Matthew Cleevely of 10to8

Founder Coffee episode 053

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

Every few 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 fifty-third episode, I talked to Matthew Cleevely, Co-Founder of 10to8, a scheduling platform that is built for less digital environments, like the dentist or the national health service.

When Matthew was doing his PhD in entrepreneurship, he and his co-founder talked with a dentist friend of theirs who wanted to digitize his business. They dug in, analyzed how his dental practice worked, and found out that he had a large no-show rate because scheduling was a pain. That’s when 10to8 was born.

We talk about building water rockets and designing mouse mats, picking things apart to learn how to build things, the stress of running out of money, and how to make yearly plans you’ll actually realize.

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Jeroen:

Hey Matthew, it’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Matthew:

Hey, it’s great to be here.

Jeroen:

So you’re co-founder of 10to8, for those who don’t know yet, what do you guys exactly do?

Matthew:

So 10to8 is an appointment and scheduling business, so we allow people to simply and quite powerfully book and schedule meetings. And really it’s for businesses who have clients, really diverse clients and they provide services. So anyone where part of your service is providing appointments, 10to8 goes in, removes any hassle to do with scheduling appointments, makes sure clients turn up in a way that’s super friendly and accessible to them. So we make bookings happen.

Jeroen:

I guess other SaaS founders who are listening to this now are wondering, “Okay, that’s cool. I know scheduling software, I know Calendly, I know maybe YouCanBook.me. Calendly I think is the biggest one. What makes you guys different? Because you’re focused on the service industry, but what product differences are there then?

Matthew:

Well, really I guess I’ll go back to how 10to8 was founded or why we were founded. We were founded because we realized that businesses have the problem that they deal with people in the real world who are all fallible, so they forget things, they forget to turn up. They like to organize their own time on their own terms, and we found that, I mean, you look at tools like Calendly and I mean, they’re great tools, they’re really for people who have quite organized lives, who have quite scheduled, who live in digital diaries already. And they’re not targeted at, imagine a dental practice who has 10,000 customers of every type, of every age, of every technical background, you can’t send them a link to say, “Hey, book with me.” It just doesn’t work.

Matthew:

And when you actually go into all of those kinds of service businesses, and there are millions of them around the world, you find that the way in which they approach their scheduling and the way in which they approach their bookings is quite complicated. So the business logic actually in there is quite complicated, and it becomes very difficult for a simple tool to go in and deliver value. And so 10to8 is the tool that can go in and deliver value, match the business logic, at the same time it’s making it accessible to all of your customers. So some of the really cool customers we’ve had, areas where we’ve really helped over the last couple of years.

Matthew:

We’re starting to book a lot of appointments in the NHS, for example. And some of the really important things there around firstly adhering to all the relevant data security sounders around medical information, but also making something where you’re reducing no-shows, increasing actual capacity for people providing appointments, providing the data insights to do that at scale, and then also making all of those bookings completely accessible. So the model we have is, can your grandmother or your mother or grandfather access the system in a way that’s as accessible as someone who’s very digitally confident? So all of those things together are actually quite a complex set of capabilities that allow us to go in and deliver a lot of value in a lot of different areas to serve these kinds of businesses and organizations.

Jeroen:

Yeah. So if I heard it well, it’s not for you and I basically, most of the time, we are digital people. It’s not really targeted at that, it’s more like you said – for the non-UK listeners, the NHS is the National Health Service – for grandma booking at the NHS for instance. So it needs to be very easy on the front end, very complex on the back because the NHS likes to make things complex, and reminds people not via email or so, but other ways as well to make sure they turn up.

Matthew:

Yeah. And it’s that third element, that communications, that was the original observation about 10to8 was that whenever there were problems for businesses that rely on scheduling, whenever anything goes wrong, they communicate. So they’ll pick up the phone, they’ll drop an email, they’ll actively try and communicate with their clients, however that client wants to be communicated with. They’ll ring their landline, they’ll send them a letter, and so it’s a scheduling system with really the communications coming first and then the scheduling coming second, if you like.

Jeroen:

The connection of the scheduling system to the real world is stronger somehow.

Matthew:

Yeah, exactly.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Cool. And why did you exactly start that? Is that some issue you had in some other job, or why did you start this company?

Matthew:

We started because we’re really … because a friend of mine who’s a dentist – I use this example of a dental practice all the time – had this problem at his practice and he was like all dentists do, gingo on skiing holidays. And the ski resort had an app and he was like, “Well, why can’t I have an app for my dental practice? Wouldn’t that be great?” And so me and a friend said, “Well, okay, that’s interesting, but what are the real problems that you face?” And we went in and we investigated how his business worked, and we sat in with his receptionist and the administrators of the practice and we saw this real problem.

