Darren Chait of Hugo

Founder Coffee episode 034

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every three weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this thirty-fourth episode, I talked to Darren Chait, co-founder of Hugo, a platform that brings all your meeting notes together in one place and connects them with all the tools you use.

Darren and his co-founder started Hugo off as a way to prepare better for meetings, but then found instead that the bigger problem was what happened after the meetings.

Today, two years since their pivot, their software is used by great companies like Nike, Dropbox and Twitter.

We talk about how having a baby makes you a better founder, the dilemma between raising VC money vs. not, how partnerships can boost your business, and why trusting your team makes all the difference.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Hi Darren, it’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Darren: Thanks Jeroen. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jeroen: You are the Co-Founder of Hugo. For those who don’t know yet, what does Hugo do exactly?

Darren: Sure. So Hugo is a connected meeting notes software. It helps create centralized, searchable meeting notes that connects your meetings to your team and the tools you use every day.

Jeroen: So how do we all have to imagine this? What would you say it solves exactly?

Darren: I guess part of the problem is that we’re working in such a different way today, right? If you think back even five years. Today we’re working remote a lot of the time or in distributed teams. We’re no longer in the same office, in the same country, or even the same time zone. We have so many tools. There’s like Crate where you can find whatever number you want out there. But we’re hearing things like 130 different tools for one company. And the way we make decisions and the way we work as a team is so different. The idea of bottom-up and decentralized decision making. It’s a really different time.

Darren: But the way we meet is no different. We still either have to be in the room or have to be on the call. We come out with action lists, we write notes and they go nowhere. So what Hugo does is, it takes those meeting notes, the notes that you’re writing in your notebook, in your notes app or in a random document and shares them with everyone else in the business who should know what happened but wasn’t in the room. It then turns the actions instead of into a bullet point list like they often are today into JIRA tickets and Trello cards. It also syncs with your CRM, like Salesflare or Salesforce or whatever CRM you’re using. So all the actions get pushed out to the workflow that already exists. Where the team is and where the work is getting done.

Jeroen: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So the meeting notes get opened up and they’re turned into actions instead of being like a disconnected thing. Like have something in a Google Doc and then you need to start taking points and putting them in other systems. It makes that much easier then.

Darren: You got it. Totally.

Jeroen: Is this something you were facing yourself in another company or how did this exactly come about?

Darren: So, no. Before Hugo, I was a corporate lawyer, I worked for a big law firm in Australia, where I’m from. And I was definitely frustrated with meetings as a big problem. I was listening to your podcast with Laura from Meet Edgar. She said something similar. The funny thing about lawyers is you bill your time, you’re exchanging hours for dollars. So when you have one of those meetings we all have, that sucks. That’s such a waste of time. I would literally see a bill with how much that meeting costs. You’d walk out of this hour you just wasted and see on the screen that is was $3400. So that blew my mind how much money was wasted, what a waste of time it was.

Darren: We wanted to solve or focus on that problem. A good friend of mine who I had worked with before was a product guy based in San Francisco already. So we went out to solve that problem. But actually we thought the problem was being prepared for meetings. We built an app that would help you get prepared. We had this crazy AI engine that would prepare briefings on who you’re meeting and solved it in a really different way. We raised a bit of money out of Australia. We went building in San Francisco and everything looked really interesting.

Darren: But Josh, my cofounder and I were spending our days out of the office. We’d go and talk to customers, investors, partners, everything we all do all day as founders. And really quickly we started to run into problems where there was this big disconnect falling between us and the team. Like we’d come back every day and try and update the team on what we learned and what happened. And what we thought we needed to do next, but they just couldn’t get it. They weren’t on the same page as us.

Darren: So someone had an idea to build this Slack plugin that would integrate with our calendar and ping us every time we had a meeting and say, “Hey, you just spoke to Jeroen. What happened?” And I’d reply on Slack and say, “Good chat. He had this bit of feedback, this idea, this insight,” and it would share it with the team in another Slack channel. And then we’d come back to the office and it was like the whole company was in every meeting. They would have already started coming up with new designs, fixing bugs, doing things from that meeting before we’d even walked it back into the office. So we as a company, we’re doing really cool things. We’re moving now much quicker. Everyone was on the same page, engaged.

