but in every deal of M and a, like there’s crazy due diligence processes.

And quite rightly because you know, all of these things are complicated and you can show as much as you can in the first instance, but really getting under the hood is so important. So like the DD process was very, very thorough. Um, And if I’m honest, I think, and having made great relationships and working with lovely colleagues at Adobe now, I think a lot of it does come to like personal, um, synergy as well.

Like, do you, do you get home with each other? Do you like each other? Do you get that initial trust? Is there communication? That’s really open from day one and that’s always my policy anyway. So yeah, the, the dynamics of like doing an M and a deal are crazy, um, and hugely challenging. But exciting and like, and thrilling and just an amazing experience to be part of.

But yeah, like they came to us and then it was a lot of matching of minds basically to kind of get to actually, you know, doing a deal, basically.

Andrew: What are your big takeaways, Alex, like now, if you were to give yourself advice, starting out, this is business,

Alex: Wow. I’ll tell you a funny story. About six years ago, when I first pitched a angel investor for like content Cal, you know, just to go out and race capital in the very first, like, like few years, few stages. I’d have a slide, which said potential exit opportunities.

And there were agency groups like WPP, maybe because they might buy some tech. There were like the big startups, like MailChimp and even, I think Intercom was on there, but you know, the big startups where there might be some like horizontal, uh, synergies, and then you had like the traditional, but very big and successful players, like in Adobe or like a Salesforce or something like. Um, and you know, even in my head, I was thinking this was literally six years ago and this is no, no, no word of a lie. Like an Adobe business, like type business would be an Adobe in particular would be just phenomenal because they are a huge company. They are very focused on creativity and, you know, what, what a match basically in terms of like creating graphics and imagery and video, and then being able to put them onto social media, which is now obviously the biggest destination ever for

like consuming media and, um, Honestly, like a big part of it was, how was this happening?

This is so good to be true. Like this is, you know, there where I’m actually having

a dialogue with Adobe which was just, just completely like bizarre, but also just amazing in the fact that that actually transpired so Adobe as a business. And like I said, the synergies were a huge part of it. Um, and then really it was about our mission.

So our, our, our internal mission was to become the number one social media product for SMEs across the world. That was our internal, like messaging to our team. Like, that’s what we’re going out to build. Like I said, we’re not enterprise. We want millions of customers and millions of people to benefit from using content Cal

to create plan, schedule, et cetera, all of their social

content.

And when we started having the

conversations, you know, you can go out and raise more money to try and achieve your goal. Or you can say hello, I’m speaking to the biggest player in the space

who can automatically obviously through integrations

and other staff. Like actually fulfill that mission and that dream, like what you’re trying to achieve with your product and business. And it just made sense. Like as soon as you start putting those two things together, then you’re meeting people,

you know, all of the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. You’re like, this is really the perfect scenario to do this. Um, and like I said, it wasn’t planned, so it really had to like, feel, you know, sounds silly, but like literally had to feel right.

Is what is all like the like legal dynamics and everything else to work. yeah. Loads of different reasons. And I, I have to say having been in Adobe for

six months is a phenomenal place. Like they’ve just got such incredible

people there, their ability to operate at the pace that

they do given the size and stuff is amazing.

And they’re loved by their customers. It’s phenomenal,

you know? So it’s been a cool experience.

Andrew: What are you gonna do next? I know you’re gonna stay with Adobe for a bit, but do you have any thoughts about where your life’s gonna take you?

Alex: I, I think I’ve realized that

that’s

where I get a

huge amount of excitement and buzz, and just love working with entrepreneurs. And that seems like the right place to, you

know, be doing that every day. But nothing don’t know is the actual honest answer answer.

Like I haven’t definitely decided, but I feel like that’s the

direction

of travel.

Andrew: and I’ll thank the two sponsors. When you’re hiring developers, go to lemon.io/mixergy. And when you’re looking to do email marketing, SMS marketing landing pages of works go to send in blue.com/mixergy. Both, both URLs will get you great deals, Thanks so much for being on here.

Bye everyone.

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