Crozdesk is an innovative platform for entrepreneurs, web developers and designers who need to find the right tools and apps fast.
The company was set up ten months ago by founder and CEO Nicholas Hopper.
He is speaking at Web Summit next week in Dublin, and we had a chance to catch up with him before this event.
In this interview, Nicholas offers practical tips for business people running a startup and shares his insights into what makes a great elevator pitch.
Q. What’s your elevator pitch?
A. What we do is we help businesses find cloud software products. So anything from accountancy to HR to many, many others.
We have over 110 different business categories covering pretty much all business functions. Businesses can compare various different software products through our platform at Crozdesk.com.
Q. Had you spent a lot of time preparing your pitch?
A. A good pitch is all about problem solving.
I spent some time preparing the slides, but we’re still going to work through that. I am going to make sure everything is up to the standard on the day.
Q. When you think of the businesses you admire most today, is there anyone in particular that would stand out?
A. I’ve been impressed by Slack and how they manage to focus on user experience and develop such a good user experience.
They went through the roof very quickly.
Q. Are there any leaders in business that you admire?
A. I read a lot from Neil Patel, he’s the founder of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg and one other analytics company.
He’s very good at promoting businesses, and I really like the blog posts he puts up.
Q. Where do you go for advice when you’ve a problem in your business or challenge you want to overcome?
A. I know quite a lot of other founders in London. We try to get together every once in a while, exchange ideas and discuss problems.
It’s always difficult to find people who actually know what you’re going through, who can really help you out and have some experience of the same thing you’re working on.
I always try to pass on the knowledge that I gain to other people who are just starting out.
Q. What are the common challenges that start-ups face?
A. When you start out at the beginning and you don’t have a huge amount of experience…you have to figure stuff out.
There’s a lot of overlap between start-ups but each start-up has a unique focus and therefore unique problems too.
This can include anything from fundraising to sorting out accountancy and the legal bits and pieces.
Q. How do you manage your time?
A. I try to put out fires if they come up. Often you don’t really have a choice to structure your day the way you want to.
If there’s some sort of bug that needs to be fixed, then you have to focus on that right away.
I generally try to build a priority list and then work it down.
Q. What kind of personal qualities do you think someone would need if they wanted to succeed at a start-up?
A. The most important thing here is persistence and grit especially the first few months. There are lots of ups and downs, and I know a lot of people who just quit when they hit a down.
I started the first version of what turned into Crozdesk with 4 friends of mine.
However after a few months when it wasn’t going so well, all of them left. I soldiered on, raised some funds, recruited a new team and made it happen.
Initially it’s quite hard to find people who don’t give up easily.
We changed the name and the focus, and we pivoted a lot in the first few months. We tried to find product market fits and switched around a bit.
Q. Did you work for anyone else before you founded Crozdesk?
A. I started Crozdesk when I was studying my Masters… I worked before, but not directly in the field I’m in now. It’s always good to do some field work and test the idea thoroughly before you make that jump.
When I was in university working on this idea, it wasn’t going so well initially, and I had some job offers in the balance. But at some stage, you just have to cut your safety net.
I turned all job offers down to fully commit to the start-up.
Q. Is there any advice you could share with business people who are about to make that crucial first hire?
A. I, initially, didn’t make the best hiring decision, and I’m still trying to figure that side of the business out.
It’s very important to find the right people and it can be challenging to find the perfect person for whatever job position you have to fill.
What I learned is you very quickly see whether a person is actually up for the job and the right person for it.
I always try to help them out as much as possible, keep them coming along and try to train them as much as possible in the different job positions.
If it doesn’t work out in the first few weeks then I think it might be best for all parties involved if you went separate ways.
It’s quite difficult if it’s your first company to make those tough decisions but it’s very crucial for any young company.
Q. How do you balance work and everything outside of work?
A. I do work a lot but at this stage of my life I think this is what I want to do.
I’m having fun doing it so it’s just about trying to make work as enjoyable as possible I guess then you won’t mind putting in the extra hours.
Q. How important do you think networking is for start-ups?
A. Networking is very important especially to find the right people to join your business or to establish strategic partnerships.
I do try to put in quite a lot of time at networking events here in London, and I do go to conferences.
That’s one of the main reasons we decided to go to Web Summit.
Q. Are there any tips you could offer maybe to somebody who is shy about networking?
A. I’ve found that, especially in the tech scene, everyone is quite open.
Networking events are meant for networking so just by walking up to someone and asking for their name, I think that worked quite well for me in the past.
There’s no real formula; it’s just about meeting people, having fun and exchanging ideas.
Q. Are there any business books that have made a big influence on you?
A. I recommend The Lean Startup and Peter Thiel’s From Zero to One.