Healthcare is not nice, so Thompson Aderinkomi co-founded Nice Healthcare to set out to change that.
Nice is a direct primary care practice that delivers all care in the comfort of the patient’s home. Thompson is also co-founder and CEO of Relate, an intelligent platform that helps people be better versions of themselves. Previously, in 2009, he co-founded Evidity, a healthcare data analytics firm serving the physician market. He also co-founded RetraceHealth in 2013, a direct primary care medical practice that went on to raise over $7 million.
In this talk, Thompson will share how he has come to understand why so many of the things people know to be true about growing a successful business are simply not true. His experiences as a serial entrepreneur have taught him to question the orthodoxy and why deciding on the right course is down to you. He will leave you with an understanding of how you can ask the right questions through some very honest and personal experiences.
All right. You can ask Mark. I get asked to speak quite often and I actually don’t like to do it. I mean my ideal environment is at home, alone in the dark, not talking to anybody, just working at my company, or hanging out with my wife and kids. And when Mark asked me, I was – when anybody asks – always looking for reasons not to do it. And I was like, ‘Mark, I don’t know how I fit in, like the Business of Software … am I really going to have anything to provide a value to the audience?’ and he assured me that I would. And what we landed on was me taking you through my story as an entrepreneur, but in a slightly different way than I’ve ever told it before. And the thing that is unique about my story is that I was blessed (looking back in hindsight) with the opportunity to start the same company twice within a very short time period. So less than a year in between the ending of the first version and the starting of the second version. And almost all the variables were the same; the same team, the same founders, the same customers in many instances, and because it’s the health care industry things don’t change very quickly in health care.
So not much changed over the course of a year. And it really makes me think of Jean-Luc Picard. I’m personally really excited by the return of Captain Picard – is anyone else here excited?
[cheers and applause from trekkies in audience]
I’m very excited and it’s not going to be exactly like The Next Generation you know but there’s going to be hints, there’s going to be illusions, there’s going to be connections and there’s going to be things to learn. And I encourage everybody to re-watch The Next Generation before the next season starts up.
But first off let’s talk about starting companies. When I was first thinking of starting my first company, I was getting all this advice like ‘no quit your job and do it full time’. ‘Don’t quit your job, do it part time and work overnight’, ‘you got to iterate and test’ and ‘lean startup! Lean Startup! Lean Startup!’ and all the things all the frameworks all the advice and rarely did anything agree with one another. So, to come up with my own framework for what I was going to do. And what I did with the first version I said, ‘What do I think sales is going to be like and what do I think the operations of the company are going to be like?’. And so, my company is basically a clinic that comes to your house. A medical clinic that comes to your house. So heavy on the technology but pretty heavy on the people sign the service side as well. So we had to blend both and I and I really at that time want to try and start without quitting what I was doing because I recognize the risks that would be placing on my family – I married at the time only had one child – and so I did all this analysis and I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Because I realised that the sales cycle was going to incredibly long. It’s health care. The sales cycles about a yearlong there’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter if you’re what you’re selling is $5 a year in contract value or $5million dollars a year in contract value. It all goes the same in health care.
The second thing was it was clearly not a pure SaaS model. So, there was an actual last mile service component to the business but so I realised that I couldn’t take advice from people in that quadrant. So, I divided all my advice into different quadrants this quadrant didn’t apply to me.
So I looked at another quadrant and there’s people saying ‘Yeah you’ve got to work on the sales at night, you know you’ve got to automate things with operations you’ve got to jump in and dig in right away. ‘And I realise again this did not apply to my business.
There’s a third quadrant you can be in obviously. I’m going here where it’s the opposite where you quit your job because you have to sell. Like you jump in and you’re out on the road and you’re selling, selling, selling. Building that pipeline knowing that the sales cycle is incredibly long, but the operations are pretty automated. And there’s not a lot of people involved. Maybe there’s developers that you’re contracting, or there’s someone on your founding team.