Matthew:

We saw he had a 12% no-show rate I think. Typically in dentistry in the UK, because lots of it’s provided publicly not privately, the no-show rates are sky high, and it causes huge problems for administrators. And the real problem was that if everyone turns up on a day … So you have say 10% no-shows and you have 10 slots in a day, right? So you think that one slot’s going to be free so you book 11 people. Well, if all 11 people turn up you’re going to be there an hour later. And if you don’t do that, you’ve got an hour on average where you’re sitting doing nothing. So it’s a real operational problem.

Matthew:

And we realized that that was a really interesting problem and we started looking at well, how many businesses does this really affect? And that’s what we’re seeing now, the fun side of 10to8 being because we’re freemium SaaS we got hundreds of thousands of businesses who have signed up and we’ve got large banks in the U.S. using us and healthcare providers all over the world, to piano tuners and alpaca farmers in New Zealand I think is my favorite example. And it’s just useful to everyone.

Jeroen:

Just to paint the picture a bit more clearly, so you were on a ski vacation with this friend of yours?

Matthew:

No, I wasn’t.

Jeroen:

Oh, you weren’t on the ski vacation?

Matthew:

He came back from a ski vacation.

Jeroen:

Oh, he came back?

Matthew:

He came back.

Jeroen:

And you’re worried now?

Matthew:

It’s a joke in the UK. I discovered this. This is my favorite, I found out that it’s an in-joke with the dental practitioners just how often dentists go on ski holidays. Because it seemed to be their most, the bane of their existence, so they had to mass rebook dental appointments because there was good power in the Alps and so all the dental practitioners decided to come skiing-

Jeroen:

Oh, and that’s where 10to8 comes in? I see.

Matthew:

Yeah. And then 10to8, when we looked into it and then the name is we realized that basically about every appointment that was being booked the practice was wasting 10 minutes of time. And so 10to8 was 10 minutes of wasted time to eight seconds of simple automation.

Jeroen:

Got it. So if you weren’t out on a ski vacation, were you in a pub, or?

Matthew:

I probably was. I was a student at the time.

Jeroen:

In the UK. So you were a student at the time? Okay.

Matthew:

Yeah, I was doing a PhD actually at Imperial College Business School, looking at entrepreneurship policy, so how governments can encourage entrepreneurship, which I then obviously dropped out of to start the business.

Jeroen:

And your friend is the developer or he also did a similar thing?

Matthew:

Yeah, friends also, yeah. A couple of engineers who are at Cambridge and Oxford. So a very diverse set of educational backgrounds, but doing various PhDs. One of us finished our PhD, Richard, who’s now our managing director.

Jeroen:

Nice. So, based on the subject of your PhD, you were always interested in entrepreneurship?

Matthew:

Yeah, I grew up in Cambridge with an entrepreneurial family, so my father was an entrepreneur. My mom now runs her own business. And it’s like conversations at the dinner table were those classic estimation questions, “How many trucks does it take to move the Pyramid of Giza?” That conversation bubbling up every so often at the dinner table. It’s kind of like I’ve been doing it for ages. My first job I think was working for a tech company, dismantling computers, until I was marched out because they discovered that I was too young to work. But I’d be writing, Cambridge has got an amazing startup and science sector and I’d just write companies on the science mark saying, “Can I have a summer job?” And I’ve been doing that since I was technically too young to have a job.

Jeroen:

Got it. If this were a movie, you were like, act one, you come from an entrepreneurial family, act two, you try to do something in entrepreneurship by doing a PhD about it, and then act three, you finally decide you want to be an entrepreneur and you storm out and start into it, right?

Matthew:

I think so. I think that sounds about right. I’m trying to think of a, yeah … With lots of mess in between that you ignore a film.

Jeroen:

Well, and then there’s a sequel in which you were actually built into it obviously, but it’s, Matthew can be-

Matthew:

You’ve just got to obviously set up the sequel. It just, it was very funny though, because even when I was, even, because I did undergrad engineering and then I did a diploma and master’s in economics and then I did a PhD. But the diploma and masters in economics, there was always quite a lot of tension there between me wanting to do academic research and entrepreneurship and starting businesses. Because I ended up, I think when I was doing my diploma and my masters, I ended up working, let’s be careful, I was working far too much for another startup, which actually did a brilliant exit last year, which is really good. But I did their original raise plans and business plans and things like that. So I was kind of, there’s always been this tension. And now it’s slightly the other way where I’m thinking about academia every so often and policy and, but it’s nice. I think it’s nice being in the real world and doing things.

