Money Matters

How to fund your startup: Top tips from Dragons’ Den’s ‘best ever pitcher’

Sam Jones, the founder of Gener8, talks about how he started the business, finding funding and getting support from other business owners.

Sam Jones

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Sam Jones’ Dragons’ Den startup pitch is immortalised as the TV show’s “best ever” and Harry Redknapp describes him as having the work rate of a top footballer.

Read on to discover how Sam convinced stars such as Tinie Tempah to invest in his tech startup, Gener8, a new web browser that lets users earn from their online data, and took his idea from paper to pitch to product.

Get straight to the advice here:

Even if you’re happy in employment, some opportunities might be too good to miss

It’s possible to win funding with an idea and no working product

The first £150,000 you raise is both the easiest and hardest

Using agencies to build your product may be helpful

Startups are a roller coaster. Adjust your business where necessary

If you’re going to let people go, give them support

Approach funders who can add genuine value to your business

Play to your strengths and neutralise your weaknesses

Understand where you have to work harder and longer than the competition

Focus on what you can control, not the competition

Understand where you have to apply the pressure

Have a network of other business owners and founders to lean on

Be focused, determined and have a sense of urgency

Get involved in admin tasks at the beginning to learn as much as you can

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m going to go straight in and ask you about Gener8, the web browser.

What made you decide to take an enormous leap into the unknown and do this, given that I know you were happy at your previous job and having a great time there.

So why take the risk? Tell me everything.

Sam Jones:

I used to work at Red Bull, the energy drink, as part of their global marketing team, most recently as global brand manager.

I was working on and responsible for about one-third of their worldwide advertising, and it was incredible fun working with some of the best athletes in the world to tell their stories.

I realised that when the likes of Facebook, Google or Snapchat pitched to us to tell us why we should advertise with them, they all threw up the same slide.

It was a data slide that said, “Look at everything that we know about our users.”

I would sit there as a user thinking about all of the data tracked I was unaware of. I believed that soon, more people would realise that something tracked them for everything they do online.

With every question they search for, every website they go to, and every item they buy online, tens and sometimes hundreds of different companies collect this information, aggregating it and selling it.

I believed that once a person realises this and recognises that their data’s valuable, they’ll want to do one of two things: either stop this from happening so they can have more control, or share in the rewards and earn from their data.

Simply based on that basic idea, I left Red Bull and started Gener8 to build technology that would empower people to control or earn from their data.

Bex Burn-Callander:

But was it a wrench?

I’m trying to imagine you having this great life, enjoying your job, and then thinking, you know what, I’m going to leave my stable career. I’ll go to plough every waking hour into a new tech business.

Sam Jones:

Making the jump is the hardest thing, or at least it was for me because I was coming from a position like you’re saying where I loved what I did.

It wasn’t that I was at a dead-end or was fed up and wanted to try something new. It was that I was coming from a position of strength where I loved my day-to-day.

So it took a lot of thinking, pondering and conversations before I got the guts to leap.

Eventually, my girlfriend at the time (my fiancée now) said to me, “Sam, you either need to stop talking about this and just put it to bed, or you need to do something and crack on with it.”

So eventually, I started to have conversations with angel investors.

Once I found the first couple of people who wanted to come on board, that gave me the confidence to say, let’s go for this, and I handed in my resignation.

Bex Burn-Callander:

How on earth did you convince these angels when you didn’t even have a product to show them?

Sam Jones:

It’s a good question. I was indeed fortunate.

It’s not the usual thing for a solo founder who can’t code to raise money with an idea on a piece of paper.

The odds are against you.

But then again, the odds are against you with everything that you do when trying to build a business. The way I approached it is that ultimately you need to kiss a lot of frogs, have a lot of conversations, and speak to a lot of people.

But if you can find people that believe in your idea, and you can tell them a compelling narrative, giving them proof points that allow them to get the confidence to take a leap of faith in you, it becomes a no brainer.

So from my side with Gener8, even though it was an idea on a piece of paper, I was able to say, “Hey, this is who I am, and this is what I’ve done. These are the reasons that I’m credible and I believe I can pull this off.”