I was squarely in this fourth quadrant. So right away big risk; like incredibly risky venture from a personal standpoint. When trying to start something like this because you need multiple people to quit their jobs you can’t get it going on the side, you can’t get it going overnight, you can’t get it going on weekends, you have to jump in when there’s zero revenue and start spending money. Is there anyone here who started a company that kind of fits that mould? Where you had to start spending thousands of dollars- 10s/20s/30s – before you started? We’ve got one, we’ve got two. We’ve got a couple. We’ve got three.
All right. So, you’ve got you so you probably can relate and understand what I’m talking about. Not that it’s a harder type of business it’s just that the risk curve is slightly different. A lot of the risk is front loaded on your business. So, I quit my job. I was consulting, I was making plenty of money you know charging insurance companies as a contract health economist – that was my background and training – and I stopped doing it. Like the hourly wage everything just dried up and I jumped headlong into this company that I believed would work.
I was passionate about it and knew it had to succeed. And I knew that because a solution was so valuable, and so on point, in terms of who was going to serve that it wouldn’t take long. That maybe I would short circuit the sales cycle. That was actually what I was thinking back in 2012. I would short circuit it and everyone my founder friends also in the health care tech space he said, ‘Thompson nobody ever shorts the sales cycle in health care and you’re not going to do it either’. And I laughed. Ha ha ha ha! I’m going to short that thing, get it down to three to six months and we make this thing work and I’m not going to have to go into too much debt, not going to have to raise money to do any of that stuff.
Well that’s not what happened.
So, as you can see here in the first company these are the about the first year just shy of a year. And right out of the gate our monthly spend was $25k. Like no customers. No anything. There is literally no way to get the company started without spending money. Because we have an app, we have providers, we were drawing blood, we had centrifuges, people are coming to your house, we don’t know when people get sick so you have to have the capacity there to serve them, and you have to have this great experience. And all my founder friends are like ‘Why are you hiring all these people? Why are you building all this stuff? Why are we doing this – lean startup! Lean Startup! Iterate! Iterate! Test, test, tests.
And there is no test here. There’s no test. No experiment. You just you either have to do it and hope it works or you don’t. So, as you can see, it didn’t feel good. I was using my own personal money; I didn’t borrow any money at this stage or two individuals that I knew on a couple of different boards, and they each put in about $15,000 so I helped kick start the process but still as you can see here almost a year of no revenue.
We were direct to consumer that in the beginning of the business and the way we started was we sold lifetime memberships to consumers. We said ‘hey join this crazy new way to get medical care. You pay this one fee, and you’ll have access to medical care for the rest of your life.’ And I thought, surely, we could sell a thousand in a month. Because health care in this country is ridiculously expensive. Access to care is dismal depending on the market that you’re in. It just didn’t occur to me at all why someone would say no to this.
So, we started to get a little bit of traction – just a tiny bit. But as you can see, I mean it doesn’t really instil confidence. If you if you get what I mean and looking back in hindsight I can laugh at all this, but it felt terrible absolutely terrible. But in any one of those months even maybe even past a fourth a month if I would’ve quit the company to shut it down, I don’t think anybody would have laughed. I don’t think anybody would’ve said I made the wrong decision. I don’t think they would think I was not taking a big enough risk or stepping out. They would have looked at is there a logical thing you. You’re spending $25,000 a month and you’re not generating any revenue. You’re not even getting a smidgen of feedback or validation that this business actually makes any sense whatsoever.
But yet I continue to plough through I remember one of the lowest points for me – now I’m piling on debt, I am at a couple hundred thousand dollars in personal debt – and the way I was funding this is that consulting job I was doing on the side I told you about, one of my customers I was able to bring in some my own people. And so, I was using the profits from that to fund this business. On top of dumping all savings, 401K, everything into the business. And there was one point in this journey up to this point here in the first company – where I didn’t have any money – like literally had no money. I mean the credit cards are maxed out. Banking account was negative. You know how Wells Fargo does it. And we need to go to Target and buy diapers for my first born son who is still in diapers at that time. And I knew that we didn’t have money to buy diapers. Like I knew it and fortunately some money came in and I was able to take some of that and buy diapers the next day. It was like one of those miracle situations it comes to, and that’s where I was at this point but yet continued to plough on.