Jeroen:

What interested you in the academic version of it?

Matthew:

Well, I haven’t done much for a while. The last thing I did, when COVID first hit, I co-authored a paper with some colleagues which got published in a few places, which was quite nice, on COVID testing strategies. So again, another friend had made an observation, this is when COVID was new and no one quite knew what they were doing. And yeah, it was an observation that if you tested regularly, because of the pattern of infection of COVID, the testing on its own could, with the original variants at least, could entirely stop the spread. So if you had a mass testing regime where everyone tests themselves every few days, you could detect, from what we knew about the virus early enough you could detect it enough to stop the spread entirely without disrupting people’s lives. It was an interesting, interesting paper.

Matthew:

I mean, the practical observation really was that testing regularly helps you identify who’s infected and gets them to stop being infectious to other people, especially when you have something that is asymptomatic.

Jeroen:

Got it.

Matthew:

It is pretty simple, but it was nice. It was a nice mathematical proof and it got a bit of traction from the policy makers in the UK at the time.

Jeroen:

I feel that one day you’re going to be a professor for entrepreneurship at some business school or something.

Matthew:

I’m going to retire in a dressing gown and pair of slippers.

Jeroen:

Yeah, the pair of slippers is, you’ve added it, but sure. Cool. Well, actually talking about these things, is there any startup or founder or so that you look up to and you’re like, “This is a person or a company I would like to be like that?”

Matthew:

There are lots of companies that I admire and lots of founders that I admire. The real problem with saying that I admire anyone in particular is they’re all deeply flawed. I guess the one that impresses me the most in terms of what he achieves, and this is really, I think it’s a very boring answer. But if you look at, from a purely engineering perspective what Elon Musk has done over the last 10, 15 years, it’s genuinely … I mean, it’s almost, I now follow that stuff, mostly because it’s just, it’s entertaining, because the engineering achievements are now just absolutely incredible and-

Jeroen:

It’s inspiring.

Matthew:

… really, really cool. And I got my kids to watch the flip maneuver tests at the beginning of last year and so my kids, whenever they want to build something, now they’re going to say, “How do you build something?” It’s like, “Well, we’re going to test it first. What are we going to test?”

Jeroen:

I got a book here also next to me, it’s my next book I’m going to read, Liftoff of Eric Berger. It’s Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX. It really inspires me as well. Just crazy the things they can achieve by rethinking things a bit from the start and thinking, “How can we do this better?” And not just rely on the common way of people solving stuff, but always taking one step back and saying, “Okay, people always doing it like this before

Matthew:

There’s one of. Have you seen, there’s a brilliant walk around video. I may have circled this internally and externally with a few people. Whenever you get Musk talking about metrics it’s like cost per kilo to orbit and or the metrics for his engines and things like that. The really brilliant thing about those is that we kind of, you think, “Yeah, actually that is the thing you want to optimize on. Everything else is irrelevant. That is what you want to optimize on.” I think that some of those things as well are just deeply impressive and yeah, anyway. I really like anything where you can see really tough engineering challenges, people really breaking through and doing them I like. Anyway, rockets are a hobby of mine as well. So not real rockets, water rockets, again-

Jeroen:

Water rockets.

Matthew:

… it’s a thing with my kids. But yeah, so those are the things. In terms of companies, there are lots of companies that I admire. I mostly end up admiring them through interaction with them. So, companies, you can get a sense of really good companies when you work, when you use their tools and you just go, “Yes, that’s impressive, yes that’s … This is really, this is a great tool.” One always yeah, is Wise or Transferwise. So again, just a really nice slick, simple tool. And it’s allowed me to scale my business without being dependent on banks, which has been a problem in the past.

Jeroen:

Yeah. We were using it as well, together with Revolut to organize some of our international cash flows.

Matthew:

It’s just, well, you feel like, especially when it comes to banking, but there’s a lot to be said for just leaving old banks and just starting again.

Jeroen:

It’s true. The old banks have such a history, and it’s a lot of technical depth is stacked up there that is just so hard to get rid of. So restarting from scratch, that’s also why, for banks the best interface for a long while used to be their mobile app, because they started that way later from scratch and they weren’t carrying the whole history of the PC banking system, like the desktop web app. Many banks still have a horrible one there, although they’re trying to redo it. But the back end is even, it’s way worse, so.