And then I could say if we look at the market and the legislative change that’s coming, consumer sentiment and all of these data points, then we can believe and you can have faith that this vision that I have for the future may well come into fruition.

Then the final piece of the puzzle is them having the belief that you can commercialise that.

Ultimately, at any fundraising stage, it’s those three things that you’re trying to display and show.

The only way or reason that funding gets slightly more straightforward as you go along is that you have more and more proof points to deliver on your narrative and story.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Can you tell me how much you managed to raise with just that paper idea?

Sam Jones:

Yeah, that was the first £200,000. The first £150,000 in the UK that you raise is both the easiest and the hardest.

It’s the easiest because there are many tax incentives for high-net-worth individuals called SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme). That means that if the venture fails, they get a reasonably good safety net in tax relief.

So at the first £150,000, I think if you’ve got an excellent business and a good idea, lots of people want to come in at that stage so that they can benefit from that kind of protection.

However, it’s also the hardest to raise that first £150,000 because you’ve got no one else by definition who believes in you at that stage and has put money in.

It’s a tricky spot to be in, but that’s how everyone has to start.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So, where on earth do you start? How do you find the tech skills to create something that can be a worthwhile competitor?

Sam Jones:

Well, we didn’t start with the vision of building a browser.

We started with the idea of building technology that empowers people to control and earn from that data. So initially, a browser extension.

In scope, we were a little bit smaller. But the same challenge was there: how do we get from this idea on a piece of paper to a product in the real world?

And there are lots of ways you can go about that.

The textbook way is to hire a great team, sit in a garage, and start coding and building.

But in reality, especially in the UK, although there’s lots of tech talent around, it’s not the easiest thing to find the first hires and the first people to come in and go on that journey with you.

So what I did was use an agency to get version one or version 0.5 of Gener8 out in the world. That was an interesting process because we held an agency pitch where I spoke with four or five different agencies.

And from that, I was able to learn the challenges they foresaw from a technical side, and ultimately any challenges result in increased budget and time.

So in this initial process of holding a pitch, I was able to learn what the difficulties were going to be and how we could overcome them.

Specifically to Gener8, there was a complex problem about what happens within the 600 milliseconds a webpage loads. A lot of different things are going on. And most of these agencies said we don’t know what happens in that timeframe.

That gave me the information to go out and start speaking with industry experts so that I could bring someone on board who could solve that challenge for the agency to execute.

Bringing in these kinds of different people and players worked well.

We then built version one with an agency, and the natural progression was to say, let’s bring this in house.

When it came to hiring and finding our CTO, we were able not just to show them an idea—it’s daunting, saying, “Hey, we want you to be the first hire to build this massive thing.”

Instead, we were able to share the product that worked, and we could say, “Look, this is where we are today. We’ve got X thousand users. Here’s the vision for the future, and we want you to come to manage and grow this.”

It becomes a much easier job of hiring great talent if you’ve got something that you in the world you can show.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s incredible how enormous and daunting these big and bold ideas are. When you break them down into these smaller steps, suddenly, anything is achievable.

When you explain each step you took down this path, each one on its own is possible. But the whole thing seems way too big.

Were there any difficulties along this path?

Sam Jones:

Of course. It’s a roller coaster ride as a startup.

The biggest challenge that we faced in the last 24 months was in February and March last year. We had a round of about £1.5m lined up in investment ready to go.

Then in early March, coronavirus started to spread around the world, and consequently, affected our entire round.

We went from this position of feeling confident, having loads of momentum and an excellent hiring plan in place, to all of a sudden, out of nowhere, money had just totally disappeared.

We needed to figure out how we were going to respond and survive.

I went back to existing investors and ultimately convinced them to put a little more money in to extend the runway and continue.

I sat down with the virtual team because we were all broken up at this point and said we’re going to need to do three things.

We needed to respond, rebuild, and recover. We’re had to cut costs. That meant we all had to take pay cuts. We had to use the furlough scheme for a few people, and unfortunately, let people go.

It was a harsh cost-cutting exercise.

And then step two, we needed to rebuild and had to do that by revisiting our fundamentals, understanding what’s changed in the world, and adapting our business as necessary.