Darren: And then when we’re talking to our customers, they were more excited about what we were doing as a business than what we were trying to sell. So usual pivot story and that’s how Hugo became Hugo.

Jeroen: Yeah, that’s a really cool story. Actually the thing about having reminders to add meeting notes, is something we added in Salesflare as well. I can see how Hugo is like a few steps ahead of that. That it actually then transforms those notes into actionable as well. That’s really cool.

Darren: Yeah. Totally. It’s important.

Jeroen: So in a previous job you were a corporate lawyer, you said?

Darren: Yeah. Do I hate me?

Jeroen: Everybody hated you? Or what are you saying?

Darren: No, I’m just saying the reputation of lawyers, they cost you lots of money and sometimes don’t add value.

Jeroen: Sometimes they’re useful.

Darren: Sometimes.

Jeroen: So this was your very first startup or have you been into your own projects before as well? Have you done other stuff?

Darren: It was a good lesson. I think I made, I wouldn’t say a mistake. I learned a lot from that. And I’m happy I had that experience. But I am an entrepreneur and I really believe people are either wired that way or they’re not. I am wired that way. And even growing up through college, and even before that, I was always building businesses.

Darren: The first thing I did was I started a mobile DJ business with a friend. And we’d literally DJed at thousands of weddings and bar mitzvahs and parties. Like thousands. We couldn’t scale quick enough. We didn’t know what to do with all the bookings coming in and we were just choosing our favorite ones. We were hiring people too, and trying to train them to sell the same product.

Darren: And that turned into a pretty big business for a bunch of school kids. When I went and bought a car and then we were putting a little bit of money into property and all these things, that at the time, was really, really exciting. And I just thought there was something really awesome about building something from nothing or turning a little bit of money and multiplying and seeing your product in the real world. I had definitely had that itch. I went to college and I didn’t know what to study. I was interested in lots of things; medicine and law and OSU business. And in Australia we study these degrees, undergrad, it’s not like the US.

Darren: So I’m straight out of high school. At 18 you have to decide what you want to be. And Australia is a very conservative risk averse place. You can’t especially then, in the mid 2000s, you can’t really be an entrepreneur. You have to be a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a social worker or whatever your job is. And all my friends were studying law. And I thought this was cool. So I just enrolled and started doing law and it’s for five years. And then when you’re studying law, the big law firms come along at the end of university and you apply and get a job.

Darren: I just found myself on that train, which I looked back at three years later and said, “What happened? I didn’t agree to this.” I just felt like I ended up on this train that kept moving. And that’s when I said, “Hang on. This isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life.” And jumped off the train to start Hugo.

Jeroen: That’s actually a story I’ve heard a few times already on the podcast. And it tends to happen with law quite often. I suppose it’s one of these studies that you choose when you have a bit more ambition. I remember discussing this very same topic with Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell. And there were people before that as well.

Darren: Yeah. I’ve actually had a similar conversation with PC before. I agree. I think it’s a big deal. Also especially for some of my American friends. You spend a lot of money on college. So you’ve gone and made this big investment.

Darren: Even if you have the desire to go and build something, you’re thinking, “Oh man, I’ve just spent thousands of dollars getting a law degree. How can I go and waste that and throw it away?” The other way of looking at it is “well, what’s the opportunity cost”? “What’s the value of you doing something you don’t want to do”?

Darren: So I think that’s interesting. But look, I think it’s getting better as well because building a business, entrepreneurship, working in product, all these things are now really great careers. So I meet people all the time now who are finishing college or finishing high school and want to be building businesses, who want to work in tech. And that’s as good, if not better career than law. So I think it’s normalizing. I think it’s an old fashioned way of thinking the way I was thinking.