Matthew:

Yeah. You got a few interesting companies out there doing interesting things with the back end of banks, trying to transition all the traditional banks as well. I’m trying to remember their names. Begins with M, there’s another one, Thought Machine. Anyway, not my sphere of expertise, but there’s a few of them that are trying to do interesting things there.

Jeroen:

It’s true. How do you look at entrepreneurship? Is it more of a, let’s say, something you like to do? Just gives you energy or it’s a lifestyle thing, or do you have really big, big ambitions? And did you guys raise funding actually? I don’t see anything on Crunchbase, but.

Matthew:

I mean, we have raised money. We’ve raised not very much for the scale we’ve brought to, but yeah, we’ve raised a kind of, want to say large friends and family rounds, and that scale precedes. And we’re looking at the moment. We might raise a bit more to grow faster, but we’re in a nice position now where we’re growing at a decent pace and don’t have any need to raise money, which is having ground away for quite a long time getting the business off the ground is a nice feeling. It doesn’t doesn’t make it any less stressful, anything I discovered. It feels a bit like when you’re climbing a mountain and you see all these false peaks and whatever and you think, “I’m almost at the top, I’m almost at the top. After we achieve this milestone, life is going to be easier.” No, they’re just different challenges. But you asked what motivates me about entrepreneurship or new businesses and where I’m going and those things, or I hope to be going?

Matthew:

Yeah. I’m really just deeply interested in new things, learning new challenges. At the moment the most interesting challenge in front of me is scaling a business. And that’s just fascinating and really interesting. I love new technologies, talking to people. I love talking to entrepreneurs who are building things. So I taught a reasonable number in Cambridge where I’m based, a reasonable number of people who start their businesses and I helped some of them get off the ground. Just a hobby of mine or a part-time thing that I do. And that’s just, it’s just great finding out how other businesses operate, how other industries operate. Because nothing works how you expect it to work on the outside. Now, if you just look at an industry from the outside and think, “Oh, okay. I think I have an idea of what the shape of this industry is, and who the players are.” And then you scratch under the hood and it’s always this complex fractal thing that’s a product of history and is complicated and not intuitive at all. I always find that interesting.

Jeroen:

Yeah. So you really like to, you’re the kind of person who, for instance, like the first job you had, you like to take the computer apart, see how it works and then build a better one?

Matthew:

Yeah. I’m not sure you can rebuild any of the computers that I’ve taken apart. But yeah, exactly. And I think that was, like even my summer jobs, I think they were like, I designed mouse mats. That was my second, my first job taking apart the computer, second job, designing a mouse mat. I built an accounting database. I was employed to do some accounts reconciliation stuff for somebody that was making antennas, advanced antennas for back all mobile comms. And yeah, I just, I realized that if I … I made myself redundant a week before my summer internship finished, which was good. Because I built some software that could replace me. And yeah, statistical analysis on medical data was another one. All quite diverse, but just going in learning stuff.

Jeroen:

Yeah. But it’s striking how for you it starts very often with picking things apart before doing the building. Many entrepreneurs are not so much into picking things apart, they just like to build stuff. For you-

Matthew:

I look back on when I started 10to8 and I think we spent too long picking things apart and not enough time building. If I’d do it all again, I’d spend more time building and less time picking things apart. Because there was a lot of time we spent, not only … Because it’s like when you’re thinking about a problem in isolation, like anything, you can spend any amount of time doing that kind of thing. So how long is a piece of string? How much time do you want to spend doing an activity? So I think we spent, I spent, because I like doing that, understanding things. A bit too much time trying to understand exactly how people are organizing appointments, how you could conceptually define the entire appointment space and those kinds of things. Which, I mean, it’s great. There’s still nothing we haven’t done now, or very little we do now, that we hadn’t thought of when we started, but equally, it wasn’t relevant until now. So spending a day thinking about it a few years ago, it’s not that helpful.

Jeroen:

Yeah, I think I understand what gives you energy, but what is taking your energy right now? What are the things that keep you up at night lately?

Matthew:

Things that keep me up at night.

Jeroen:

If nothing keeps you up at night, what keeps you up at day, I mean?

Matthew:

I can tell you what makes me, where it makes my heart sink. It’s a slightly different question. Because there’s, I’m not, I’ve helped found a scheduling tool company but it’s, I’m not a very organized person. So I have lots of things. I’ve got my electronic paper, I’ve got lots of reminders everywhere and I’ve got people helping me be organized, but I’m not particularly organized. And what really makes my heart sink is when I forget to do something I’ve said I’d do. That’s really bad. I was off, last year I was off on paternity leave, which is great. I had a month off.

