Tech Founder, Product and Growth

Hi there! I’m Nick, a tech founder living in London. Between 2007 and 2020 I took my startup, CloudMade from a bedroom to exit and growth.

I’ve always found myself at the intersection of product management, sales and marketing (what you’d call growth today).

Helping Founders Find Their Focus

Today I help founders and their leadership teams find their focus.

I’ve created a strategy program through which I help founders align their teams behind high-growth product strategies, I run a short course all about finding product-market fit, I’ve just published an e-book all about hiring your startup’s first product manager, and I advise and coach a few startups and product leaders.

Getting Started: Competing Against Google

In 2007, at the age of 25 we raised €2.4M Series A to turn CloudMade into a Google Maps competitor. Over the next 3 years we signed up 20,000 developers to our fully fledged competitor to Google’s Maps API. My weeks were spent talking to developers in the fledgling Apple and Google ecosystems, turning their needs into Google-beating features.

The party came to an abrupt ending when, low on cash and out of runway, we failed to convert our free developers to paid and our in-house location based ads market place failed to cold-start.

From this I learned:

  • Validate your business model (in this case, developers’ willingness to pay) early on
  • Cold-starting market places requires a lot of planning and great execution
  • It is possible for a small startup with an inferior product to find a niche and compete against Google

The Power of the Pivot

Strapped for cash and hunting for a business model, in 2011 I’d moved to San Francisco and leant how B2B direct sales works. We gradually refined our value proposition and hit upon the ideal customer, someone with a burning need for innovative location based services. In 2012, in-car GPS/Sat-Navs were selling 100M units a year at an ASP of £150. CloudMade successfully pivoted our value proposition into a new market and found a new lifeline.

From this I learned:

  • Email lists, cold calls and persistence pay off
  • Your first 10 B2B customers need to be desperate with money to spend
  • Everything is easier when you’re immersed in a community of like-minded people

How to Listen to Customers and Hustle

By 2014 the GPS market was being killed by Google Maps. We’d found a nice niche selling our location based services products to car makers like Daimler, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, but we could see the party was once again coming to an end.

We took a strategic leap and, this time, we pivoted both our value proposition and technology to address a completely new set of needs in the connected car space. Through intense discussions with customers (car makers), primary research with end-users (drivers) and our own imagination, we designed what would eventually become CloudMade’s in-car personalisation product.

After a series of customer wins, in 2016 CloudMade was acquired and I stayed on-board with the acquirer to scale.

From this I learned:

  • The magical combination of customer insights delivered via a stunning user-experience to a hungry corporate audience

  • What it feels like to work in a small, close-knit team as you start to find fit

  • The incredible importance of good personal habits to prevent burnout and maintain good mental health

Money Doesn’t Make All Your Problems Disappear

Between 2016 and 2020 we invested heavily to build demo-cars, demo-apps, run global user-research studies and grow our team to 150 people, with 20 in product management, research and design.

From this I learned:

  • Going past 25 people in a startup is extremely hard and requires new skills and mindsets from founders and the leadership team
  • A command and control management style will not scale and is no fun at all
  • Culture needs to be cultivated and cared for; and ultimately the founder’s role is to create the conditions in which talented people can thrive.

What Comes Next

Since 2020 I’ve been helping startup founders find their focus whilst incubating a few future projects.

To find out more, join my mailing list, read my e-book about hiring your first product manager, or get in touch.