The SaaS Podcast

Attest: Growing a SaaS From Zero to First Million ARR in 7.5 Months – with Jeremy King [331]

Attest: Growing a SaaS From Zero to First Million ARR in 7.5 Months

Jeremy King is the founder and CEO of Attest, a research platform that enables companies to engage directly with over 125 million consumers worldwide and do market research faster.

In 2015, after spending 9 years as a McKinsey consultant, Jeremy decided to build a SaaS product that would make it easier for B2C companies to do market research.

He realized that often those companies were guessing what consumers wanted instead of using market research data. And he was convinced he could solve that problem.

His wife gave him 6 months to get the business going. So he knew he had to work fast to validate the idea, build a product, and get paying customers. The clock was ticking.

But what Jeremy did next was surprising.

He walked into two different retail stores at Waterloo train station in London and asked the managers what data they wished they had about their customers that would help them sell more products.

He then spent two weeks interviewing 200 people that walked through the train station and collected data which he analyzed and shared his findings with the store managers.

He also did something quite smart when it came to raising money.

He got potential customers so excited about his idea that several of them called investors on his behalf and asked them to invest in his company so they could buy the product.

Jeremy's creativity and hard work paid off.

He went from zero to his first million in ARR in less than 8 months. Today, his SaaS company generates 8 figures in ARR, employs around 170 people, and has raised $104 million in VC funding.

It's another great interview and I hope you enjoy it.

Transcript

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[00:00:00] Omer: Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host, Omer Khan, and this is a show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch, and grow your SaaS business.

In this episode, I talk to Jeremy King, the founder and CEO of Attest a research platform that enables companies to engage directly with over 125 million consumers worldwide and do market research faster.

In 2015, after spending nine years as a McKinsey consultant, Jeremy decided to build a SaaS product that would make it easier for B2C companies to do market research. You realized that often those companies were guessing what consumers wanted instead of using market research data, and he was convinced he could solve that problem.

His wife gave him six months to get the business going, so he knew he had to work fast to validate the idea, build a product, and get paying customers. The clock was ticking. But what Jeremy did next was surprising. He walked into two different retail stores at Waterloo Train Station in London and ask the managers what data they wish they had about their customers that would help them sell more products.

He then spent two weeks interviewing 200 people that were walking through the train station and collected the data, which he analyzed and shared his findings with the store managers. He also did something quite smart when it came to raising money. He got potential customers so excited about his idea that several of them called investors on his behalf and asked them to invest in his company so they could buy the product.

Jeremy's creativity and hard work paid off. He went from zero to his first million in ARR in less than eight months. Today, his SaaS company generates eight figures in ARR, employs around 170 people, and has raised $104M in VC funding. It's another great interview and I hope you enjoy it.

Jeremy, welcome to the show.

[00:02:07] Jeremy: Thank you very much for having me. Excited to be here.

[00:02:09] Omer: Do you have a quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us?

[00:02:14] Jeremy: Well, I've picked Jacques Cousteau, who is a personal hero of mine. For those who don't know, A.) Jacques Cousteau is a famous French Ocean explorer who did a whole bunch of interesting underwater cinematography and is kind of the David Attenborough of underwater worlds.

B.) I personally have a big obsession with marine life, fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, animals, squids, crazy invertebrates, things like that. So Jacques Cousteau, a hero of mine, and he said, “What is a scientist after all? It is a curious person looking through a keyhole, trying to know what's going on.” And I love that quote because, fundamentally, that's what we do at a test.

We give people the ability to look through these keyholes, to try to understand what's going on, to look through more keyholes, to look with more granularity, and to act like an explorer, an experiment or scientist. And it's Cousteau who says, put on your diving mask and take a look through a tiny portal into the outside world, underwater and discover piece by piece what's going on.

And that's fundamentally how I feel about the world of consumer research. Take little looks into lots of things and then eventually a unique picture that's very beautiful and valuable will unveil itself. And Cousteau tells us all about that, and that's why I love that quote.

[00:03:28] Omer: What a well-thought-out quote. Love it. All right, let's talk about Attest. So tell us what does the product do, who's it for, and what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

[00:03:39] Jeremy: So fundamentally, Attest makes doing high-quality and powerful research ridiculously easy and accessible for anyone. We like to use the phrase, inform every intuition, dissolve any doubt.

And we use that phrase because we know that all B2C businesses, that's our customers, our target customers. Pretty much everyone in every B2C businesses every B2C business wishes, they knew more about their target customers. They want to be more customer-centric. They want to be more data-driven.

They're just lacking a way to actually do it. It's easy to look at your CRM data. It's easy to send emails or surveys to your existing customers. Understanding the customers you don't have yet the barriers to them using your product, the country you are not in. The segment you are weak. In the competitor, you don't get the product you've yet to launch. Making the choices accurately based on what consumers think, that's alchemy. That's goals. That's the most valuable thing you get your hands on, and that's the thing that we're trying to make ridiculously easy, starting in 90 seconds. We call it things like consumer research platform.

We say that it makes it very easy to do very regular research all the time for anybody, but deep down it's helping you understand the customers you need to know the most, but can reach the least. Because those consumers will choose who wins or losers and decide whether you do or don't make your numbers this quarter.

And Attest makes understanding them ridiculously easy all the time. And that's what we set out to build and that's what we do today.

[00:05:03] Omer: So just in simple terms, can you just explain how it works? How would somebody use Attest?

[00:05:08] Jeremy: Yeah. In the simplest terms, you can show or ask pretty much anything to over 125 million people in 58 countries starting in 90 seconds as often as you want for any reason.

There tends to be a, a sort of top eight set of reasons that different B2C companies use this product, and it's things like internationalization, launching new products, monitoring trends over time, figuring out what choice we should make next, but every single thing customers, our customers use it for is completely unique and totally proprietary, but fundamentally, it makes the end to end journey of doing great research possible to start in 90 seconds and complete another 24 hours.