Step three was how we wanted to recover by implementing new revenue streams and different approaches, ultimately thinking, “How can we maintain growth through this period?”

So that was a challenging phase, as it was for most of the world.

I think, especially as a startup, you fall into one of two camps at that point.

Either you had good capital in the bank, which meant you could make hay while the sun was shining because everyone was at home and using technology more.

Or you fell into that second camp where we were, which was not a great position to be in, where funds were low, and we had to think creatively about how we get through this.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Is that the first time you’d had to fire somebody, and how on earth do you prepare yourself to have that conversation?

Sam Jones:

I wouldn’t use the word fire.

Letting someone go is never very nice, and ultimately it can happen for various reasons, but I think it’s usually a reflection of the hiring manager or the company at fault.

You should ideally have a process that can give you enough confidence that you’re going to hire the right person, and then you should put them in a position to succeed within the first one or two months.

Coming into coronavirus, of course, was a transparent reason we had to let people go—which was cost-cutting.

They’re just not very nice conversations, but how you approach it is transparently and honestly.

You’re saying, “This is the position we’re in and the reason we have to make this decision. Here are the things we’re going to do to make the transition as easy as possible for you, starting with having the most glowing reference that you could ever receive.

“Secondly, we’re going to put you in touch with these recruiters, and there are these job roles where I think you could be a good fit.

“And thirdly, if there’s anyone in my network that you see hiring, let me know, and I’ll put you straight in contact.”

Ultimately, I think that’s all you can do. Try to support people and recognise that everyone’s human, and it’s not a very nice position for anyone to be in.

Bex Burn-Callander:

What a lovely approach, though, to think about how you help them into their next role.

Rather than focusing on, “Sorry, the world has changed,” it’s more on, “All right, how can we get you on to something else that will make you just as happy and fulfilled?”

Bex Burn-Callander:

So how did you get these big-name investors on board? Was this after the round disappeared and you went back on the funding trail? Because you’ve got some big celebs invested in the business.

Sam Jones:

We came through coronavirus and had this incredible opportunity to invite me to Dragons’ Den to pitch, which was filmed last September and only aired at the end of April this year.

I was confident. I knew that it had gone quite well as an experience, and I knew the outcome.

What happens in real life is that you’re pitching for two hours to the Dragons, and then they cut this down to 10 to 15 minutes for TV. You don’t know what’s going to air.

By the time it came round, I’d convinced myself that it might not even be that good. We had no idea what was going to happen.

But ultimately, off the back of airing on BBC1 in April, things went crazy.

  • We went viral on Facebook, with over 20 million views of that pitch.
  • We went viral on LinkedIn, with another five million views.
  • We were averaging a new download every 10 seconds for about seven or eight weeks.

Off the back of this momentum, which was incredible, ultimately, we had an enormous amount of inbound interest from all sorts of investors and names.

That put us in a position where I could close a modest fundraiser of about £2.1m within five days and ultimately choose the characters we felt could best accelerate us in our journey.

So that included people like Tinie Tempah, the rapper, who’s fantastic to have on board; Harry Redknapp, the former football manager, who’s onboard; Tej Lalvani, one of the Dragons, who missed out in the Den, he then came on board; and of course we then still had Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman from Dragons’ Den.

In addition to that, we also had, or still have, other fantastic angel investors who came on at an earlier stage.

So it felt like we’re in a fantastic position and surrounded ourselves with brilliant people who can give sage advice that can accelerate us and move us forward quickly.

Bex Burn-Callander:

They all found you. So how can we tell listeners how to make themselves, I suppose, a plum target?

Did the Dragons’ Den people find you on Google? Had you raised your profile enough to have them approach you?

Sam Jones:

I got a DM on LinkedIn from a researcher at the BBC.

But I would think outside of that. Replicating a Dragons’ Den experience isn’t the best method of trying to raise funds. Before that, I’d raised about £1m to £1.3m-ish of funding.

I tended to approach funding by looking for people you believe can add genuine value to your business.

Take the vertical you’re in, and then see which big businesses are in that vertical or know that space.