Jeroen: You mentioned you were building Hugo in a different way before. When was it that you guys started with Hugo?

Darren: So we started Hugo the first way in 2015 and in 2017 we made that pivot and Hugo became Hugo. So we’re about two and a bit years old now. We essentially restarted the business. We called the company the same. We liked the name. But it was essentially starting from scratch.

Jeroen: So you’re four years old; but the last two years were really the Hugo that it is now.

Darren: That’s right. Exactly.

Jeroen: And where do you see yourself taking Hugo on the long term? Is it going to go beyond what it is now and how?

Darren: We see meetings as the final frontier of collaboration. It’s an area where there hasn’t been a lot of innovation other than of course video conferencing like Zoom. So the opportunity for us is big. We want to be a product that every company picks up alongside the rest of their core stack. So when you set up Salesflare, you went and found your chat app, you went and found Google Suite or Office 365 to power Mail and Calendar. You went and found your CRM obviously. So we want you to immediately turn and think, “Hang on, what are we doing with our meetings? Where are all these meeting insights? Where’s the meeting workflow managed?” So that’s where Hugo wants to be.

Darren: We have an interesting opportunity now, I think with the way teams are changing. So normally when you think about B2B software and you think about a team or the company as your customer, you think about everyone being in the same office or on the same domain name working in the same business. But what we’re learning is that a team now means something really different. A team means three full-timers, four contractors, an agency and that random guy who comes in on Wednesdays to help us with SEO who works with other clients too. So you have to collaborate with all of them the same way that you do with your full time team.

Darren: So I think the changing definition of collaboration gives us an opportunity and that’s something we’re very focused on now. How do we collaborate around meetings with our partners and contractors and agency customers and things like that. And that’s where we’re heading now.

Jeroen: How do you see that evolving product-wise on the longer term?

Darren: Yeah. I mean the simple way it’s evolving product-wise is allowing inter-company collaboration. Even if you look at what Slack’s done, we use the Slack shared channels all the time. So I can go and send a Slack message to my co-founder, but I can as easily go and Slack our PR agency, our partnership contacts at Atlassian or using Slack. But Slack originally was a team communication product. So we’re taking Hugo that way to be transparent. We’re going to release a whole bunch of features to allow meeting collaboration between companies as well. So that’s one.

Darren: And I think more generally trying to build in best practices for meetings. So it’s like using a ‘best practice meeting workflow’ out of the box. We will help you use meetings as a force for company alignment, for sharing insights, for building a customer centric company, building in as many features as we can to help you become a really great meeting company.

Jeroen: I hear you mentioning Slack quite often. Is this a company you’re inspired by a lot or are there other ones perhaps?

Darren: Yeah, good question. I’m definitely inspired by Slack. I think Slack is the modern day bottom up. A poster child example. They’ve just absolutely cracked the idea of selling B2B software from the bottom to the consumers if you’d like, in the business. And that’s something we’re inspired by. We absolutely have a similar model there. The other interesting thing about Slack is that they created a problem in a way. If you said to me in 2010 even, “I’m building a chat app,” I would say, “What’s wrong with WhatsApp and Skype and every other chat app there is?” But of course we can’t operate without Slack now. So the way they’ve been able to do that is really inspiring. It’s not what the textbook says, right? About finding a problem that already exists and solving it. So it’s a really remarkable company that we look to for inspiration quite a lot.

Jeroen: Are you planning to go in a bootstrapped way around this or are you raising money? Do you see Hugo becoming a $100 million company?

Darren: Yes. We raised some money originally out of Australia, friends and family type money. We haven’t done a big institutional round. It’s something we think about and talk about a lot. We sit in both camps and again I think about the likes of Wistia and these incredible companies that are profitable with next to no money raised. There’s two ways to look at it from our perspective. One, raising institutional VC. Raising real capital means customer acquisition and competing on the marketing front becomes easier. If our competitors or other people in our space are doing it, it’s very hard to not have the cash to do that, to be able to acquire customers using the same channels they are and fight for customer acquisition costs and VC helps you do that.

