When you’re scaling up from a two or three person business to a full-on enterprise, there’s a serious risk of diluting your team’s ideas and missions. Many startups start the scaling process by opening offices in different cities or countries, which makes it hard to ensure that everyone is on the same strategy and values pages.
So how do you keep your employees from becoming disgruntled and feeling disenfranchised? You have plenty of other things to worry about (like, you know, EVERYTHING ELSE), so why not use a system that’s designed specifically to keep everyone on the same page? Cascade – a cloud-based business strategy system – may be just the answer to your organizational prayers.
Founder Tom Wright took some time to talk to KillerStartups about what prompted him to leave the banking world to pursue his dream, what it’s like to work with his best friend, and a whole lot more!
What’s the story behind Cascade? What inspired you to start it?
Eric and I have both spent many years working in large corporations, where for the most part people often feel like small cogs in very large machines. We were convinced that technology could provide a solution to that problem, and that’s how we landed on the idea of Cascade. At it’s very core, Cascade is about helping people to see how important they really are to their organization, and showing them how they fit in to the bigger strategic picture.
What’s your elevator pitch?
For organizations, Cascade is the first system of its kind to put tangible real-time metrics behind measuring the strategic alignment of an organization. It engages the entire organization in strategy, bringing it to life with rich multimedia and powerful dashboards. It aligns people’s activities around that strategy, and provides an incredibly powerful array of tools to understand where blockages may be occurring in the execution phase.
Who’s on your team?
Eric and I are co-founders, starting the business 8 months ago. Eric was born in Korea and adopted by French parents – he has an incredibly varied history which includes being a published photographer in publications including the Wall Street Journal and a Consultant in Creativity at Samsung HQ.
My background is slightly more linear – I was Head of Cards and Loans for HSBC Bank in various markets including the UK, Hong Kong and most recently Australia before leaving the corporate rat-race behind to start Responsis. We’re great friends, having met 10 years ago at university in Singapore.
We have a great young lead-developer on board (Joe) and through partnerships we have access to an experienced team of trainers and client engagement specialists.
What where some of the key early decisions you took in terms of your approach to setting up a startup?
Our approach for every aspect of the business where we don’t have the skill set, is to learn it before we outsource! For example, we did everything ourselves, from graphic design, video production, coding the product, selling, training, etc. We have nothing against out sourcing but in our experience nothing beats having hard skills first!
We also took the decision (and followed through on it!) to turn down early offers of Venture Capital to ensure our business was built up in the right way without too much short term pressure. We had a couple of offers right at the start, and are so far very happy that we turned them down – the business model we’ve built is largely self-funded.
What gave you the courage to leave the banking world and start your own business?
For me, it’s more like “Could I ever muster the courage to go back?!” Hopefully it’s not something I’ll ever have to consider, but you’re question is actually very poignant. I have a lot of friends still working in that world, and I know that a lot of them would love to make the leap into a startup. My advice is that the only thing you can really take courage from is your idea.
If you have a great idea, then you should absolutely take the leap and give it your all. Even if things don’t work out, you’ll learn so much along the way that most smart corporations would recognize that experience and rehire you in an instant. In my opinion it takes more courage to keep doing something that doesn’t feel right, than to give in and go with something that does. So if it feels right to leave the corporate world behind, do it, but try to make sure you’ve got a pretty good idea in mind first!
How does working with your best friend work out for you guys?
To be honest, I couldn’t imagine this journey any other way. I have an amazing amount of respect for people that go it alone, but it’s not something I’d relish! It’s a lot of fun working together, and we’re both fairly easygoing, so we don’t argue too much (though Joe, our lead coder may disagree!). Eric and I are constantly firewalling each other from bad decisions, and we have pretty different backgrounds (he was hosting exhibitions of his photography whilst I was strategizing revenue growth for a multinational bank!). Diversity is absolutely key, and that’s probably the single strongest thing about our relationship.
Do you think having a startup effects your personal life?
I think having a startup is your personal life! At least in the first year or two (and we’re still right in the middle of that part of the journey). Doing it with a good friend helps, because we can talk strategy on the squash court, or over a beer, which gives us an excuse to still make time for those things. But it’s pretty all-consuming, and it helps to have a wonderful and understanding partner. (Thanks Linda!)
Anything you’d like to add before I let you go?
The one thing that I wish I had been better prepared for at the start of this adventure is the amount of time it takes to make progress in the early days. The age-old adage about overnight successes taking years to actually happen is so incredibly true! We’re still early in our life as a company and it’s only now that we’re starting to get feedback from clients about how well Cascade works for them, that we’re finally starting to be sure that we’ve created something good and valuable. Patience and determination are the key!
Where can our readers find you?
Our HQ is right in the heart of Sydney CBD, Australia. Our website has all of our contact details, and we’d love to hear from anyone about the product, or any other topics they’d like to chat about. We’re always happy to talk startups too, so feel free to drop us a line and say hi.
Courtesy of startup founder | Cascade