And so, you see when you see the yellow mark in January that’s when we switched from direct to consumer to direct to business. I had a few interactions here and there and one thing led to another, and I got turned onto this idea of selling to businesses instead assigned to consumers. And so, we started to get a little bit more traction but still not enough. And at the end of this chart right here I’m almost a half a million dollars in personal debt. Like credit cards, like everything. Like it’s on me I borrowed money from my little brother even. My parents. I tapped everything out, but I believed in the idea.
But all the startup wisdom at the time was telling me to quit. Was telling me to stop. Telling me that I jumped in too early. You know, you didn’t validate, you didn’t test. You didn’t do this. You didn’t do that. And not that I don’t believe about testing and validation all that stuff. I just mean sometimes you can’t do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Fortunately, through some effort we are able to raise a $1million seed round for this first company. So, I was able to burn down some of that debt, was able to hire a few more people, increase a service level, and keep on ploughing forward. And that million dollar seed round was made up of corporate ventures. So, no VCs per say in that model. They’re all corporate but they’re all big industry multibillion dollar corporations. So, I was looking at that as validation here some market validation from the market telling me that you are on the right track and you’re just off to a rough start. You know we have to figure things out. You didn’t raise $10million on an idea on a napkin.
So, in 2016 things really start to pick up. It became very clear that things were working. Our monthly burn increased slightly. And things were starting to look pretty good. Like they’re starting to make sense. If you were to start the chart at February or January 2015 it would make most people feel good. That’s how most people present themselves on Twitter and LinkedIn and tech crunch all that kind of stuff. They start it right there, but it actually starts back in October 2013 and that’s not even to talk about the people that quit and never even made it. And then we raised $7million in a series A and we thought we were off to the races.
Four months later
Unfortunately for me. What happened is four months after that series A, the series A investors led an effort to kick me out of the company. Four months literally I mean people are like are you sure it was four months? Like is your memory working like no. No. It was four months! You don’t forget you know millions of dollars in your checking account and then four months later you’re gone. And I had another marker to help me remember: my second son was born in that period in that month where they really kind of put on the effort to kick me out of the company.
So, I’ll never forget you know millions of dollars, second son born, things are finally working after all that sweat all that work all that risk and now, I’m gone. Poof. Like forever from the company. And then four months after they kicked me out of the company, they shut down the company.
And not for lack of working I mean it was working. I mean the contracts were rolling in, the team was in place, it was gelling great culture all the stuff you read on Twitter. I could have been on any of those Twitter posts that you were reading at this point in the company. But yet four months after they kicked me out, they shut down the company. And I can smile and laugh and talk to you about it on stage right now but that was an incredibly hard point in my life as a founder. Because it wasn’t my first company either. So, it was my third attempt at doing a company. And finally, I got something to work. And I thought I was following all the rules and doing all the things right. Except for the whole quitting your job and not having money and you know going into crazy debt. Except for that part I thought I was doing everything right. And then I got snatched. Taken away from me.
And I really hope it never happens to anyone in this room. Like ever. Like I want you all to be incredibly successful on your own terms and not have to take the road that I had to travel to get there, because it really sucks. So, this is a chart of the second company. So what happened is after they shut down the company – now this is what eight nine months after they put in money – all the customers came to me as a civilian I called myself as civilian because I was kind of outside the startup bubble, I was doing my own thing, I became a stay at home dad, and my wife started a company – which is doing great by the way – and so my life just completely switched. You know being a stay at home dad and I start a little company on the side pure tech/pure SaaS in that lower left quadrant. You know that showed you earlier. But all the customers and distributors came to me after the company shut down and they were like you had something really incredible. It was solving a real problem. Our employees loved it. Would you please restart the company?