[00:05:49] Omer: So the business was founded in 2015. What were you doing at the time and how did you come up with the idea?

[00:05:56] Jeremy: I'll answer those both at the same time. So originally I was a scientist. I worked in genetics, ecology, mathematical modeling of animal behavior. I published some work on understanding how and why baby reef fish grow up and how they move around and why they moved to specific places using computer simulations of sounds and coral reefs and fish and ability to swim.

And happy to send a link on that if that's interesting. So I personally have a big love for Empiricism testing hypotheses, using data to make decisions and following ideas until you find something or nothing. And then trying to link those things together like Cousteau with his keyholes. That's what I'm trained to do and that's how I believe the world should work.

I then spent nine years at McKinsey, worked in 25 different countries or more than that in all sorts of different sectors, and I found that isn't how businesses work. I found rooms full of people guessing what consumers wanted. People in Chicago projecting what would work on product launches aimed at women in India.

None of those people had a clue what was going on with women in India. Most of those people had never met any women in India and certainly had no data about them, nor had they tested what they wanted. So I found everywhere I looked, people were, instead of using data and experimentation, they were using their own subjectivity, guessing or just hope.

And as a scientist, that made me angry. And as a McKinsey consultant that didn't make logical sense and didn't, I couldn't see a clear path to value. Attest basically links those two things together with a SaaS business model, and then jumps on a very big opportunity in TAM. So we make it really easy to do the science thing for any company, anywhere, including me when I was an analyst or all those people I worked with who should have been using great research but couldn't get it.

And then we put that together as an investment case and a sort of company story. Market research is a 90 billion total adjustable market. It only serves, in my view, highly qualified, dedicated professionals who mostly live in big companies, but yet everybody in B2C businesses should do this all the time.

That is lacking a way to actually do it, so that TAM should be 10 to 50 times larger, and if we can, using SaaS automation, make a scalable solution that people can actually just pick up and use and forget about how complex it is. That would be a very valuable thing to do. That is also a thing that I care about personally that I've also seen in many places.

And the genesis of Attest came from putting those three things together and then the very early prototypes of making a company out of it and some very strange things I did to prove or disprove some of those hypotheses to myself.

[00:08:30] Omer: Okay, great. So you've got the idea. What kind of, did you kind of take the McKinsey approach to kind of scope out the opportunity here and, and really do the research before you started kind of jumping into building the product, how did you get started?

[00:08:50] Jeremy: Very much so in that, I did do the McKinsey thing, all the desktop research about the tam, the opportunity competitors, strengths, weaknesses, dynamics. I was looking for not only a large TAM, but also some significant tailwinds around business model or funding sources, customer needs, the development of technology and also different scalable methods that we could put in place to cause this thing to work bigger and faster and more scalably than doing a sort of terrible, quick and dirty version. We sort of embarked to build the hard thing. So I did all the desktop work to discover roughly where to look, what to build, and what would have the greatest chance of success with the most positive forces behind it.

I then paired that with some pretty weird practical stuff. So two stories here, one, before starting even incorporating the company, I went out and did some practical work. Second, I tried to set up to fast-track the first two years of the company and compressed that into about four to six months. So on the first one, I have this hypothesis that most demand for research happens in the corporate head office in a really important function in the org chart where all the data happens.

But everyone in the org chart deep down really wants research. Everyone has questions, everyone needs answers. Everyone wants to understand consumers better. And so the total demand is much higher. So to prove that out, I went to Waterloo Station. I used to live around the corner during morning rush hours, and afternoon rush hour, and evening rush hours. I went to two stores on the upper balcony of Waterloo Station and said, What do you wish you knew about your target customers in Waterloo Station that would be very valuable to you where you know nothing right now? And out came this flood of mystery, intrigue, and guess what?

They said, Okay, And these two stores were Kiehl's Skin Care, and Links accessories, and interesting corporate gifts. Completely butchered what they're called by the way, I don't even know what they do anymore. So I went to the two store managers and they poured out all these questions. It was very clear that they had demand.

What was also interesting is, their questions remarkably consistent. What's unique about Waterloo Station and the customers that come through here in their needs that's different from what our two shops stand for in the supply that we've got here? What are the occasions people are buying for? What stops them from coming upstairs?

Do they even know we're here? What should we sell to them that we can offer that we don't put in the front window or prioritize or emphasize right now? What would get them to come upstairs? What sort of offers do they have? What occasions are they buying for? This flood of demand came out, I was like, Okay, interesting.

Immediately these people who have no access to research have really valuable, important questions, and there's a lot of consistency about their use cases. So what I did was I promised these two store managers, I'm gonna physically go out for each of you and interview a hundred people each in Waterloo Station and ask them your most valuable questions.

I'm gonna tab you that data, I'm gonna bring it back to you. And I physically did that over the course of two weeks. And I tabulate the data, took it back, and they were like, this is the most useful thing that's ever happened, and I think this will really help me and my store make better decisions about how we sell and serve these Waterloo customers.

I've always thought deep down that these customers want something different from Kiehl's or Links than we set out to create, but yet head office, don't let me do that. Here is some evidence that will cause me to do ranging differently, to do promotions differently, to market downstairs and suspend some budget on that, and I'll know roughly what the ROI needs to be for the first time.

Can I share this with head office? Can we do this again for other stations? Can I do this in more places and countries and use cases and product lines? And by the way, we've got Easter coming up. What can we do about that? And so there was clearly a hypothesis proven around more demand and hypothesis proven about everyone needs this, not just professionals doing research projects.

[00:12:41] Omer: Did did you charge them for the work you.

[00:12:43] Jeremy: No, no, no, no. I like the value I was getting was testing hypotheses for a test and also very early product prototypes around what do you need to know and how do you want to receive the data. So if anything, I should have been paying them.