Darren: The other advantage of VC is you’re being backed by people who do this all the time. These funds have been invested in many other great B2B SaaS companies and they bring a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. So I think those are the reasons why it does help and it is important. Having said that, Josh and I now think about the times when a lot of the glamor of being a big VC-backed company with all the vanity metrics has really worn off. When we started and we’d meet people in building companies, I’d always ask them, “How much money have you raised? How big is your headcount? How many employees do you have?”

Darren: My view has changed so much now. The companies that impressed me, all the bootstrap ones, the ones that have small head counts where their average revenue per employee is amazing. They’re the great companies. So we’re definitely not getting caught up in that anymore. I’d love to build a business with as few employees as we can, where we’re really efficient and revenue per headcount is great and we haven’t given away 75% of the company. So not sure at the moment what we’ll do in the future.

Jeroen: So it’s still an outstanding decision. Keeping options open at least.

Darren: Exactly.

Jeroen: How many are you currently?

Darren: Eight.

Jeroen: And you’re the COO?

Darren: Yeah. The way we split things between my cofounder and I is, it’s 50-50 operationally day-to-day. So I look after the growth side of the company – growth, business development, business operations, et cetera. And he’s product and engineering essentially. That works well.

Jeroen: So what is it like that you do in a day? How does your day currently look like?

Darren: So it’s a real mix like all of us. At the moment, I’m very focused on obviously, growth. I mean we all are, all the time. But very specific problems or opportunities. So I’m looking a lot right now at typical customer acquisition challenges, the channels that work for us, finding those repeatable, predictable, scalable channels. But also activation. Activation is always something we need to focus on because we are selling a product, yes. But we’re also selling a new way of doing things.

Darren: So we have a big education overhead, we use video heavily, we use a lot of content. We’re really trying to educate you on a new way of doing things. So I spent a lot of time deep in that; running tests, user interviews, trying new things. And the other thing I spend a lot of my time on is automation. So we’re a marketing-led company. We don’t have a sales team. So all of our acquisition has to come through those channels. And I’m personally really excited about the no-code movement. We have like hundreds of zaps set up. We use web flow for our website. A lot of our landing pages. I’m big into data. We use Segment for funnel data throughout – from our product and website into all the other different tools we use. So I’ve become a little technical in that sense. I can do a lot myself without relying on engineering to run experiments, to test things and to make changes to our staff.

Jeroen: What is it that you spend most of your time on right now?

Darren: So most of the time right now is writing. I write a bunch of partnerships. So developing partnerships with other great SaaS companies where there’s integration opportunities. So specking that out. I’m working on co-marketing campaigns. I spend a fair bit of time on the PR front. We just released a book, which I’m talking about in a second, which is really cool. Well, I think so anyway. So I’ve been on a bit of a mini book tour, talking a lot about the book and speaking at conferences and events there. So it’s those things and then the normal marketing things, writing content, website updates. We’re experimenting with some paid ad channels, although it’s never been a real big proportion of our growth. So that real mix of growth and marketing things.

Jeroen: What’s the most promising thing right now out of all these things?

Darren: Good question. I’d say definitely the partnerships piece. That for us has been really interesting because partnerships is something that I think is a bit of a dirty word in many SaaS companies or big companies rather. When I say partnerships, I don’t mean channel partnerships. No one’s selling Hugo but Hugo. But we have an interesting opportunity with Hugo. Hugo integrates with more than 20 tools. That’s part of our value prop, right? As we spoke about at the beginning. So that means there’s more than 20 great companies, a lot of them who are bigger than us; we add value to their product and they add value to ours.

Darren: So typically these companies don’t just go and market your business. But with a lot of them we share a passion of vision, an interest, even part of a value proposition. And that means there’s co-marketing opportunities. So, for example, we do a lot with Atlassian. We’ve put out a white paper on gender equity and the impact that SaaS tools can have on gender equity at work. We’ve done webinars with FreshWorks. We’ve put out content with Slack. The book we just wrote, Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom wrote the forward and put a quote on the front because we share so many ideas around team culture core to our company.