Jeroen:

Congrats.

Matthew:

But when I came back, there was a whole load of it, and I didn’t have… energy. It was bad because I kind of came back and I couldn’t remember. It was just like someone had flicked a reset switch. It was great, I felt very rested, but there was a whole load of things that were in motion before I went away that got ignored then. When I came back I just forgot about them. But yeah. So, those kinds of things, I think, I’m trying to think about other things that actually keep me awake at night.

Jeroen:

Is there anything-

Matthew:

I used to really worry. I used to really worry about the business running out of money. I do, it’s kind of-

Jeroen:

It’s nothing to worry about.

Matthew:

It really used to be uncomfortable and stressful. And we had, ages ago we had a funding round fall through, so we founded the business. We had a funding round fall through and we had to lay people off and went from a moderate team to a tiny team. We entered conservation mode and that gave me a lot of sleepless nights a long time afterwards. Because it’s not a very fun thing to do to come into an office one day and announce that things are not going well, you haven’t managed to raise funds and that means people are going to lose their jobs.

Jeroen:

Yeah

Matthew:

But yeah, and I don’t lose sleep over that in particular anymore, but the stress of running out of money used to be really quite horrid, I think.

Jeroen:

Yeah. But that’s not there anymore?

Matthew:

It doesn’t keep me awake at all, no. The threat is always there, but it’s, I mean, there’s multiple things. I mean, the business is doing better and we’ve grown, which is great. But also, having been through it, once you’ve been through a few things, you get a bit more used to things used to it, but it’s tough. I used to lose sleep, worrying about people leaving as well. There’s always that feeling, if people leave your business, how do you cope with that? Or what does that mean? And I used to worry about that a lot, and that I’m better at now.

Matthew:

But also, if you, I think if you like people who you work with and you employ good people, both it means that if they need to move on and they find something else, then you can see how that’s a positive thing. And also, if you do ever have to let them go as well, you can be confident that they’ll find employment elsewhere, because they’re good. So, I’m trying to think of something else.

Jeroen:

Are there any big problems you’re solving right now?

Matthew:

Biggest thing I’m working on is our annual plan. So our annual plan for the year 2022 is still not finalized and we’re 13 days into it.

Jeroen:

Same here.

Matthew:

So, that just feels like … So we’ve got a big model, we’ve got all the departmental budgets that we’re just trying to nail down and trying to nail those down quickly and practically, that’s the biggest stress at the moment. And just working out how we scale in particular territories and things. So there’s a mixture of strategic and tactical stuff trying to be met, smashed together into something that people can actually use.

Jeroen:

Yeah, make some plan that you can actually follow.

Matthew:

Yeah. Because I think that’s the thing is, over the past years and years with the business, there’s been plenty of plans and they haven’t mattered too much. Because if you’re burning cash and you’re just building products, you can have plans and it doesn’t matter too much what you hear and what you don’t. But now we’re getting to a point where the plans mean a lot more. So, our annual plans become more and more important for bigger company stuff.

Jeroen:

Yeah. You know what’s worked for us there?

Matthew:

Oh, go on.

Jeroen:

We set results we want to achieve, numbers we want to achieve, but then we also translate that into things we’re actually going to do, things we’re going to do on a consistent basis. So when you say, “We’re going to do this X times per month and that X times per quarter.” And that makes it way easier to actually follow a plan than just setting numbers.

Matthew:

Okay, because there’s kind of a no counter approach. Here’s our objectives and then here’s, but if you’re doing, but you’re then saying like, “We’re going to do these things that are specifically targeted.”

Jeroen:

Yeah, we define for instance, what is important for us is new features. So we’re going to build two per month. And what is important is to keep improving our onboarding. Okay, we do an onboarding improvement every two months. We need to get more SEO traffic. We write an SEO article at least one per month and things like that. And then every month we know what to do. And in the end, these things, if we’ve done our job well planning wise, the results will follow.

Matthew:

I like that, because that gets around the problem of saying, “We’re going to do this and we’re going to deliver this in month five.” And then you get to month six and it’s like, “Oh yeah, we do it to the plan. We were meant to do this last month and we didn’t. Okay, so what?” But if you say it’s important and then you just say you actually regularize it, that’s neat. Yes, okay.

Jeroen:

Of course, there’s still –

Matthew:

Doing that from Monday.