Start to look at board level and ask, “OK, who are the characters that have board experience here?”

And then you go a step further and say, “Has anyone recently left that role? Perhaps there was a chairman who stepped down 18 months ago.”

Someone like that is the perfect person to approach to ask for advice and, potentially, funding.

The reason for that is because these characters are intelligent individuals. They have a perfect knowledge of your industry. And more so, they used to be in a very fast-paced and busy job.

They stepped down 12 or 18 months ago. They’ve probably been lying on the beach for about a year, and now they want another intellectual challenge.

I think with finding and identifying people like that and reaching out in a way where you’re not directly asking for money, don’t go straight in asking for marriage.

Instead, ask for advice.

Send something concise that can pique someone’s interest, and then go from there.

Have a conversation, understand if they’re the right fit, and understand if they can add value.

Then what you need to tell yourself and believe internally is that you’re offering them an opportunity to come on an incredible ride with you.

It’s not that you’re standing there with your hat in hand saying, “Please, give me money. Please invest.”

It’s the opposite way.

You need to train yourself into a mindset that there are loads of people with leads and money.

You’re looking for the right people to come on board, and they should feel that it’s a privilege to join you on this ride.

If you believe that, it’s much easier to sell your vision and entice people to come along with you.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I love that idea about training yourself.

I’m looking at you now. You’re so self-assured and charismatic. Have you always been this way, or have you had to train yourself?

Were you the quiet kid who has to train themselves out of shyness? Talk to me about how you’ve become so assured.

Sam Jones:

Wow. What a compliment. I think the more you do something, as with everything in life, the easier it becomes. Even so, I get scared before any interview, always.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Would you recommend that anyone who is going to go through a pitch process to do some public speaking?

Sam Jones:

You’ve ultimately got to play to your strengths and neutralise any apparent weaknesses.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger, you’d probably not the right person to try and raise money for your business.

Either take yourself out of that situation and find a co-founder who is better at that than you, or lean on what you are good at.

Perhaps you’re super confident when you’re giving a demo of your technology. Because that’s what you’ve built, you need to get in a room with someone and show the tech as quickly as possible, which hopefully blows them away.

Ultimately, I think you need to understand what you’re good at and lean into that.

If we’re talking specifically about funding, one of the most rookie mistakes people make is not doing the homework and researching the investor.

When you go in to speak with someone, be it an angel or a VC, you should make it your job to know everything about them before you step into that room.

You need to know what verticals they invest in, what their average tech size is, and how much money they’ve got left in their fund.

Do your homework, because otherwise, it’s a total waste of your time.

You need a person to feel like you’re switched on and with a knowledge of your business inside out.

Approach the conversation with conviction and the ability to execute.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Does that mean you’re working extreme days? Are you doing 18 hours a day, or are you able to have any downtime?

Sam Jones:

I do work hard, and our team works hard too.

The reason for that is if you want to build something meaningful and want to have a chance of succeeding, there’s no shortcut for putting in time, energy and effort.

That doesn’t mean you have to work every weekend or not sleep or anything crazy like that, but it does mean that there are times when you do need to go well above and beyond.

Particularly when you look at critical moments like fundraising, product releases or client meetings, all of these things call for a lot more time, effort and energy.

The reason for that is because usually, as a start-up, you’re a small team with very few people, so the only way to compete against the big guys is to work longer, harder and smarter than them.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I have one more question about investment, and then I’d like to move on.

With Tinie and Harry, your pals, tell me how one gets not just the interest from the big names but gets them to sign on the dotted line.

Sam Jones:

Tinie is probably the best story—I think it was two or three days after airing on Dragons’ Den, so the next day after we aired. I was then on BBC Breakfast and did a few other bits and pieces to try and pump up our awareness and coverage.

I looked down on my phone, opened up Instagram, and went into my DMs.

You know you have that second inbox called a requests inbox, which is for people that you haven’t yet connected with, or you don’t follow. I clicked on that for some reason, which I don’t think I ever had done it before.

I saw this blue tick, and it said Tinie or Tinie Tempah. I can’t remember his handle. And I thought, what’s going on here?