And I said no.
I turn them down I said no. I was like that was way too stressful I’m not going through that again, like you guys say you’re going to help me out but how can I believe that I thought these VCs would help me out and look what they did, so on and so forth. I said no.
But what happened is I stayed in pretty close contact with many of the employees at the first company and two in particular Genevieve and Alison and we would talk often and we talked about what would it be like to restart the company? Like just kind of daydreaming. None of us ever intended to do it; like what would it be like. Like what would we change at the new company if we could restart from scratch, and not only from scratch but with customers out of the gate and not this long trial of sorrow that we had in the first version. And we realized that we really wouldn’t change anything. There wasn’t that much we would change, because we had we had actually figured it out at the time that I was jettisoned from the company. And the more we talked about it the more we realized that you know what maybe we’re being too scared. We’re being presented with an opportunity to learn and to apply what we have learned to basically the same company that’s still fresh in our minds.
So, we restarted that company in October 2017, but we had to do the same thing. Like there is no way to start the company without spending thousands of dollars because it was exactly the same. But this time we started with some revenue but those early customers and some of those early customers from the previous company joined in that first six month period so we could get our MRR up quickly, and then we raised $350,000 from indy.VC. And if you’re looking for funding and you’re looking for something different. Highly recommend Bryce Robertson at indy.VC. It’s an incredible experience. Is an incredible group. And they believed in this and we raised this money. I mean I never met him in person, we just spoke on the phone a couple of times and we closed a deal. It was quite amazing.
So with this new company now what I’m doing is I’m constantly kind of in these two worlds where I’m thinking about ‘okay what did I do the last time’ and ‘should I do it again or should I do something different’. And if I do something different what should be different – because rarely do you have an opportunity to do that in life? To basically try things again. And yet here I am getting to try it again.
So, the first thing was pricing. I am when I first started the company as a newbie entrepreneur, I thought that when you’re first starting out you got to discount things, you got to give coupons, you got to do trials, you got to do pilots, you got to do all this stuff because you’re new. Nobody knows you. You can’t compare yourself to the incumbents who are typically large established and at least in healthcare one hundred years old in the communities that they operate in. So, you got to start with low prices. So basically, I was assuming that price sensitivity was incredibly high being a new entrant into the marketplace and so in that first company our price point was incredibly low. And what started happening despite the traction picking up people started questioning the price. Like how can you stay in business if the price is so low? And we’re like that doesn’t make any sense. And again, this is healthcare, like everybody does they want to hear a think healthcare is affordable?
No. So and my logic was healthcare is so insanely expensive if I come at you with an incredibly low price it can be like finally reprieve. From this gargantuan industry that’s trying to oppress me, that’s siphoning money from my company, but that’s not what happened. People were like well I’m paying too much for healthcare how come I’m not going to pay too much with you. I’m not interested. I mean literally people thought it just didn’t cost enough.
So, this time with the company when we’re setting our pricing. Of course, we looked at our gross margins and we looked at our variable costs and fixed cost on that kind of stuff. And then we just like doubled it. Like no science – sorry all you pricing people out there – like we just we just figured out a good price that we all felt good with and I will give credit to one my co-founders Alison because she’s always like “Let’s just double it! Let’s just double it!”. And so, we just doubled it. This time around and it worked. Like price sensitivity disappeared. Price is not part of the conversation or the question, but I want to get even more nuanced about it what I figured out from the first company into the second company is that those early adopters are not price sensitive. They just aren’t. And so, I started using price sensitivity as a market segmentation variable.
So, if someone or company starts talking about price I was like ‘okay well that’s okay, fine, we’ll come back in a year or two”. I don’t waste my time anymore. If that’s your thing. Because I know you’re not an early adopter then you couldn’t possibly understand. And so I focus all my time – at least I should say I focused my distributors time – on customers that are not price sensitive because I know right now at this new company (although it’s a second time) we need to stay in that realm of the early adopters. And whether you subscribe to these particular segments or not. You know I’m talking about the left side of the chart.