Jeroen:

Still big projects to do as well. We need to redo the website. You cannot say, “We’re going to redo the website every month.” You can say, “We want to improve the website every month.” Sure. But if you have –

Matthew:

But then if you make little steps, and you don’t –

Jeroen:

A big project to redo it, then that doesn’t really fit in there. Then it’s just a plan for the year. And you can say, “We want to have it in that quarter or something.” But it doesn’t fit into the things you do regularly. But most things actually fit in the regular schedule.

Matthew:

Yeah, I can imagine that. And if it’s a bit like, I remember just going fully agile down to one week sprint with the company that is just … But forcing the entire, we force the entire company onto sprint cycles, so not just the engineering team –

Jeroen:

Interesting to hear.

Matthew:

… and it was quite good fun saying. It’s like, “If you can’t do it, if you can’t do it in a week, it’s not a thing that you can do.” It’s just it.

Jeroen:

That’s something we also do, the sprint cycles. We have two week sprint cycles. The developers have one week sprint meetings now, that’s me and the growth team sits together every two weeks. And then we plan our work. And it’s partly based on that thing we set forward in the beginning of the year. And it’s just other stuff that we add on top. Then we plan the two weeks, we do our work, we have the stand-up meetings and all that, and then the two weeks after. Like next Monday we sit together again and we define our two weeks.

Matthew:

Cool, yeah. I think trying to improve how you do things is continuous, isn’t it?

Jeroen:

Yeah.

Matthew:

It’s just, yeah.

Jeroen:

And the beginning of the year is a good moment to rethink everything, right?

Matthew:

Yeah. Yeah, I just started. And what are you doing about offices at the moment?

Jeroen:

We had a full-time office –

Matthew:

We’re both working at home at the moment.

Jeroen:

… that was useless for a long while. Sometimes somebody was there, but hardly ever. Policy also keeps changing here in Belgium. Currently we’re on the maximum one day a week policy from the government. And that’s actually the policy we had already set forward internally one day a week. So what we did was we went for the difficult search of finding an office that we could use one day a week without paying for the full week. And we found one. So we’re paying one fifth now, which is a good thing.

Matthew:

Brilliant, that’s cool. And I’m always interested, because it’s kind of, it always feels old-fashioned to me now thinking about the idea of going and having an actual office in which you say everyone has to work here five days a week, but it’s, yeah that’s another thing. I’m concerned, thinking about things, I’m worried about that. I’m worried about making the right choice. Because you want somewhere that everyone’s going to go, so you can have a company which gets together. But at the same time, you don’t want the cost of five days a week somewhere. It just seems ludicrous.

Jeroen:

That’s the difficult part, yeah. And actually, what we’re dealing with now is that we try to get people actually at one day in the office, because once you get used to it, it is some step to go that one day, but it is beneficial because it keeps that group vibe alive. You see people and realize they’re not just on a screen. We see each other every day on the screen, like we have stand-up meetings and all that, but still it’s good to sometimes be together. It just makes a difference, both as a group and as individuals to have that feeling.

Matthew:

Yeah. One of it’s, there’s so much, the inertia of like, “Okay, we’re going to go into the office now and actually get out of the house.” The worst thing, I end up being about 20 minutes late to any in-person meeting at the moment because I don’t instinctively know how much time it takes to get my laptop into my bag. It’s like I unlock my bike to cycle somewhere in [inaudible 00:34:42] Cambridge to go and see someone, it’s terrible. It’s just, it’s a kind of weird situation. I’ve completely forgotten how to get somewhere physically.

Jeroen:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matthew:

Much easier when you just say, “Okay, my next meeting is with so and so.” Open a Zoom window, whatever.

Jeroen:

What have you been doing actually to keep your working at home a little light and still have some joy in the days and not have this long drag? Have you changed anything?

Matthew:

I’ve invested in a cool home setup. So I’ve got nice speakers so I can listen to good music. I’ve got a standing desk, and a wobble board so I can wobble around my desk. So I keep myself moving. For me that’s just a bit of movement rather than sitting in a chair all day. That’s been really important. I go to the gym twice a week. Occasionally I play the cello, so. I play the cello to a decent standard, so that’s a bit of fun. I’m trying to think about what else I’m doing? Do some Lego and I build stuff with the kids. I mean, but it is you just, I occasionally realize, “Well, I haven’t left the house today,” and then I just go for a walk. I think that’s the real thing. If you haven’t, if you don’t leave the house for two days in a row, that’s bad. So, it’s just going for a walk and just getting out.

Jeroen:

But you go to the gym also, or that doesn’t count –

Matthew:

It’s a home gym, so it doesn’t count.

Jeroen:

Oh, it’s a home gym?

Matthew:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

Okay.

Matthew:

So it’s a, yeah, exactly, so that doesn’t count.