Darren: So, that, for us, I think, is a really interesting growth channel and opportunity that’s been paying off and something we keep investing in.

Jeroen: You see it paying off? Do you see a lot of trials coming from there?

Darren: Yeah. A lot of our traffic comes from their content or their websites or marketplaces.

Jeroen: So basically people read your article on someone else’s site and then come check you out and they sign up.

Darren: Exactly. And it’s not even the click or the traffic. It’s the quality. Because if you read a bit of content on Atlassian’s website that we’ve written or we’ve written together or a white paper we’ve released, not only is there that backlink that you’re coming to, but you’re thinking, “Wow, these guys are legitimate. They’re doing stuff with Atlassian. They must be a really interesting product.” So the quality and the perception is even better too.

Jeroen: Got it. Something totally different. As a Founder, what do you think gives you energy? Like what is the thing that you get up in the morning or during the day you feel like, “Well, I’m working so productively.” Which things give you this feeling?

Darren: Can I say coffee? I’m Australian.

Jeroen: More than coffee!

Darren: I’m just joking. For me, it’s the idea of liking one too many things. So there’s no better feeling than waking up in the morning and I’ve been asleep completely useless to the world. And you’ve seen all these customers come in through the funnel. I’d say that I can create value without working is really cool. That inspires me like nothing else. When I say without working, I don’t mean without doing any work. But I can create systems, processes, content that keeps working when I’m not. And that to me is unique to our world, to entrepreneurship. Even software especially. It’s the complete opposite of being a lawyer. As soon as I stop the clock, the business stops. So that inspires me a lot. That gives me energy and keeps me going.

Jeroen: So it’s building these systems and building these channels.

Darren: Yeah. Things that keep working without you.

Jeroen: Yeah. Talking about coffee, how many coffees do you drink per day?

Darren: About three. So not a lot. It’s a bit like the European or some parts of Europe. Australians are a bit snobby with their coffee. We drink espresso. It’s got to be really well made. And I’ve got to be careful what I say here, because I may get deported. But Americans don’t get it. We drink like here in the States, Starbucks is the biggest seller of coffee. In Australia, Starbucks launched and they went out of business, and they closed down. So it’s a big part of our life here. So three or so coffees a day.

Darren: But you know what’s funny, I love coffee, but I love the culture of coffee more. It’s awesome that that’s the name of this podcast because coffee doesn’t just mean that hot liquid that gives you caffeine and energy. It means a relationship. It means the type of conversation we’re going to have. Like if this was called Founder Interviews, I’d be sitting here with questions pre-written. It’s Founder Coffee, we just connected on and we had a laugh and we’re just chatting about life and building a business. And for me that means something so different. And that’s why I love coffee as well.

Jeroen: It’s very true. And in some countries that might be found with tea.

Darren: In the UK. Exactly. I mean you’re Belgian, I thought it was going to be Founder Beer. But it’s 8:00 AM in San Francisco. I thought it’s a bit weird.

Jeroen: But we connect over coffee as well. Different parts of the day I suppose.

Darren: Yeah. Some of the Russian people we work with, they’ll be Founder Vodka. I’d be having a shot of vodka at 8:00 AM. Yeah. I like it.

Jeroen: So it could be Founder Hot drink or Founder Alcoholic drink if you want to be generalistic like people want to make it nowadays.

Darren: Yeah. Exactly.

Jeroen: I do not assume type of drink.

Darren: Yeah, that’s right. Don’t discriminate.

Jeroen: How do you exactly manage your work-life balance? It seems like you’re working a lot. But how do you keep that all in check?