[00:12:55] Omer: So like how did, how did they react to you coming in? Like, you know, it kind of sounds like, you know, a bit of a weirdo coming in, saying, asking these questions and saying, I'm gonna not just interview like 10 people for you. I'm gonna spend like two weeks and a hundred people and come back and do all of this work and you don't have to pay for it. Were they skeptical? Were they, like, what was the reaction?

[00:13:17] Jeremy: I think that both of them were deeply skeptical. They were like, Who the hell is this guy? And are you a mystery shopper? Have you been sent here by firm legal to test our data security? And then I two, I tried to keep two motivations at heart. So one is I tried to be very disarming, so I tried to basically say, you know, what's the worst that can happen?

Tell me some of your biggest problems. You don't need to tell me all your biggest problems, but tell me the ones that you can actually learn from consumers. I don't need to know why. I just need to know what you wish you knew. That's the only thing I care about, and I will promise to come back to you on this day at this time, and I'm gonna ask you when you are on roster, on shift here, and I'm gonna converge that time and I will be here.

I think the second thing that worked in my favor is I think they both fundamentally believed that I wasn't gonna do it, and they were like, Yeah, yeah, I'll believe it when I see it. So when I did come back, I think they were more shocked when I came back with real data and was happy to talk through it for an hour and a half each than I was, than they were shocked when I asked in the first place,

So using both of those things to our advantage, I always like to think about interest alignment. Where are the, where are the fears and where can, how can we preclude them or remove? And where are the interests around points of value and how can I align with them? And both of those had a fear of losing data or doing something wrong.

Both of them had no belief. I would come back. So I tried to demonstrate to them I would come back. And then when I did come back, I really followed through and made it valuable to them and actually went and did the work. And that helped melt away all these concerns. And that's some of the tactics that we still use and our go-to market today.

[00:14:42] Omer: Love it. Love it. That's really like walking the talk in terms of getting out of the building and, and talking to customers and you know, I often talk to founders who are reluctant to go out and talk to customers because they're like, I don't have a product yet. I don't have something to show them. Well, actually that's a great opportunity because you, you want, you can spend the time talking about their problems, asking them questions, right?

You don't need to show them anything, and this is a really good example of that. I'm impressed you managed to stop 200 people in Waterloo Station and answer your questions because, you know, when I you know, when I was in London walking through a train station, And I saw a clipboard, man. I was like, I was making a detour to make sure that I wasn't gonna get stopped with that conversation.

[00:15:27] Jeremy: Well, there was, there was one, there was one particular thing that went a bit wrong. So, one of the people I stopped she was very smartly dressed and she was clearly, you know, attentively waiting for a train, typing on her Blackberry. That's how long ago. And it became very clear after about 20 seconds that she was like, who the bleep are you?

I was like, Okay, this is unusual. She was like, I'm gonna stop you. Do you have permission from Links to ask these questions? I was like, Yeah, I'd spoken to the store manager upstairs. Name. She was like, that's very interesting because I'm actually, I'm actually the area manager for Southeastern London for Links of London, the the parent company of that store.

And I haven't authorized this. I was like, well I'd love to know what you think about the problems with this store and what you think the opportunity is. And by the way, if you'd like to receive the data, I'd love to send it your way. She was like, I would like to receive that data. Thank you. And I'd also like to know how useful a store manager is.

And I'll be following up on that and I'll like, well, I'll be following up with you on what you think about their perceptions of the value because this might be something you want to repeat. So it turned a very alarming moment into a potentially very high-value one in about 10 seconds. But there was a big surprise there in 10 seconds where it could have gone either way. And that was, that was a bit spicy.

[00:16:38] Omer: All right. So a lot of companies talk about, you know, we're, we're a fast-growing SaaS company. You guys went from zero to first million in ARR in about, what? Seven months?

[00:16:51] Jeremy: Seven and a half months, I think.

[00:16:53] Omer: Seven and a half months. So tell me, tell me what, how, how did you do that?

Okay. So you, you, you've, you know, you've done some validation, you've done the the desk work, the research, and you, you've identified the market and the opportunity there. How did you go from zero to building a product? Getting it out there, figuring out, you know, the problems with it and fixing that and, and then selling it quickly enough to hit that million ARR so quickly.

[00:17:25] Jeremy: Yeah, so, so there's sort of two crucial periods in the first two and a half years in the life history of the company. So part one was I was trying to compress the first two years of product and fundraising and revenue and all of that stuff. From the outside that was the bit that I was a bit wary of as a, as a founder.

That long and extended period of scratching around for revenue and funding. And I wanted to find a way to kind of life hack that and went about that in a couple of different ways. The second period was November 2017, the subscription flip. So we had a whole bunch of people using the product as early beta users.

And then overnight, we basically said, you can only buy this on an ARR basis when you never had before and you need to commit to using it regularly and forever because we want you to, which is a big and bold move. We had a lot of sort of reasons to do that both commercially, but also our belief in why it would work, and that is what led to that master of reaching a million ARR quite quickly.

Happy to talk about either period. Do you want me to talk about both?

[00:18:30] Omer: Yeah, yeah. Let's, let's, let's uncover both of those. Cause I think there are some important lessons there that we can share.

[00:18:35] Jeremy: Yeah. So that first period of trying to compress two years of startup into four to six months, that was May 2015 to September 2015.

And I was trying to think about how do we get VC funding as quickly as possible so that we can start building this product. And particularly the back end will need to be very complicated to make a product that comes across as very simple. That's gonna be the crucial thing. And I want to do the slow and deliberate and scalable version as opposed to the series of the series of NPP versions.

I wanted to build the, the right thing for the long term with the right foundation first time. And to do that we needed VC funding. So I went about two things. One was to get 15 different customers, five people that I knew well to help us and you know, give us input and talk about the problems. And we used that for early prototyping and product development.