I clicked it, and it left me a voice memo. I remember playing that and then instantly going to Spotify and blasting out one of his tunes. And I was thinking, what a crazy world we live in.

His voice memo said something along the lines of, “Hey Sam, I saw you on TV, would love to meet, love to chat, love to see if I can help you.”

I followed up on that conversation.

With the way this round came together, and in general, when you’re raising funds, you’re in a position where you have the leverage, or the investor has the leverage.

That’s ultimately the dynamic.

You’re selling or sold to. And if you’re selling, that means you’re trying to find people to come into the round. You’re trying to give this sense of urgency to try and force people to say they will put their money in or if they are waning.

If you’re sold to, it’s the exact opposite. You have loads of people saying that they’re desperate to get in, and you’re saying we don’t have enough room.

A majority of the time, you’re doing the selling to convince people to come in, and you’re trying to pretend that you’re being sold to and you have this leverage.

But you often don’t, and that’s the game and dynamic.

But in this instance, within 48 hours, we’d had so much inbound attention—millions and millions on the table from people willing to put money down.

We’re in this position where I could say look, we’re going to close a fundraising round imminently, and we’re looking for the right people to bring on board. Is that exciting to you? And then we would have that conversation.

Very quickly, we brought that into fruition, closing legal with the right investors on board.

Bex Burn-Callander:

What are your ambitions for Gener8? How big could this business get?

Are you one of those people that thinks I’m going to be with this company and IPO?

Or are you thinking I’m just going to make a difference in this industry, I’m going to sell, and then move on to something else?

What are you planning?

Sam Jones:

I think what’s staggering is that if you take a step back and look at the industry right now, everything we do online is tracked to the point that if you want to stop the world’s biggest search engine from tracking you, it will take you 17 clicks.

But it’s only one click to allow them. It’s insane.

I believe that there will be a multi-billion dollar company built by empowering people to control and learn from their data.

In other words, by giving people a clear and transparent choice to say, stop this from happening, or I’m OK with it, and I’ll get something in return.

In my mind, the solution will operate everywhere and is passively doing this for the user.

I see no reason why Gener8 can’t be that company.

We have a real fighting chance of being a household name soon and building a multi-billion dollar business.

However, if we don’t succeed, I guarantee that soon someone else will.

Less than 10 years from now, people will be passively earning from that data, and they’ll wonder why it wasn’t always this way. They’ll question that it’s always been like this.

It is coming, and our ambition is for Gener8 to be that business.

Thirty years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put the first website up ever in the history of the world. And I think when you reflect, and realise the bloody internet is only 30 years old,

It makes you realise the opportunity for changing things in the future.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I suppose that brings me to competition because you aren’t the only business in this space trying to solve this problem.

What do you do about the fact that there are rivals, with some around a little while?

How do you try and keep in front? How closely do you watch them?

Sam Jones:

The key is to focus on what’s in your control. We run fast and aim to fulfil all of the challenges that we set ourselves.

When you look to competition, it’s not always a bad thing.

If we look to the US and see our competitor over there, another browser that rewards people with cryptocurrency, it’s fantastic to see what they’ve been able to achieve and how they’ve done it.

They’ve raised over a hundred million in funding with a massive tech team and have done an excellent job of growing.

It’s about understanding what’s your point of difference because that’s the reason that you might succeed, and they may not.

I believe that the business that will win in this space is a company that can give people real value in return for their data instead of cryptocurrency, which not everyone understands. I think there’s a limitation on that hitting real mass scale soon.

What we do is concentrate on ourselves. We look and keep an eye on what’s going on in the industry, whether competitors, legislation or whatever. But we focus on our own house and ensure we execute quickly and efficiently.

Bex Burn-Callander:

In keeping that agility and pace of innovation, do you have a big development team? Do you have a percentage of your profit or turnover that you always keep reinvesting into, like R&D?

How do you stay fast? How do you keep coming out with significant new developments and features?

Sam Jones:

We are tiny.

At the start of this year, there were only four of us, and three months ago, there were four of us.

Now there’s 10 of us, and there’ll be 15 of us by mid-September.