That’s one of the first things that I’ve changed at this new company and it’s working well without any fancy pricing theory. But what I really want to talk to you about are some of the personal changes I made for myself at this company. Now with the first company I typically worked in what I would call it negative return mode. Like I’m reading all the startup porn I’m talking to all my founder friends everybody’s working these crazy hours. Elon Musk is like you know not sleeping, not eating, you know all these things and like well I can’t do what Elon is doing it but I need to be like a notch below that because it appears as if everybody is doing this and. I can tell you that I don’t think it worked.
I only know that in hindsight. I mean I’m not some genius, I didn’t have like a self-awareness to know that I was overworking myself. Maybe you do, I don’t know. But I did not. I only know this in hindsight because I’m working on the same company, with the same people, same co-founders, same product, same everything and I’ve modified the way I worked. But before I got there, I’ll tell you this, I felt like a slacker when I was in that middle section as a founder CEO.
I just felt like a dirtbag because everybody is hustling out there, they’re not sleeping, and they’re somehow running marathons, you know and they’re doing all this stuff. And I mean they tell me that their marriage is the most wonderful thing, and they have this great thing going on with their kids, you know and they do it on it so I felt terrible but I was in that middle section I was like ‘I’m not working hard enough. I’m not going to win’.
Especially when I got the V.C. money because now you know you have all those zeros in your bank account. Your team has doubled, your revenues growing, and you feel this need to always be doing something as slack doesn’t help. At all. We still use Slack, but it’s I mean it doesn’t help because it because you got a little green light on there you know and you don’t want to put the Zzzs because you know you’re a slacker. You know someone calls you or e-mails you at 12:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m. There’s no differentiating between the two as a founder. And with this new company what I’ve realized is all that doesn’t matter. For me. Maybe you have to work that hard. I’m not telling you; you don’t have to work that hard. I’m not telling you that you should work that hard. I’m just saying for me with the same company/same people/same customers/same everything. I’m getting better results. In the third section by being what I’ll call normal.
You know just like this being normal and when I started realizing between the two companies is that you do a bunch of work. The probability that all the things you’re doing are the right things to be doing at the right time, decreases with the number of things you’re doing. You follow me? Like it just does. Like if you do more stuff, more stuff is going to be wrong. It’s not just about diminishing returns with every incremental input you put in. You’re probably doing more wrong stuff. But here’s another fascinating thing. Tell me if this happens to you – the more emails you respond to the more e-mails you get.
Is there such a thing as inbox zero? I think there is. It just depends on the interval of time that you’re measuring.
So, the more work you do the more work you create and the greater proportion of that work you create is actually the wrong work to be working on at that time. That’s what I’ve noticed and it just crystal clear to me going from the first company to the second company that I would encourage you to look at what you’re working on. And sometimes just don’t do anything because you’ll be able to create success by not creating work. Because it’s probably the wrong work. And then if you’re an executive or the founder or the CEO you have all these positional power that you’re not even aware of all this wrong work you’re doing and creating is just creating more wrong work for other people and compounding. And I saw that my first company and now I’m hypersensitive to it at this company. I rarely assign tasks to people. Rarely. I’ll sit on it and think about it does this person really need to be doing this because clearly they have work to do because we’re bootstrapped so I mean with the Indian money we are bootstrapping I think on the benefits we bootstrapped is you have less likelihood of people not actually be needed. Every person is needed, and they have work. So please for your own sanity just take a look and see it what you’re doing and see if it’s the right stuff at the right time.
Family, friends, exercise, sleep, and work.
Now lastly. I heard Randi Zuckerberg say this a long time ago when I was sitting in front of an access database is charging my client way too much to run queries that it thought were super complicated and I just listened to a bunch of podcasts. And she said you know you can divide life up into these five things.