Another five where I didn't know the people, but I could find a way to reach them. Sort of second or third-hand connections, people who worked in target customers, but I didn't know and had no reason to help me. And then third group, another five who I would just contact completely cold, and these are names like American Express and Expedia. U Deal was in there to test out doing B2B all the way up to one of the UK's largest supermarkets who are still a customer today.

What I went to them with was a simple question. It's the same question I took to the Shops in Waterloo Station. What is the data that you wish you had that you don't have today that would make a huge difference to you and your performance this year, this quarter, this month, this week, or today? The thing where you want to know the most, but you have the least. And then out came from all these different groups for all the different reasons, thousands of things.

They all had this massive set of unfulfilled demand. And I said that's very interesting. And I used that input for two reasons. One, to build the product, and two, I got those 15 different companies to call various early-stage investors in the UK and say, please, can you invest in this company called Attest so that it can exist so I can buy their product?

So the first contact many investors had with the test was not with me, not with a pitch deck, not through the front door. It was a customer calling them to say, invest in this company so I can buy from it, please. And I wanted that to be the first impression people got because in 2000 VC pictures, particularly at seed stage, you have to do something weird to stand out, and that was one way to do it, was to hear it from customers.

The other thing I did was to go to pitch to VCs to say, please, can you invest in this product so it can exist because we have all this demand. But I deliberately went after Series B and C, VCs knowing full well that they couldn't invest. But A.) Looking for feedback on the pitch. What are the things in the long term you'd be looking for that we should start to build in today?

The scalability, the TAM, gross margins, things like that. And then B.) they would get to the end of the meeting and say, well, you know, I'm a series B investor. We are massive. We only write 20 million checks and up and you are in here looking for a single pre-seed check. So you know, I'd love to invest three to five years from now once you reach these milestones.

I was like, great, thanks again. I'll write down those milestones. And then they'd say, let me introduce you to these CVCs. The ones I recommend for you would be X, Y, and Z. And they usually list the same 10 to 15 names, and that's who I'd get the customers to call. And then suddenly those CVCs have two calls, one from a series B2C saying, please, can you invest in this company so I can invest in their series B when they're ready?

And one from customers saying, please, can you invest in this company so that I can buy their product because it solves a big need for me? And that was how we managed to get VC funding very quickly. Fortunately, that worked, but deep down it was all for product input as well as early-stage life hacking.

[00:22:09] Omer: Had you raised any money before or was this the first time you were going through this process?

[00:22:15] Jeremy: First time going through the process. Behind the scenes, I had a very small amount of savings from McKinsey and I agreed the tiny cash investment plus opportunity cost with my wife. So my wife was effectively the seed investor, mainly with the opportunity cost of me working for nothing for a period of time. She gave me four to six months. And that was the other reason why I was like, I have a material motivation to life hack one to two years of startup journey into four months. And that and that's how if innovation, if constraint breeds innovation, I thank my wife or the constraint of that early stage.

[00:22:51] Omer: So, So those steps that you took, you know, getting, getting customers or, or future customers, To call the VC and ask them to invest so they can buy the product. I think that's brilliant. How, how did you figure out the game plan? Like, you know, you've got this runway, you've already got the clock ticking.

Most people maybe would've just been, look, I'm not gonna waste time with series B investors. I'm gonna go directly to where the money is. I'm just gonna focus on going through the, you know what most founders. And here you were trying to persuade these, you know, potential customers to fall in love with this product that hasn't been created yet.

And then talking to series B investors, how did you figure that out and or was it kind of more, was it deliberate or was it accidental?

[00:23:42] Jeremy: It was deliberate and what I was trying to do was to use alignment of interest to defeat the two things that we didn't have. So we didn't have revenue and we didn't have product in particularly in European and London-based early-stage VC funding, unlike the US.

People are often looking for early flashes of revenue and growth rate and mass and early metrics, and they're trying to extrapolate those trends. We defacto didn't have any of those. We didn't have a product. What could I use as a proxy for revenue? Customer demand. What's the best way to validate customer demand in the eyes of VCs?

One way is to get case studies or quotes. Another way is to get the customers to call the VC and say, please invest in this company so it can exist, so I can buy. Better to hear it firsthand than secondhand. So I used the customer demand as a proxy for revenue, and I tried to deliberately engineer the maximum effect version of how potential investors would hear about that demand and effectively delete the question of revenue and replace it with demand exists is not gonna be a problem.

And because they've heard from a bunch of customers that it's not gonna. The second thing is I was trying to think about the interests of CVCs and most CVCs in Europe, they're interested in really helping very actively in early stages, getting in at an early stage with fair valuation, setting good standardized terms to build a platform for future investors to come in and then to take up prorata rights.

And I was thinking, okay, the motivation of the CBCs is to pick the best companies, but fundamentally they're in for an investment horizon, a return, and someone else is gonna pick up the lead role at series A or B, and then not the work of the CBC is done, but that's the, that's the principle concern they have on their minds.

Is it gonna succeed and who's gonna be interested in it for the next round? So the best way I could think of to defeat that concern was to hear directly from the source that the next round is very interested on the basis of SaaS business model, totally restful market. And a bunch of other things that I noted down as to what those VCs would want.

That's what I spoke about in my seed pitch. It was what the series B investors wanted. And then I also had demand from series B investors saying, these investors company, so it can exist, so I can lead their series B once they go into it. And that's what your funding is for and thanks.

So I was just trying to think about the interest, think about our assets, think about our gaps, try to fill in those gaps, and then try to put the assets to work in the greatest possible effect. And that ended up being a methodology that led to funding that then allowed us to build the product to actually do the stuff.

[00:26:19] Omer: How much did you end up raising and how long did it take for you to close that round?

[00:26:24] Jeremy: If I remember correctly, it was 650,000 pounds, which was a lot of money back in September 2015. So, that period was May 2015 to September 2015.