We’re scaling up the team to increase engineering resources so we can meet demand and execute quicker.

I think what’s probably interesting to note is that when it comes to building great things in the world, whether that is technology, products, or marketing, is that it boils down to the people that you’re working with and your ability to motivate, inspire, and challenge them.

I think something you have to learn early as a founder of a small start-up is that you’re trying to put pressure on or you’re trying to take pressure off.

You can read the situation and understand what’s needed that is critically important.

As a founder, if you can get that balance right, that’s where the real magic happens.

Bex Burn-Callander:

You have to swing from one to another. So depending on the individual and the circumstance, you’re either pushing or trying to make life easier for them and take things off their plate.

Sam Jones:

Exactly. It’s a human game because not everyone’s life revolves around work.

It’s about what’s going on outside of work and having that empathy to realise that sometimes it’s not the best time to push. Instead, you need to find ways to relieve that stress and ensure that individuals execute to their best ability.

When things are critical, you need to apply pressure so people know that you need to hit something. It’s all a balancing act.

The startups that operate well have great leaders aware of this dichotomy and can balance things effectively.

Bex Burn-Callander:

As a solo founder, you don’t have anyone that can take things off your plate. You can delegate, and you’ve got great people working with you, but it’s not the same as having a co-founder, chairman or board.

What do you do to sort of lighten your load? What do you do when you are overwhelmed?

Who do you turn to?

Sam Jones:

There’s a lot that goes on your plate as a solo founder, and there’s a lot of things you can offload, whether that’s to the team or upwards to board members.

Then there are also many things that you can’t, and that’s the burden you must carry.

You can’t share some things, be it upwards, downwards or sideways. That’s part of the game. You figure out your coping mechanism to ensure you can survive.

Having a network of other founders is probably the most valuable resource in that instance because no matter how cold or lonely a particular situation may feel, it’s very likely that other people have been through that or something similar, particularly when it comes to the common problems of running out of money, hiring and all of the well-trodden paths.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Is this your first business, or did you start anything before? Were you an entrepreneurial kid? Did you do anything when you were at uni, or is this literally your first ever venture?

Sam Jones:

This is the first real business that I’ve founded and run. I had a few entrepreneurial games and flings whilst I was a student, but nothing serious to this extent before.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Is there anything that you wish you’d known before you started the business, or in that tough first year, when it’s always a bit touch and go?

Sam Jones:

It’s a good question. Some generic advice I often give to people I meet is three things:

  1. Be focused. Concentrate on your goal with laser precision.
  2. Be determined. It’s not just passion—it’s popular for people to say that you need to be passionate. The problem is that passion fades once you get punched in the face a few times. It’s about being determined and having that grit to continue because you will get punched in the face multiple times when you’re trying to start something.
  3. Have a sense of urgency. That has come from within because it won’t come from any externality or anywhere else.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And what would you say drives you? What is the fundamental driving force that helps create that sense of urgency and that focus for you?

Sam Jones:

One thing that certainly motivates me is the knowledge that there is so much opportunity. Whether it’s within Gener8 or a different business, there is opportunity everywhere.

We mentioned earlier that the internet is only 30 years old today, Facebook’s less than 15 years old, and Google around 20 years old,

I think it’s this knowledge that people, not unlike ourselves, can build incredible technology and businesses that can make a dent in the world and change the direction it spins in. That is such a humbling thought to reflect on.

I’m motivated by these significant challenges and opportunities, where there could be realistically a chance to change how people think or act or behave.

And for me, Gener8 is one of those concepts or ideas where we can educate people about the fact that their data is valuable and enable them to earn from it themselves.

I think that can be as far-reaching to everyone with a computer or a phone.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And how much could someone earn through Gener8? Give us your pitch, so anyone who’s listening who is thinking to download this thing.

Sam Jones:

So, first off, Gener8 is a browser. It’s free, and anyone can use it or download it. When you download Gener8, we give you a simple choice between Privacy Mode or Rewards Mode.

If you choose Privacy Mode, we stop all companies from tracking you online so you have a private browsing experience.