Jeroen:

Got it.

Matthew:

Yeah, so it’s just, I go and volunteer to go to the shops or just go for a walk in the countryside or something. Just anything to get out once a day, sorry, or once at least every two days, otherwise you get mad.

Jeroen:

It’s a good place around Cambridge to have a walk.

Matthew:

It’s really nice, and the weather’s beautiful today, unlike Belgium. Yeah, getting exercise, getting out. The other one is to realize when I’m not working, I don’t know if anyone else has this, but I end up, sometimes I end up working from home just sitting there being, or standing there being absolutely unproductive, not getting anything done. And just acknowledging that and taking a break saying, “Right, I’m not going to work now. I’m going to take half an hour and watch some crap on Netflix or something.” You just need to take some time out. Just say on Slack, “Taking a break.” And go and say, “I’m not being productive at the moment for whatever reason, I’m going to try and stop. I’m not going to pretend to work.” That’s the other one. In the office, you have people around to stimulate you, that’s-

Jeroen:

So you can have a little social interaction and then restart work. I was actually reading a book, Peak Performance is the last book I read. It’s written by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. You can read it, and the listeners definitely can read it, but it’s also one of the things they suggest is to take breaks at least every two hours. And then they have a few things that they suggest as breaks. Walking is definitely one, taking a shower, doing the dishes, listening to music, sitting in nature, meditating and recovering socially. Some of the suggestions they give as breaks. So you can reset your mind and then afterwards get in that flow again.

Matthew:

That’s, hang on, the slight pause at this end is me just adding it to my Audible account. The other thing is I do, if anyone recommends a book to me, usually I just go and get it on Audible. And I usually, that means I’ll usually read it within a month.

Jeroen:

I do a similar thing. I open my Goodreads account and I add it to my to-read list. And then next time I order books by the five. So I go through that to-read list and I’m like, “Which five books do I feel like reading now?” And then I just order them on Amazon. I’m still old-fashioned. I still read paper books.

Matthew:

For me audio books are a complete revelation, because I’m dyslexic. And I think before I read more books, I would have read more books in 2021 than I had read in my life before I’d gotten an audio app. It’s just, I never, I quite like reading, but never really finish a book. And the only things I’d read from start to finish would be academic papers, which is pretty dull. So things like Audible and other stuff coming along that’s been a revelation for me. Because it suddenly means that I don’t have to read in order to read books or to digest books. So I go and do some exercise and listen to an audio book. It’s brilliant.

Jeroen:

Talking about that. What is the latest good book you’ve listened to? And why did you actually choose to listen to it?

Matthew:

I always listen, well I always listen to books when they’ve been recommended to me basically. So books have been, I only listen to books that someone recommended to me. And there’s a bit of advice that, I don’t remember where it came from, about books is that, it’s kind of, if you’re reading books because you want them to help, like to help with business or try understand creating businesses or running businesses, the time to read the title and to put it in a library somewhere. Just write it down that there’s a book here that can help you do it, is whenever you discover it. The time to read it or listen to it is when it’s actually a relevant problem, because otherwise it’s just entertainment. Because you won’t retain the information properly. And so I quite like that advice.

Jeroen:

Sure.

Matthew:

But now I’m, so I’m reading the High Growth Handbook at the moment, which is great, but painful, because it’s got lots of challenges. It talks about lots of challenges in it, which are going on at the moment. So it feels like a lot of work listening to it. It doesn’t feel like I’m taking a step away from work. It feels like I’m working harder when I’m listening to it, because it’s like, “Okay, here’s more stuff for me to do.”

Jeroen:

But it’s a good time to listen to it, like you said. I hate, like you said also, reading such a book. If it’s not, I’m not directly going to do something with it. These kind of books, at least, there’s other types of books where it’s, you can read at any moment, it’s just inspiring and it gives you a different idea on things and it might make you start doing something, that’s another type of books, but then these marketing growth books are usually of the type you said.

Matthew:

Well, the one, recent books I enjoyed, do you know Exponential?

Jeroen:

No.

Matthew:

Right, Azeem Azhar, which I, okay, thoroughly recommend. So Exponential by Azeem Azhar. It’s brilliant, he runs Exponential View, which is a newsletter, a tech newsletter, which firstly I recommend subscribing to, but also his book. It’s a really nice overview of the tech space and what’s happening and what has happened and why what’s going on at the moment is so seismic.

Jeroen:

Is it Salim Ismael you said?

Matthew:

Pardon? Azeem Azhar.