And for me I kind of say friends is kind of where your hobbies and religious activities are as well if you have those. And she said that if you’re an aggressive founder that really wants to change the world – which I did with my first company – that you can only have three of these.
You can only be successful at three. Saw my friend here shaking his head and rolling his eyes. I didn’t know at the time though I was buying it. And I’ve said this to other people. And I’ve slowly been coming to the realization that I don’t know if it’s 100% correct, but at least in the first company I just crossed off friends and crossed off sleep, because they’re the easiest ones because I like to by myself, like I don’t need human interaction. I mean that one was easy. I have great friends that understand my introvertness. Let me share something here like my oldest son he’s eight years old now and he’s very extroverted like me and he can tell he’ll look at my face and he can tell what he’s doing to me with his extrovertedness. And he’ll literally say to me ‘I’m going to go talk to mom right now’ it is totally cool; we have a great relationship, but I can tell he gets energy from people. And I just kind of start shrivelling up after a certain point.
So, our best time is in the morning when I’m fresh and I haven’t had all this human interaction to weigh me down. And so, I cut my friends out at that first company. Just cut him out and they were all totally cool because they’re all like ‘Thompson, he’s this founder, he’s working with negative returns and he’s awesome’. Totally understood. And I love my friends for that.
And then I cut sleep out. And for me sleep was easy to cut out because I don’t believe the whole eight hour nonsense; some people need 10 hours. I know some people like that. Some people need four hours. You know some people need something in between you know I don’t need eight hours of sleep. So, it’s really easy for me to operate even lower than what is industry standard in terms of the number of hours of sleep. And I’ll tell you this. I got sick a lot. And as a founder getting sick is one of the worst things especially if you’re on the sales side. It just shuts you down. I mean talk like I’m talking to really sick not just like a little sniffle you know because you’re so congested, you’re worn out. You just can’t you can’t go interact with people. So, I had lots of downtime and my co-founder at the first company we meet for lunch about every three to six months and whenever he sees me he is like ‘Are you sick?’ it’s just this gut reaction because he knows how sick I was during this time because I wasn’t sleeping enough. I wasn’t getting enough sleep for myself.
But the things I did religiously keep in place during the first company: first was family. I’m 100% dedicated to my family my wife is my best friend, we just celebrated our 15 year anniversary. And I would want nothing more than to hang out with her. And even when I was working in a negative or diminishing returns area – in the first startup – what I really wanted deep down inside as a founder it was just to hang out with my wife. But I didn’t really talk about it because it was like the founder thing to talk about. You’re meant to want to change the world. And I was trying to change health care change industry. Make a dent in the universe but nobody ever thinks about just hanging out with your best friend as putting a dent in the universe. But I knew that’s what I wanted. So, I kept that safe, I kept it sacred, same thing for my two sons during that first company.
Exercise I knew I couldn’t let go of that I knew I needed to maintain a certain level of physical health and I opted for exercise over sleep. As something to do. And I would encourage everybody here as a founder to get up and do some exercise it’s so important both physically and mentally. And then of course work. That was the easy one. At one point our CFO at the first company. Him and his direct report were working with me on something remotely, and it was late at night, and then the next day they woke up to a bunch of e-mails and a bunch of analysis that I did. And they’re like ‘wait a minute, Thompson, did you like go to bed early and then get up or did you stay up and not go to bed at all?’. They couldn’t tell. And that was like a regular thing for me because I felt the need to do it. And I felt I was seeing the results from doing it.
