Episode 8 - Product, distribution and purpose with Adam Oskwarek from Zopeful Climate

Seed to Success

Exploring market timing and competition with a repeat founder and mentor

Episode overview

In this episode of Seed to Success, Alastair chats to Adam Oskwarek, founder of Zopeful Climate who shares his entrepreneurial journey building successful businesses with a climate-focused approach. He delves into the complexities of carbon removal start-ups, the significance of sustainable growth, and the impact of external funding on business growth, sharing alternative approaches to traditional start-up models.

Adam shares his lessons learned from previous ventures and provides practical and valuable insights for aspiring founders. His commitment to creating purposeful, impactful change is a driving force behind his venture and his journey offers a unique perspective for entrepreneurs seeking sustainable growth and climate-focused strategies.

Adam's experiences serve as a source of valuable lessons and inspiration for entrepreneurs looking to implement purposeful business sustainability.

00:00:54 (Alastair)

So welcome to Seed to Success, Adam. Today we've got Adam Oskwarak, founder from Zopeful Climate, in the studio. Looking forward to hearing some of Adam's lessons from previous ventures and what he's adopted and learned and implementing in his latest venture. So, Adam, welcome to the show.

00:01:13 (Adam)

Thanks so much, Alastair. Thanks for inviting me. Excited to be here. As Alastair said, I am founder of Zopeful Climate and we are, as you wouldn't be surprised to hear, a climate tech company working on the demand side for carbon removal, both building accessibility and trust in the carbon markets for individuals and businesses. We do this by partnering with CDR project developers across all pathways. That's anything from DAC to nature to biochar and pretty much everything else to help them reach a broader audience and new forms of long-term buyers. It's a really new market, it's very nascent. It's got all those interesting new market dynamics and it needs a lot of help from everybody across the board to get to the scale that the science says we need. So a couple to that, we're passionately advocating for steeper decarbonization in line with the science and basically helping businesses and individuals figure out what that looks like for them in building tools and resources for them to kind of go on that journey as well.

00:02:18 (Alastair)

Adam, thanks very much. That was a great opening elevator pitch in terms of what the business does and what you're aspiring to do. You threw a few acronyms in there as well, and I didn't catch them all. But maybe we can just kind of explain what a few of those acronyms meant as we go along.

00:02:35 (Adam)

Yeah, I mean, CDR is the big one, carbon dioxide removal. So that's any kind of mechanism, natural or engineered, that actively takes planet heating carbon dioxide that we've released through burning fossil fuels and stores it for a period of time. And that could be hundreds of years, thousands of years, or geologic time, like hundreds of thousands of years.

00:02:56 (Alastair)

Yeah. Brilliant. Adam, can you give us a feel of the shape and size of the business, any proxy that you're comfortable with, whether it's revenue, people, how long you've been going, kind of, you know, give us a feel for that?

00:03:10 (Adam)

Well, you know, it's definitely early stage. We're 20 people all distributed around the world. Like the furthest east… We have many folks in Europe and North America. The furthest east we have is somebody in Hungary. And then the furthest west we go is obviously the West coast. We've got some people on the west coast and, yeah, 20 people, small but mighty, trying to, like, sort of punch above our weight, I think, in this new and emerging space. And, yeah, where it started was, funny enough, during the pandemic, I've been sort of getting more curious about climate. I was running an edtech, or I was on the exec board of an edtech, had a team distributed around the world and shipping products around the world. And I was traveling a bunch and was very excited to become aware of the amount of carbon in my daily life. And I was like, how bad am I? How bad a person am I? And how big is the problem? And when I started digging it, I just kind of got stuck into this never ending, really deep and complex and interesting subject and have kind of grown close to it since then. And Zopeful’s grown out of that, really. So in the pandemic, partially to keep me sane, I mean, do we still talk about the pandemic? I'm not sure…

00:04:26 (Alastair)

Seems like a distant memory now, doesn't it?

00:04:28 (Adam)

Yeah, it's like this collective amnesia, but I started writing about it. How do we change the narrative from doom and fear, uncertainty and doubt, into something constructive that we can use and inspire hope and know the way that we can get out of the sort of escalating crisis that we find ourselves in? And basically, how do we create agency rather than making people feel like nothing they do matters?