[00:26:34] Omer: And then how did you go about building the product?

[00:26:36] Jeremy: Well, I didn't so over a beer tap in a WeWork at an event called 3 Beards, Don't Pitch Me Bro, which is where a whole four startups pitch their idea and a bunch of people in the room give brutal feedback with beers and burritos.

I was pouring a beer for myself and then overwalked a person who was at the event as well, and he said, can you pull me one of those? And I gave him the one I was pouring and then poured one for myself. He was like, Oh, that was nice. Started talking with him and I'd been looking for this magical person who was something, something, something, technology, something, something, something SaaS something, something something architecture, something something, something product. And he was called Tony. He had also been working on a bunch of interesting ideas. He was looking for the right next idea. Wonderful experience and hypotheses about how to build a great, scalable company. His experience was in the backend architecture, which from my limited technical understanding, I knew would be a crucial foundation for a test in the long term.

And his interest was in building scalable systems. He was called Tony Hunter. And years of working together, he was foundational to what we did with that VC funding from September 2015 to where we started launching real products and getting customers to pay for it. For example, we decided very early on that we would have a, we knew that Attest would be useful in 50 to hundred countries and potentially 150 languages. So we built it to accommodate that from the very beginning.

That slowed us down in the early days, stopped us getting out to market. But it did mean that when it got to the point where we had customers very quickly saying, can I do this in lots of countries in parallel? Can I write, run these questions in Brazilian, Portuguese, and Portuguese Portuguese? And those need to be different. We could say, yep, we're gonna work on that for a week. And it was, it took a week to add and switch on rather than two months of rework of a monolith. So massive thanks to Tony for the beer, the burrito, the chat, and then all the things that followed that help us start the company as we meant to go on, which was in a very scalable way.

[00:28:39] Omer: So, getting that first version of the product launch, was that just Tony building that or did you have to hire developers?

[00:28:46] Jeremy: We hired several developers. We hired an amazing designer called Josh. We showed prototypes to those 15 early adopted customers deliberately knowing that five wanted to help us.

Five really didn't, and five were somewhere in the middle. And we waited for the feedback accordingly. We waited for feedback from the people who had no reason to help us much higher. We showed them prototypes. We heard all the reasons why it wouldn't work. We built things that they told us to build. We built other things that they didn't tell us to build, but that we believed that we could see around corners.

And it was during that period between September 2015 and November 2017 that we built out the backend, the prototypes of the product. All the different, many components need to come together to make this difficult thing looks simple. And then that we got people paying for it, you know, 10,000 here, 10,000 there on a kind of pay-as-you-go basis.

And then in November the first 2017, that's when we did the subscription flip. Big risk, big move. And we forced everyone to become ARR customers and said there is no other way to buy it. And that was a big risk, but with great confidence in that. Fortunately worked out well. It was part of the architecture decisions and the product process itself that gave us the confidence to do it that way.

[00:29:58] Omer: Okay. So I, I wanna go back to those first seven and a half months. So you, you, you launched the product and in, in terms of hit hitting that, that 1 million run rate, where did that come from? Was that mostly from the 15 customers or future customers that you'd been talking to and priming or did you have to go out and find new business as well to hit that 1 million?

[00:30:25] Jeremy: A lot of new, so all of the 15 committed to try the product. They, they've been trying it for six, nine months before, you know, terrible prototypes but that do very simple things and that, you know, they could use it for very simple and limited things and we managed to dial up their average contract value.

We managed to find ways to reduce our sales cycle by precluding various objections or questions around things like data security or privacy or confidentiality of information. That early product process allowed us to uncover, A.) a lot of feedback for the product itself, but B.) A lot of feedback for our go-to-market and buying processes and how to preclude and avoid problems as opposed to build with the certainty we'd be making this massive kind of operational black hole of process and engineering to satisfy buying requirements.

So we had approached the subscription flip in November 2017, we had a bunch of different companies beyond the original 15 using the product for random stuff when they remembered to do so. What we wanted instead was people who commit to using a test for a year or longer for not knowing what it's gonna be useful for, but knowing that it's definitely gonna be an activity that has significant value.

Because your biggest problem and what you need to know about your target customers is a moving target. And next week is gonna be very different from this week, as we've seen play out over the last few years indeed. So the subscription flip was A.) converting those existing users from effectively pay-as-you-go to ARR.

And then B.) The basis upon which we could unlock mostly through referrals, a whole bunch of other customers. And deep down, we knew that these were early adopters, so we were looking for referrals, the cheapest and most effective source of pipeline and leads referrals to people who were interested in our vision and mission, interested in providing product feedback, interested in using the simple functionality that the product had at that time to do something that was useful to them and they didn't care about the gaps.

We were looking for the perfect match of product and. And that was our early version of product market fit. It ended up that we converted a lot more of that nascent existing demand into ARR than we thought possible. Almost all of it, in fact, and people were prepared to commit to quite large numbers up front, and we discovered a lot about buying processes through that move alone.

And then through referrals, word of mouth, and then just diligently following up with a highly vision and mission-aligned proposition on you can use this project for magic things that solve your biggest and most valuable gaps in your understanding, your target customers. What does that mean for you?

That caused us to meet lots of interesting customers and they were prepared to commit on the same basis, and we still to this day have a remarkably fast sales cycle with a, you know, reasonably high average contract value. Put those two things together that makes us very fast moving through markets and sales processes, but also quite working capital efficient.

And that ended up being a good formula for fueling a bunch of different go-to-market motions that followed.

[00:33:22] Omer: So how, how long is your sales cycle and what is your average contract value?

[00:33:26] Jeremy: Sales cycle. 29 to 30 days, average contract value is about $45,000, but goes down to 20,000 and up to many, many six figures.