Now at the second company. I haven’t quite figured it out. So, you know I’m trying I’ll be honest with you all here I’m trying very hard, the family thing is it’s like just in me, like my family comes first. Exercise, I do that like every day. I got to do it every day. I’m sleeping more and I can tell the difference. I can feel the difference mentally, emotionally, physically. My ability to make decisions and if I ever get into a period of time a couple of days or a week where I’m not getting enough sleep, I’ll tell my co-founders. I go look I’m not getting enough sleep; I haven’t got enough sleep the last couple of days and I’m actually not going to make any major decisions or any decisions. You know let’s hold off on that or I’ll say you know you’ve got to double check my work. You’re at triple check my work even. Or if I start to feel like I’m getting sick I’ll just lay low. Whereas before I would plough through the sickness and pretend it wasn’t there. So, I am sleeping more, I’m exercising the same, and the work thing I described in the last slide is something that I’ve really learned to temper and find that place of optimal productivity. Or I’m not creating unnecessary work for others or I’m not doing the wrong thing for myself or the company, and where I’m in this place where every additional input is getting me more output. And not pushing beyond that at all.
So, I’m glad that I was right before lunch because my talk was pretty short, and I don’t want to keep people from food and enjoyment, so I’ll stop here and see if there’s any questions or comments.
Mark Littlewood: Thank you. So, I’ve got a question what’s enough sleep for you.
Thomson Aderinkomi: Enough sleep for me is six hours and so here without any children to wake me up I slept exactly six hours and woke up feeling great.
Mark Littlewood: And if you do six hours day after day after day after day that…
Thomson Aderinkomi: Perfect
Mark Littlewood: But if you’ve got less than that you start to feel it?
Thomson Aderinkomi: And as my wife would say even five minutes less. I’m like right there on the edge.
Mark Littlewood: All right. So this is a good time for me to introduce you to the way that we do questions at BoS I don’t like that thing where we kind of go around and someone asks a question and then we find someone else and someone has to run up into a microphone and blah blah blah. So, anyone with a question puts their hand up. We’ve got two microphones in the room and I will get a microphone to you so that when one question finishes, and you’ve done an answer we’ve got the next one straight away. So we’re going to start over here with Glenn
Audience Member: Thanks Thompson. Question with the first business you did some friends and family in terms of raising money. Were you able to pay them back?
Thomson Aderinkomi: No. So, one of my goals is to pay them back.
Audience Member: What went wrong with the VCs after the first company when you raised $7million. How come after four months they went completely in a different direction and then shut down the business? Very curious to find out more.
Thomson Aderinkomi: Yeah. And so am I. Yeah it was a very awkward unexplainable event.
Mark Littlewood: Is that the full answer? Give us something!
Thomson Aderinkomi: I know I would. No, I don’t see what. I mean the contracts are being signed, customers were happy, there was no foul play, I didn’t steal money, I didn’t abuse anybody. I didn’t do anything criminal. You know so it I get that question a lot and I wish I had more. I wish I was there’s some juicy story you know and or some argument on strategy or something like that. But no nothing.
After I left you know all the prospects walked away and current clients became sceptical. Employees started quitting or just stopped working. So, I mean know either way it’s hard to run a company like that. And they brought in their own management team and kind of shoved down the management team I had in place and I value experience, I value years, I respect my elders, but they literally brought multiple people out of retirement to run a company where the average age was 29. And so, it was just that things just started going downhill pretty fast.
Audience Member: Thank you for great talk. I was wondering, especially since your two businesses were kind of to your point attacking the same industry. You get the benefit of experience the second time. I was wondering what, beyond the organization of you which is where you landed your talk, how do you organize your business the second time around that was different from the first time that you wish you’d applied the first time?
Thomson Aderinkomi: So, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do this the first time is that I couldn’t, or I was unsuccessful. And the second time, I started with two co-founders who I hired at the first company. We talked about risk today. So, did risks you know hooking up with two co-founders. And the first time that I’m on that chart we’re just it was not no money coming in a lot of money going out for the majority of that period time I was by myself. I was a sole founder bearing the full weight of the company. Every single decision. And I didn’t want that. I mean I was actively looking for a co-founder the whole time and I wasn’t able to add a co-founder until that seed round that million dollar seed round. And that co-founder who I referenced before, we’re still friends, we still talk, we’re meeting up next week and we were so tight and so in sync. From a business standpoint that the VCs kicked him out of the company too. Because I knew it would have been that they couldn’t get rid of one of us without having to deal with the repercussions. So, having those two co-founders and then our roles are segregated I mean it is clean. I mean it is so segregated and everybody is working in their domain of expertise and the company just works in a much less stressful way than it did before.
