No Wanky Bollocks

A movement against bullshit in business

Interview with the Founder of Formisimo

NWB interviews are 3 questions. They are not self-promoting, or carefully selected quotes to make you sound good. They don’t offer any advice like “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to beg for permission” crap, the likes of which should remain on Facebook. They are full of useful, actionable insights from experience, not egos.

If you like NWB’s style and have something useful to offer,  we’d love to interview you. Tweet @nowankybollocks

The Interviewee was Al Mackin, Founder of analytic start-up Formisimo and founder and chairman of theEword, a digital marketing agency with a team of 45.

1. Biggest mistake you made in the last year & how you fixed it?

I had our focus all wrong with our second fundraise. We have a great network and through them, I got the opportunity to pitch to some big VCs. We just weren’t in the right zone for a Series A, they knew it and eventually, I knew it. There was no excitement or desire from the VCs because we weren’t at the right stage for them to even consider us. It wasn’t 50:50, they could never have got us past their investment committees. That’s just their investment criteria, but I’d report back to everyone at Formisimo about each meeting, and it started to grind us all down.

It wasted time and energy, and at the end of six weeks, it was a pretty negative place to be. To describe it emotionally, we felt unloved.

I started reaching out to angels, and that was a shot in the arm. The first few meetings were positive, and there was strong interest. There was excitement. They loved what we did, and so I doubled down on angel conversations. That’s not to say the strategy didn’t need adjusting, as we spoke to Angels in the North and the South. We had a much better response from the South, so I focused on building up the pipeline in and around London. Angels were a big part of our last fundraise. They gave us money, advice, and ultimately re-energised us.

2.  A lightbulb moment

A few months ago I was talking to an advisor and he mentioned “Customer Councils”, getting customers into a room for a period of intense feedback. I love the idea, but in the context of our new platform our customers are spread out wide and we’re still very early in the sales cycle. We morphed this into an Expert Council, a group of people who kindly give up their time to give feedback on what we’ve built (and what we plan to build). I recruited a range of experts, from across the UK (and in some cases beyond). It’s early days but the first round of feedback was really useful, and it gives us another feedback pillar alongside our customer feedback.

I’m very thankful for the positive response from our experts, they’re all busy running companies but they’re happy to play a part in our journey.

3. Tip for tomorrow

I was a guest this week at an event put on by Jon Woodall of Space48, and there was a great speaker who talked about goals. He said that they were useless because you spend weeks/months/years heading towards a single target and you invariably miss-manage your progress and miss your goal. He proposed that instead of setting goals you create daily standards, so you set out how you want to live your business life each day, and by setting high standards you’ll achieve your goals. This resonated with me, and I’ve created a list of standards that I want to live to each day.

What I like about it is I can look back on each day and make a quick call on whether I’ve hit my standards, and if I had a successful day. So my tip is to give this a try – set some high standards that you want to achieve every day.

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