00:04:57 (Alastair)

Yeah. And so we were talking offline about, you know, it seems this very complex world and web of well, actually, how do I really find out what my carbon footprint is? And how do I... how do I really offset that, the here and the now, rather than, you know, planting a tree that maybe has an effect 30 years time, maybe will still be around in 30 years time, or maybe won't be around in 30 years time. So how did you, how did you go about starting on that journey of research, if you like, into how do I go about this? And is there… sorry to cross you, is there demand? And who are the competitors in the space? Is there a space for me?

00:06:36 (Adam)

So carbon removal as it exists today didn't really exist three years ago, four years ago, so it was really catalysed, I think. I can't actually remember whether it was 2019 or 2020 now, there's the pandemic haze has fallen on that one, but there's a catalytic purchase by Stripe, actually, that became an organisation called Frontier that basically created the initial demand for actively figuring out the range of solutions that take carbon out of the atmosphere. And before then, really, it was like, we're going to plant some trees and do things like that. And obviously, nature is a key part of any climate solution, right? Carbon sinks, whether they're ocean or land based, trees included, already sequester half of humans excess emissions a year. But we've pumped so much out in the last 200 years that actually we need to draw some of that back down, irrespective of how quickly we stop releasing new net, new emissions. Because obviously that's 90% of the work is stopped releasing new emissions, but the last important 10%, is taking out some of the. I think it's like 2000 billion tons that we've released since industrialization. And the technology to do that is at a range of readiness levels to scale, and there's a bunch of solutions there, and they're actually ready to scale, or many of them are. And the science is pretty solid. So researching them... our first nine partners that we brought on for Zopeful were actually kind of the world leaders in the most advanced… They have the most funding, they have the most buyers and their technologies are ready to be deployed. So it's fairly easy on that front. I think we're starting to evaluate a bunch of other partners now across a range of different pathways that are quite novel and new to us. Yeah. So, yeah, you gotta take each one and look at it, how it fits in the puzzle and how… So the big goal, the big scary goal and why I kind of got obsessed with it is decarbonizing stuff looks like very much a deployment and finance challenge. We know how to build renewables. We know that they're cheaper than fossil fuels. We know how to do that. We know that we need to reduce building carbon and things like that, and agricultural carbon. But actually that's really a deployment challenge. But whereas removal is really a scaling challenge, the market doesn't really exist right now. It's all kind of voluntary, but we need to create it, because without it, we never actually ever reached net zero. We never reached that golden balance between new emissions and taking them out.

00:09:34 (Alastair)

So let's take it back a little bit.

00:09:37 (Adam)


00:09:40 (Alastair)

And how you got here, because you've been involved in a couple of ventures in the very early stage, and one of the founders and one of them, you were also very early on. And so when we look at repeat founders, they've got a bunch of lessons that they implement on subsequent ventures and they iterate kind of their experiences there. Can we take it back a bit and just look at your first venture? And I'm kind of keen along the way to go, what lessons have you carried along with you into each of those ventures to where you are now? And therefore, what are you able to shortcut? And then obviously, what we're able to share with the listeners in terms of them shortcutting and mitigating some of the risks and challenges they'll have along the way.

00:10:26 (Adam)