Darren: It’s a really interesting topic. Again I mentioned before I’ve got to listen to the great podcast you had with Laura from Meet Edgar and she’s obviously very unique in what she’s done with her business and really impressive and inspiring. My life couldn’t be more different to that. So firstly, the idea of work-life balance is now becoming less of a well-accepted idea. Because people say that, well, work-life balance means they have to be at odds with each other. The pendulum has to swing from work and then pulling you towards life and then pulling you back to work. And that’s really, really hard.

Darren: I had a baby nine months ago or my wife had a baby nine months ago. I didn’t. But we had a baby less than a year ago. And you’d think that that’s really difficult as a founder. I mean, I already have a baby, the business that’s taking so much time and focus. And to be honest, it’s really worked well. Because the way I deal with things, is everything’s fluid. My focus in life, my focus right now at this stage of my career is my family and my business. And obviously friends and things come around that. They can be intertwined heavily. So I try to get home now to have dinner and help bathe my daughter and all that. And then I’ll go and do some stuff after dinner or we’ll go away for the weekend and I’ll take Friday off to have a long weekend up in Napper or just near San Francisco or something like that. And I’ll take Friday off and spend some great time with them and then I’ll do a bit of work on the weekend when she’s asleep.

Darren: So I think the old fashioned way of thinking of time for work and time for life doesn’t make sense anymore. I think if you’re focused on work and you’re focused on family and life, you just make it work and they’re intertwined. They’re not fighting with each other. And I think that’s just what it takes. If that’s important to you and you want to build a business and you’re willing to put in the hours, you do what it takes.

Jeroen: So you’re saying having the baby did not change much in the way you manage your time or it changed the way you allocate your time a bit, but it didn’t make things more difficult?

Darren: It made things easier to be honest. It gave me more perspective. I think it’s very dangerous, especially for young founders without a lot of life experience where your business can just take over, where that’s why you live, that’s why you get out of bed seven days a week. And the problem with that is it gets tiring, you burn out. There’s those problems. But also you don’t get any clear headed time. If you’re just living and breathing your business on the weekend, wherever you go, always on your mind, you can’t think clearly or creatively outside the box.

Darren: So having a baby means I go home. Firstly, someone’s excited to see me now when I get home and I’ve got something else happening in my life that’s really great. And that’s a great disconnect time. But it also means my mind can actually move between different things now. I can switch off even while I’m playing with her or bathing her or doing whatever it is. And then when I come back 30 minutes later, an hour later, I’ve had a mental break. I’ve got some other things in my life that are keeping me busy, that are getting me out of bed. And I think it’s made me a better founder, a better executive because of that.

Jeroen: That’s nice.

Darren: So the best advice for founders, go and make babies.

Jeroen: Get a baby.

Darren: Get a baby.

Jeroen: I’ll go work on that. Thinking outside your current box a bit. If you would sell Hugo for a ton of money and you could spend life the way you wanted, what would you do?

Darren: Okay. I would do something a little different, but not a lot different. I think in general, founders always have to think long term. I mean you asked me before, “Can Hugo be a $100 million-business,” and all of that. You definitely think about those things. But unfortunately the practicality is you always have to make some short-term decisions because you have to pay rent, you have to put food on the table, you have to survive right now. If I could not worry about those short-term decisions, I would still be a founder, I would still be building something awesome. But I think I could make slightly different decisions by only thinking long term.

Darren: So what I mean is there’s some really interesting tech out there. There’s some really interesting problems to be solved that you can only do without worrying about short-term stuff. So the emerging technologies, AR, VR, driverless vehicles, all these things are really interesting areas. Hardware business is really cool. I’m really excited to get into it. There’s a long, long, long road to profitability. So I think having a bit of comfort now would mean I can think more long term and found my next company doing something without worrying about immediate survival, which is really cool.