Audience Member: So these five areas that you have on the screen, “family, friends, exercise, sleep, and work”, how does you baseline with your co-founders around these five areas so that you all could have unified alignment in terms of the way in which you work, and how you find balance?
Thomson Aderinkomi: I think the first thing was by being honest with each other.
And at least in my startup community I call myself the lazy founder because I actually don’t like to work, and I don’t want to work, and I’ve actually tried to minimize the amount of work I do. And having co-founders that adopt that mentality was the first step. And it’s interesting too because we’re not all the same life stage.
One of my co-founders are at exactly the same life stage like same age within a month. Same years of being married within a month. She has one more child than I do both from the healthcare industry. So, our kind of world view is very similar but our other found our third founder she is four years maybe out of college. Three or four things so when I hired her, she was right out of college so a very different world view very different world goals or goals. But still the same kind of attack on life. So, we all put family first and then we all put our health second and we all put work last. But we still have ambitious goals and the company is growing at Venture speed despite the fact that we arrange our work in that way.
Audience Member: Thompson, Thank you so much for your courage and vulnerability on the stage. The founder journey isn’t an easy one, so I just thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so curious about how your routines and maybe even approach to productivity has changed. Are there things that you’re using mindset or approach that you’re using in terms of what you’re doing today vs. what you did previously?
Thomson Aderinkomi: Yeah, I would say one that’s overarching what I’m doing is do just enough. So, remember I was talking about working myself too hard and kind of drinking the Kool-Aid working all time. I applied that to everything that I did. So even the way I worked out during the first company; I would work out I’m into I’m into weight training, I’m into running. I’d push myself so hard so my weight training workout say it was leg day like I could only do leg day once a week at the first company. I could do upper body once a week I could do this once a week. I’d push myself so hard I would need a week a week to recover. But now the way I work now is I do just enough. I have my goals and I don’t have this macho man need to push myself to the point where I can’t do that last rep. And so now I work out every day. And I’m seeing better results physically and I think it’s just better. I really think it was more about ego and pride. I do a five mile run and I push push push myself you know to get that: average minutes below eight, below seven. Because I would read about this guy the other day who ran 100 miles at six minute mile. And I said what I got I’m a slacker I got to do that. So, you know but now I just kind of like I just kind of say Why do I want to do that? Why do I want to run my last mile this morning at six minutes? Isn’t eight minutes enough? I’ll actually burn fat calories versus sugar calories if I run slower. So, you know maybe I should tone it down a little bit and I kind of apply that to everything that I do.
Mark Littlewood: Question about funding you’ve got this time because you went down a slightly different route for fundraising.
Thomson Aderinkomi: Yeah. So, this time around a lot of people said Are you afraid of VCs now or would you ever take VC funding again? I know one very successful founder I know he’s like super rich. He’s had multiple exits. He called me up after I got kicked out, he said ‘Thompson I’m really pissed for you I’m angry but just don’t write off VC’. That’s what he said to me on the phone ‘don’t write them off’. They’re not all like that. And he’s right. And so, what I did is I invested more time to understand the VC business model to understand what their needs are and especially depending on the segment that they play, in their stage, their approach. And I realized that for me and my persona, that traditional VCs weren’t going to be a good fit. And I was falling Bryce Roberts on Twitter. Loved everything he was posting and I’m like it, retweet its times you know. And I just couldn’t get enough of what he was saying. And then one day I tweeted at him like I hadn’t talked to him at that point I tweeted at him and. The rest is history from there and we’ve done two rounds with them and everything was going as planned.
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