[00:33:36] Omer: So why do you think you're, you're able to close that quickly in these, these size deals? Is it, is it because, you've hit an issue that clearly resonates with your target market?

[00:33:52] Jeremy: At a moment where they need it urgently. So exactly what you said, but at a moment where they have a specific need. So where Attest starts best is where a B2Cwbusiness suddenly realizes, Wow, we are completely failing in three of our 30 global markets, and we don't know why.

What do these mysterious Germans want from? I don't know. I've never known. And clearly, we don't know and it's not working. What do they want? What do they buy instead of Fever Tree tonic water? What do they wanna mix it with? Why don't they buy it? Is it the photos? Is it the word Fever Tree doesn't translate well, is it cuz it's British?

Is it the price point? Is it the color scheme? Is there another tonic water brand in Germany that we haven't heard of yet? What is it? Why don't you want our thing? And at Attestt, we can just say, let's ask them. Let's ask them right now. You'll start seeing results in minutes. Let's just start, and by starting now you'll find out what you actually wanted to ask was something else, and you can ask that later today or tomorrow.

Just start, and that ends up being quite a compelling thing that people want to start very quickly.

[00:34:57] Omer: Is that doing a demo like that, is that part of the, the sales process and actually, like, you know, pushing out some question and, and, and kind of getting that back. That's gotta be pretty powerful.

[00:35:08] Jeremy: It can be. So we do that sometimes in our sales process. We also, there's a free version of our product that anyone can try and use. Happy to send a link if that's helpful. And you can use that to ask our show anything to a hundred people in the US or the UK. And people use that for wild stuff. We often get CMOs using that trial and freemium version in secret to test their weirdest and wildest ideas. And every now and then, one of those makes it out into the ecosystem and we can see loads of other people in their company testing that idea and the iterations. And it's just fascinating to see that behavior. That's what we want.

That's why we're here and that's why we exist. But now we tend to blend together a whole bunch of different buying processes and buying journeys because we're expanding a market and fulfilling demand that previously had no home before. We need to offer a whole bunch of different ways to learn about it.

There's a whole bunch of objections or barriers as to why you wouldn't do research or why you wouldn't use Attest or why you wouldn't start now. And can I write the right questions? Can I use this data? Or it starts arriving every day. Can I do it in Brazil as well as Canada? Can you do videos in New Zealand?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. And just go for it, it's the answer to all about. But different buyers want to discover these things and try these things in different ways. So we offer quite a wide number of different discovery and buying processes and quite a number of different go-to-market motions. We use product-led, we use marketing-led, sales-led.

Land and expand is big for us, particularly in certain verticals and, and buyer personas. So we, we've sort of let the buyer choose how they want to learn about this product, and what comes back is whatever suits them. Supporting all of that is difficult. Fitting it all together is quite difficult.

Attribution and ROI is also very, therefore very difficult, but, that's part of the gift of having a large TAM in that deep down, none of that really matters. We offer what the customer wants to do and how they want to discover it, and we are here at the end to make it real in the product.

[00:37:05] Omer: How, how big is the business today? What are you doing in terms of revenue? What's the size of the team?

[00:37:09] Jeremy: We are 167 people split across London, New York, and then a bunch of other interesting places all over the place. We are well over, I can't say the exact number, but let's go with a while ago. We, cross 10 million ARR and we're well over.

That now. And then we have, we track user SaaS metrics around payback magic number, gross margins, new logo ACV, install base ACV different expansion motions, the drivers of those expansion motions, things like that. That's part of the engineering and alchemy that helps us put our product and our vision and mission in more people's hands. And deep down we exist to make that really simple.

[00:37:48] Omer: And that's over $10 million ARR.

[00:37:52] Jeremy: Yes. And that's a while back now.

[00:37:54] Omer: Great. And, and in terms of funding, you're now raised about what? 104 million?

[00:37:58] Jeremy: About that, depending on FX rates. Yep.

[00:38:00] Omer: I wanna talk a little bit about freemium. That was something that you tried. You said you have a free plan, but you tried something else that didn't work out quite as you expected.

[00:38:11] Jeremy: Yeah. This is going back probably 18 months plus now. So, I mean, freemium, freemium is pretty much flavor of the month. Still now, as is product-led, I just came back from SaaS, the big SaaS event on the West Coast, and everyone's still talking about product-led as a source of great efficiency and scalability, particularly for lower average contract value businesses or, you know, user or seats based businesses.

We've, we tried to jump on that 18 months ago and it completely bombed, so we tried to create a kind of notion style. Try it for free. Slack style under a certain limit of users. You know you don't really pay anything. And then we'll try to build that as kind of a nurture campaign. Keeping the cost of service low, but keeping the conversion and intent high.

Giving some value to customers, but withholding some of it. We just could never find the right set of conditions where two problems were satisfied. One, when we give away a product, which is so valuable, like Attest with such, you know, such high ACV across our users. When you give it away for free, people start to wonder about the quality, and that ended up being a real problem.

We spend a huge amount of effort on data quality and validation across a whole bunch of things that we do. Just to make sure that the data that reaches our customers is as accurate as we can make it and continuously improving, but giving it away for free ended up being, it ended up causing users to ask questions that have great answers, but take a long time to answer. So premium when it's meant to create great demand and scalability and speed things up and allow users to self-educate.

It worked really well for all those things, except they were self-educating towards the wrong problems and questions that we can answer, but slow things down. The other thing we found is that we started to see the premium product not really working as a nurture campaign. We never really found a way to convert people out of that, into ARR and expanding contracts.

We missed the thing that was so important for us in our other go-to-market motions, which is, there's a, there's a reason right now that I wish I knew more about target customers, and I only know that's gonna continue. And yes, this is something I should have been doing for my whole life, but there's a reason I'm willing to start now.