Jeroen: Wrapping up slowly. What’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Darren: Yeah. So I only read non-fiction. Sounds a bit nerdy, but I find it more relatable. My co-founder is a serious sci-fi fan. He pays me out all the time about it. I couldn’t even think of reading fantasy or sci-fi just cause it doesn’t feel real. Whereas people sharing stories and talking about their life and what happened to them, I find that really inspiring. I’ve been very fascinated lately while we’ve been writing our book called Ten X Culture on teams that have really managed to crack that code. And one really great book that I recently read is called Team of Teams. Team of teams is by a guy named General Stanley McCrystal. And it tells his story. He’s a senior military guy in the US and how he led some pretty incredible teams through recent war and military activity in the last 15 years or so.

Darren: And they’ve been a pretty incredible bunch of stories and inspiration for us in building our team and the way we do things. There’s a lot of parallels you can draw, in taking a team to war and the conflict and trying to keep everyone motivated and aligned obviously to a lesser degree of importance, I know. But it’s really been helpful for us in framing the way we think about teams at Hugo. So I really loved reading that. Definitely worth it. I mean crazy stuff. Obviously it goes down there and it does give you nice perspective too about life and death and the decisions you make but full of really cool ideas that I just literally took back to the team, took back to things I do every day.

Jeroen: Cool. Is there anything you wish you would have known when you started out with Hugo?

Darren: Lots. So one thing in particular, and maybe it’s due to my background coming from the corporate world. But obviously what you do as a founder is you go and hire good people. Everyone knows that. You have to surround yourself with a great team who help you get somewhere. But we always had this feeling that it was our job to insulate or to protect the team from the real problems and come to the team with solutions for them to implement, to execute on. So we took a lot of the challenge on their behalf and then tried to come up with all the answers ourselves. That’s a mistake in retrospect.

Darren: We learned very quickly that doing that, firstly, you take on a lot of pressure and responsibility more than you need to, which is very difficult, very tiring. But also it means that you aren’t using the brains that you’ve hired. I mean, we’ve gone and spent all this time and money getting great people in the room and we’re not even letting them solve the problems we’ve got. So we learned over time that if we can make our problems the team’s problems, one, they’re happier and they want to solve problems. That’s why they do what they do. And you get better answers. You get better solutions because you’ve got all these really smart people in the room looking for ways to help fix these problems. So using our team in a much better way is something I wish I knew earlier. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken us so long to pivot or to learn some of the things we learned and we would be further along or in a different place now.

Jeroen: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think a lot of people leading a company or a team in general make that mistake.

Darren: 100%. Exactly.

Jeroen: Final question. What’s the best piece of business advice you have ever received?

Darren: Best piece of business advice I ever got.

Jeroen: First thing that pops to your mind.

Darren: It’s funny, it’s a bit of a joke. Something that my co-founder says all the time. “If it was easy, someone else would have done it”. When we look at the challenge of building businesses, we often, obviously only see the glamor, we call it the tech crunch effect internally, where overnight this $50 million company pops up and they’ve just raised $20 million at an insane valuation and Oh my God, right. It’s so easy. What people who haven’t done it before don’t know are the years and sleepless nights and mistakes and everything that happens under water. And you know that too obviously as a founder of a successful company yourself.

Darren: So what that means is some of the challenges that we’re trying to deal with, you feel like they’re pointless. Even bits about product stack and some of the technical challenges we’ve solved, we think like, “Why are we doing this? This isn’t going to help. It’s not… no one cares about this stuff.” But that is the hard bit. You only get the appreciation or the acknowledgement of the TechCrunch article once it’s out there and your numbers are amazing or whatever else. But the hard work is the bit that people are never going to know about or care about. So the fact that if all of that didn’t exist, everyone would be building these sorts of businesses and then they wouldn’t be as successful as they are.

Darren: So I guess you have to remember that the bit that creates value, the bit that makes you successful and your business successful is the underwater stuff that no one is ever going to care about or credit you for eventually.

Jeroen: Cool. Thank you again Darren for being on Founder Coffee. It was really great having you.

Darren: Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun. Really enjoyed the chat.


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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder at Salesflare
I'm Co-Founder of Salesflare, the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. I love growth, automating sales, and building beautiful products.

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