Jeroen:

Azeem Azhar. Oh, okay. Oh, I found it, The Exponential Age.

Matthew:

Yeah.

Jeroen:

Yeah, got it. It’s on my to-read list.

Matthew:

Yeah. Again, that’s right up my street, because I’ll listen to two things only, fiction purely for entertainment. And then stuff about general technology that’s not too specific to running a business, because it doesn’t feel like I’m relaxing. I usually read to relax. And then occasionally I’ll read stuff that’s tactically useful or strategically useful to read, and yeah. So that definitely fits into the just tech understanding and things. I really enjoyed that and other books, books like that. The names are escaping me temporarily.

Jeroen:

No worries.

Matthew:

Just flicked through my library. But yeah, that was the most recent one, I think it came out last year, towards the end of last year.

Jeroen:

Yeah, yeah. Give good scores on Goodreads.

Matthew:

He also recommends some good books. So he praises some really, the other ones I read are economic history books and things like that. So which I just like, my academic interest originally was in growth theory, that’s why I was interested in the policy around entrepreneurship, because it’s kind of, where does wealth creation come from and how do economies grow, why do they grow? So just finished one on the History of Inequality or the why inequality is a weird concept in the context of human history. But also, there’s a good book on that, which is, Beinhocker, is quite old now. Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth, which is a really good general view of how wealth is created, if anyone’s interested in that. That’s The Origin. Origin or The Origins of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker. It’s a very good book.

Jeroen:

Yeah. Slowly closing off further on learnings. If you were to start over with 10to8 or with another company, what would you have done or what would you do differently?

Matthew:

There’s a few things about, I think I was very … I was paralyzed by fear. At the beginning I always worried about running out of money and always worried about not getting off done fast enough and not worrying about, I don’t know, it’s difficult to put my foot on, put my finger on exactly what, but I think less, just be generally less worried about running out of money or resources or anything like that, planning to live forever. Basically your business, just behaving like your business is going to live forever until it doesn’t kind of approach. And yeah, I think at the very beginning we worked quite waterfall style. We weren’t agile, so there’s plenty of operational stuff that just wasn’t completely state of the art. I would have looked, I would be much more focused on how we did things, and making sure that that was absolutely state of the art, because it wasn’t when we started.

Matthew:

And I think I would have, I don’t know. I think that changes over time as well. Like what I’d changed now is different to if you had asked me that question a couple of years ago, and probably change in a couple of years. I mean, would I change anything different? I think it always comes down to absolute focus and realizing that time, I think time isn’t really a relevant pressure in businesses, it’s how fast are you burning resources and are you getting the best people? And I think I would have spent more time looking for really great people who I think I could have bought in earlier to join in on the journey.

Matthew:

And I think that we’re at the stage where we’re now scaling out the business and feel like we can afford to go out and search for really great people to join our team. And I feel like actually, well maybe I could have done that at the beginning and thought about not that anyone joining 10to8, I think they’re all brilliant, but it’s the question of like, “Who are you trying to bring into the business and why and what are your ambitions?” And I think I would have done that differently at the very start. Is that a coherent answer? I’m not sure. It’s a very honest kind of-

Jeroen:

It’s a-

Matthew:

… brain dump –

Jeroen:

It’s a few answers, yeah. Final question, and maybe one answer, maybe multiple. We all get all –

Matthew:

I don’t know how much you can hear the kids coming home from school now?

Jeroen:

I can hear them a little, but it’s fine.

Matthew:

At least one of them is quite unhappy.

Jeroen:

Finally, what is the best piece of business advice you ever got? The first thing that comes to mind, doesn’t really need to be the absolute best.

Matthew:

The one that immediately springs to mind is that it’s much, much easier to hire someone than it is to fire someone.

Jeroen:

That’s true.

Matthew:

And I think that’s a really, really important thing to understand-

Jeroen:

What do you do with that?

Matthew:

Be really, really, really careful about who you bring into the business. You should make it hard to hire people, not … You always want to bring people into the business, but we have rules now that if there’s any doubt about someone, we just don’t hire them, we’re just cautious. Because the other thing is we, I like working in an environment that is collaborative and open and helpful. And the environment that we have and that we work in is really important to us. And having in that environment, we want to help people if people struggle at their role are responses to help them at their role, not to get rid of them. And so we have a very … So if we help people a lot, then we need to be very cautious about who we bring on. That’s how it works at the moment.

Jeroen:

Great advice. Thank you again, Matthew, for being on Founder Coffee, it was really great to have you.

Matthew:

Great to be here, cool. And thanks for the book recommendations. I shall read them this week.


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