And the freemium product just caused that question to be less urgent and give you a little bit of data when what you needed was a lot of commitment to make a change that you should have made many decades ago. So we've just found that for us freemium was dilutive to our vision and mission and unhelpful to our buyers, and also to us, and we maintain part of that free experience in the free trial thing.

But that's much more about experiencing the product in a, you know, simplified form than it is about a true nurture campaign where you can live in that free version forever. And we hope you convert. We kind of use it in the exact opposite way. We use it almost as a marketing asset. One day we'll conquer this freemium thing and we'll grow, we'll grow like Notion or other freemium products that do it so well.

But we haven't cracked it yet, and we spent 18 months coming to the point where we've got a really useful thing. But it works in a completely different way than we ever imagined.

[00:41:29] Omer: And so today, the current free plan, it's just basically there's a limit on what people can do?

[00:41:34] Jeremy: Yeah, you can use your email, sign up, use it to show, show things or ask things to up to a hundred people in the US or UK and people, you, we encourage people to use it for ridiculous stuff like whimsical dreams or personal pet projects.

Almost like it's thrown away and for fun because it is thrown away and for fun. It is not the full product. It's just a way to get a taste of what Attest does and see how it works and we almost use that like a Super Mario warp pipe from top of funnel to three-quarters of the way down.

Like what does the product do? What is my use case? Where should I start? That freemium journey gets you to the point where you're like, Oh, wow. I have three more questions now. I've seen what it does. I get it. Does it work in Canada? Can I run it in a hundred countries in parallel? And can I use it for testing podcast ads? Yes. Yes, Yes. Let me show you how great is your package go.

[00:42:25] Omer: All right couple more questions before we wrap up. Firstly, I wanna understand what was the competitive landscape when you set out to build Attest. Were there other products out there that we're kind of doing something similar but not executing, you know, as well as you thought you could, or was this a new product category? Like what was the situation there?

[00:42:47] Jeremy: So there were loads of products and we suffer from this confusion to this day. So there's sort of three categories of competitors that we looked at in the early days. One was market research agencies, Kantar, Nielsen, IPSOS. They're not competitors, but we, we do need to explain why we aren't them.

Second is form tools or survey tools Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, Typeform, Google Forms. And some of those have sort of built-in create audience capabilities. Those are really useful for understanding your existing customers or mailing lists for CX or UX purposes. And then they had these little bits where you could do extra bits on top of that.

But we also had to make it very clear how we aren't those things and without making it too long-winded to understand for the customer why we're different and why you should choose Attest for this magic thing you need to do. And then third, where there are a number of companies where there's an app where you could ask questions and get answers quickly, and I love those companies.

They do wonderful things very simply. But fundamentally, they're limited to the one app where you can ask the questions in one way for one incentive. And in, you know, in my view, the totality of supply of responses should come from a whole bunch of different channels for a whole bunch of different incentives, for a whole bunch of different reasons.

Do a whole bunch of different devices, not app for cash for a few questions, but how do we get old people in Scandinavia? How do we get wealthy people to talk about asset management? That problem needs to be defeated too. So, early days, we had to be prepared to defend ourselves and explain why we aren't any of those three things.

And then over time, that question gradually melted away. Right now, we do compete against some of those things from time to time, but most of the time we're competing against guesswork, against apathy against nothing, which is what we wanted. That's our vision and mission, and that's what's happening. So we did have to compete with this whole seemingly saturated existing market, but making a product that was for very different buyers and for very different use cases of very different forms of demand, keeping it simple was the key.

And that's been what's the truth that's fueled all of our product and go-to-market work since then.

[00:44:58] Omer: Now, in the early days you were the one going out and doing all the outbound sales, and there was something you told me before we started recording, which was kind of a fun fact about a couple of terms that you, you hadn't heard before. Just share that story cause I think that was kind of a fun way to, to wrap this.

[00:45:18] Jeremy: Oh no, how embarrassing. , thank you for bringing this up. So, I mean, let's go straight for the headline. Even 18 months after our first arr, I hadn't heard of the term SDR or BDR or BizDev at all. That was the time where we started hiring our first sort of proper sales team, and that was completely new to me.

And looking back at what is SaaS, that is the core of many go-to-market motions. The outbound sdr, cold calling, cold email scalability thing, 18 months into a test. I hadn't heard about that and I went to various events and people were like, Yeah, we get our SDRs and the motion, you know, 70% of our, of our go-to-market motion is outbound.

The rest with paying where I with stuff, I'm like, hang on, 70% is what? SD, SDR, what does that stand for? They're like Sales Development Rep. You might know them as BDRs. I'm like, What are those the same thing? They're like, are you serious? You haven't heard about this? I'm like, Hmm. Interesting. And looking back, maybe that was a gift because even now we have a really nice balance between outbound-inbound sales, led marketing, led product, led premium, assist versions.

And having that balance is something that by accident we have from the beginning. But that was a really embarrassing moment for me where I was like one of the principal components of most SaaS companies, even 18 months in, never heard of it, didn't know what it was, had to learn on the spot. I think the key is never be ashamed about these things.

Learn quickly was like, we should probably do that. Worked quite well. Good times. Shout out to the SDR team we have downstairs here doing a really great job. Wonderful. Love all of you. Sorry, I hadn't heard about you, but we have now.

[00:46:58] Omer: Love it. Well, thank you for sharing that. Appreciate that. Let's wrap up. We're gonna go into the lightning round. I've got seven quick-fire questions for you. Just try to answer 'em as quickly as you can. Are you ready?

[00:47:08] Jeremy: Yep.

[00:47:09] Omer: What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

[00:47:12] Jeremy: Trust your instincts. The first time I was managing a team at McKinsey, never managed people before. Always a high-pressure situation, new country, new team, new people, a sector and industry I'd never worked on before. And yet I had to lead this team of four people to do a thing that no one knew how to do. I asked a close mentor, he's called Sameer Aggarwal for advice. He went on to run large parts of KFC in Walmart, in India.