If you choose Rewards Mode, you opt to share your data with us, and we try to monetise that on your behalf.

We do that by tailoring the advertising you see online so that it’s based on your interests.

And then, we share the money from the advertisers back with the user. And the way we do that is via points.

So, in return for selecting Rewards Mode, a user earns points, and they can redeem these points for products, vouchers, or donations to charity in our marketplace.

So, right now, the average user is redeeming between £5 and £25 in rewards and value per month, which isn’t bad considering it’s passive.

And the alternative is just you giving this data away for free anyway, by default.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Is there a way to increase your earning potential?

Is it about how active you are online, or are there some users that naturally carry a higher price tag for whatever reason?

How does that side work?

Sam Jones:

Many levers and variables impact how fast or slowly a person can earn, but generally, it’s to do with what they share with us.

For example, if you complete your profile with your preferences, you can tell us if you like sport, dance, music, or cooking, for example.

Once a person completes their profile, we’ve then got that base information to start tailoring the advertising they see, so they’ll, as a result, earn quicker.

Whereas if a person doesn’t give us any of that information, they will earn slower because there’s less information to target relevant advertisers.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Are you earning? Are you getting top dollar because you’ve been involved from the beginning?

Sam Jones:

We’re putting so much time, energy, effort, and resources into building good technology for people. In terms of cash flow or revenue, we are spending and over-indexing enormously on how much we put into the platform instead of taking out.

From our side, we’re not looking to make a quick buck or make money.

We’re trying to invest into building great technology for people heavily.

Bex Burn-Callander:

What is the tipping point of users that you are aiming for? What is the volume that you need to think, you’re making an impact?

Sam Jones:

That’s the magic number, isn’t it? The unknown number that every investor wants to know. I think the best way to answer that is to tell you how we’re growing right now.

There are two forks to our growth.

Number one is direct downloads.

This is where users or people hear about Gener8, and consequently, download it. We’ve got some marketing campaigns coming up with Tinie Tempah and Harry Redknapp that will help to tell more people about Gener8 to expand this.

The second fork that we’re focusing on is B2B partnerships.

Right now, some of the largest device manufacturers in the world, alongside very large telcos, are in conversations with us about pre-installing Gener8 as the default browser onto tens of millions of machines.

If we were to close one of these deals, which I believe is very achievable in short to mid-term, we would start to see Gener8 on millions of devices worldwide.

That’s where things start to get very exciting very quickly.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m just interested in some of the nitty-gritty in how you make your life a bit easier as a founder.

Have there been any decisions you’ve made, by either hiring an accountant, being very hot on your business plan, or any practical things you’ve done that have been a game-changer in terms of being organised and efficient?

Sam Jones:

That’s a brilliant question.

Initially, you go through different stages and phases as a startup.

When I was a one-person band for the first six or seven months, you’re doing your VAT returns and getting your receipts in an Excel spreadsheet figuring it out.

I even called up HMRC, and I said, “Hey guys. I need to do a VAT return. What do I do?” The most remarkable thing was that HMRC is so helpful. The person on the other end of the line said, “OK. Here’s how you do it and what you need to do. Here are the documents you need.”

What I learned is that initially, you can do a hell of a lot on your own.

You don’t necessarily need to be an expert or a professional in any given field. It’s pretty empowering and liberating to learn these random skills and then know what’s going on in the future when other professionals are doing this for you.

As you start to pick up speed and get a little bigger, you need to ask what is a worthy task for my time right now versus something else?

In those early stages, do as much as you possibly can. Learn as much as you can. Do all of the menial, administrative or annoying jobs.

And then as you get a little bit bigger, you realise that OK, the opportunity cost of me doing a VAT return, which I’m not very good at and took me hours, versus spending those same hours speaking with a major manufacturer that could put us onto tens of millions of machines. My time should be over there.

That’s the right moment to ensure that you have accountants and people who can take care of those other tasks for you.

To answer your question, it’s about recognising the moments when you should bring in another party for this, leaning into your strengths.

If something’s going to take you three times as long as someone else, maybe you should get someone else to do that task.

Feel inspired by Sam’s story?

Follow Sam Jones on Twitter

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