Shout out to you, Sam, if you're listening. And he said, “Trust your instincts. Keep it simple. Just left it there.” I was like, I was looking for something really complicated and wise. He just said, Oh, you already know how to do it. Trust your instincts and go for it. And I think what he really meant was trust your instincts.

Try fail and then learn. And that's how you'll improve. Good luck. That was great.

[00:47:56] Omer: What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

[00:47:59] Jeremy: I'd recommend Prisoners of Geography. It's one of the, my favorite books I've read in the last few years. It's about how physical geography dictates human culture, not political borders drawn by people or generals or strange divisions of natural aggregations of people and ecologies.

It explains everything from peace in the Middle East and why it's difficult through to why the US is such an amazing market for economic growth through to the British Empire and how it lived and died and one belt, one road and what's exactly going on there. It explains all these things but from a physical geography angle.

Very beautiful reframing of how we think about long-held assumptions. And I love that book, A.) Because it's about facts and data and applying facts to explain unspeakable things. And then B.) Causes you to reframe and challenge long-held assumptions and understand things in a way you didn't really get before. And that's one of many things we love at Attest.

[00:49:04] Omer: Interesting. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

[00:49:08] Jeremy: Probably one quite subjective to us, but I, I like suicidal transparency with teams, with customers straight down the middle. Say exactly how it is, say what we're doing about it.

When there are problems, zone up to it. Put the bad news first. Show people. Help them learn from the experiences of all of the successes and failures of startups. Admit problems with the product. Be honest about it. That approach never, never backfires. Suicidal transparency. So, I wouldn't say that's a characteristic of all successful founders, but that's, that's one that we like to stick with here, and that's one that personally I hold very true.

[00:49:45] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

[00:49:49] Jeremy: I like to, as I approach a meeting, and I've called this to become a habit, think for 2 to 10 seconds, what's the one thing I want to get out of this, or what's the one thing I want to feel at the end of this? And then I make sure by the end of whatever it is, whether it's an investor pitch or a sales meeting or hiring, what's the one thing that you know is a good outcome here?

And then spend the time making sure that that one thing happens. But to really do that deliberately at the start and then make sure that it's always useful at the end. I used to have a colleague who'd do that in the lift on the way up to a meeting. He'd close his eyes, so I was like, What are you doing, Michael? That's pretty weird. And he explained I was. Okay. I can see how that gives you great clarity of intent and focus, and thanks very much for that.

[00:50:33] Omer: What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

[00:50:36] Jeremy: I'm, I'm obsessed with a whole bunch of different ways of looking for, for new ideas, and I see them everywhere.

One of my favorites is looking for sources of waste. So in my mind, I've got a story about how the delivery companies were founded. They saw all of the mopeds outside dominoes hugely underutilized. The drivers doing nothing. The mopeds sitting. What if those could be shared assets rather than proprietary to each store and constantly either over or underutilized? Sources of waste is a framing I look out at all the time.

So a new crazy business idea I think about often and I think about a bunch, but one of them is circular economy, linking together different assets and liabilities. Inputs and outputs of different businesses and how you could make many different businesses more efficient if only they could share things more easily.

So if I wasn't doing a test, I'd be working on that.

[00:51:27] Omer: What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

[00:51:30] Jeremy: Well, I already, I already gave away, I think, my marine life obsession, but I know the Latin names of many Caribbean reef fish, invertebrates, algae, and all corals president in the Roatan and Utila area of Honduras.

I know the Latin names of many strange animals and why they behave the way they do. I know. Ever since I was a little kid, I've been obsessed with drawing, learning about marine life, underwater worlds, hence the Jacques Cousteau quote earlier. So it's an interesting or fun factor that I've obsessed with marine life and underwater worlds and learning about them amongst many other things, but most people that have met me know about that quite quickly.

[00:52:10] Omer: And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work and your marine life interest?

[00:52:17] Jeremy: Everyone at Attest gets to spend 10% of their time working on Charity Society, helping the world around us, and people use that in a bunch of different ways. Mentoring, working with charities, supporting things like the tech talent charter through, you know, data collection analysis across a whole bunch of different companies.

That's our team that does that. Personally for the last eight years I've worked with REAch2, which is a, a charity that runs 60, now 60 primary schools all over the UK and we're looking to improve the, how those primary schools work together. And I think my favorite statistic is when they joined REAch2 17% of those 60 schools were good or outstanding on the off stead scale today, that number I think is 85%.

So a very material change in a short period of time in a sector which is quite hard to evolve and change all through. Just different execution, different ways of working, understanding where great success and change comes from. So I, I was a trustee of REAch2 for eight years, chair for four years, and I, I love seeing the impact that that permanent gift of education can have and making that a good or outstanding education when it might not have been otherwise.

I think that's a wonderful thing and helping transform a sector that's quite difficult to change. That's another thing that I personally find very fascinating, but also creates wonderful impact out there in.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. It's been a great conversation. Congratulations on the success to date with Attest, and I'm looking forward to seeing where you continue to take this business.

If people wanna find out more, they can go to attest.com, that's a-t-t-e-s-t.com. And if people wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that? LinkedIn. I'm on there. Through Attest. We have lots of different ways as I mentioned, that you can come and learn about Attest and discover our product.

Always happy to chat there. And it's not hard to guess. My email address, first name dot last name domain, go for that or come find us in New York. We're, we're always open to chat. And thank you very much for the time. It's been wonderful to chat and, but no need for any congratulations. I think if you round our market share of our opportunity, the nearest number, that's 0%.

So maybe congratulate when we get to one market share.

[00:54:31] Omer: 1%. Yeah. We'll celebrate that. All right. Awesome. Thank you so much, Jeremy. It's been a pleasure. Cheers.

[00:54:37] Jeremy: Been a pleasure.

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The Show Notes