Get used to the risk, I think, is the answer. Yeah, I mean, absolutely. So I've started or been early on multiple teams before, mentored and coached founders in early teams, and also worked on accelerators and helped build adventure studios. I've kind of seen the whole spectrum of how you start building things, basically from zero up to Series A. Beyond that, it's totally different. So you're actually deploying a playbook you figured out already. But the exciting bit for me is really that start to Series A and the bits in between figuring out the playbook. So my first start-up, I spent a bunch of time in my early career working in big corporates and kind of reached a point where I plateaued on my learning. I was like, I got an itch. I need to do something else. I think I really like the idea of starting something. So I founded a company way back in 2009. I mean, it was just a different world back then, right? Computers, comparatively expensive to now and building things… it seems quaint by how we do things now with so many tools out there. And yeah, it was a marketplace, which is a terrible place to start because it's really complex, you need to build liquidity on both sides. But didn't know… I didn't know what I didn't know and build a team, small team, cross functional team across development, design. I was running product and marketing and ops and stuff and then did that for a few years and unfortunately it didn't work out. And, well, it didn't not work out, it kind of got to the point where we're going to need to raise some money to build the next iteration of this thing because we had some traction, thousands of users, mainly in Europe, mainly in the UK and the US. And I was like trying to think about what the future was and tell that story to raise. And then I sort of had that moment where I was like, do I still believe this is what I want to carry on doing? After two-ish years of kind of digging on it and it was still an interesting problem, but it didn't feel like something that was going to occupy me and keep me entertained for seven to ten years down the line.

00:12:45 (Alastair)

It's interesting that we had Andrew Jordan on the podcast a few episodes ago and he very much, talked about, was he, how passionate was he on the problem? And he wasn't. And ultimately that business wasn't as successful as he wanted it to be and they effectively sold off and he moved on. But it was the whole concept there was around. If he was to do it again, it would be on a pure, it would be something that he's a lot more passionate about, to have that wake up and jump out of bed for it.

00:13:14 (Adam)

I mean, I think you need that. You think you need it, you know, and need to be able to sustain that for the long term. For the long term. So, I mean, I think if, if there was one thing that, you know, so my main focus on that one was I didn't know how to build products then, right? I didn't code then, like, I didn't know how to work with team, I didn't. There's the first team I'd assembled. So, you know, I think the thing I was focused on there very much was like, products, like, how do we build the product? Like the mechanics of it, but not actually any of the sort of bigger stuff. It was very on the ground. And I think as I've… so after that, I end up helping teams kind of do that. Different teams across, like SaaS and fintech and a bunch of others that I can't really remember, e commerce. And the more you sort of do that sort of the thing that kind of kept coming up was like one of the biggest sticking points is distribution. So then that kind of came… How do we get the message out there? How do we tell the story? How do we reach people in our target audience, whether they're B2Bor B2B, or some mix of the two things? And so the next one I was very early on the founding team was an airtech, and I was really focused on distribution and growth and how do we get the flywheels moving and how do we sort of buy, extend our Runway and when we raise, how do we make that money go further? Because we're topping it up every month. Because those things mean, like, you can hire more people, you can do more things, and you can basically play an outsized role in any space because of the reach that you can have online. So, yeah, I mean, I think, yeah, so I kind of got obsessed with distribution on that one and went deep into all different acquisition and stuff, multi-channel things. And then this third one, to your point around purpose, the thing that's been most important for Zopeful, for me has been, you know, the culture and the people and the reason for doing it. And I think actually it's a combination of all those three things, really. It's the products, it's the distribution, which is really hard, particularly in 2023.

00:15:24 (Alastair)

Hard because it's very saturated or seeing content everywhere?

00:15:29 (Adam)

Yeah, all those things above. But I think it's also very much paid to play. So, like, organic reach is really tragic at this point, I think. So it's actually quite hard to break through the noise. But I think if you're working in that over time, I think it builds. It's a slow build, but it gets there. But yeah, I think the key thing for me now, after all, since that first onw, 15 years, really is how do we combine all those things and build something that's sustainable for, from a mindset and energy level, but also gives something back to people beyond, we're working for this company, we're doing this thing, but it actually means something to them for the employees as well as the customers or the clients. And to do that, basically trying to live my values through the company building trust and transparency and all those millennial good things.

00:16:29 (Alastair)

So if you look at those three things, just to recap, you talk about areas of importance, so product distribution and purpose. So those are effectively the three things you're bundling into your current kind of project, passion project a Zopeful, if you take a step back in the businesses you were working within, the start-up studio or the accelerator environment, what were the trends or what sorts of causes or correlation did you see with businesses that were the businesses or founders that were more, that were successful and the ones that weren't? What was missing? What was the key ingredient there?

00:17:09 (Adam)

Yeah, that's a tough question. I mean, I really think mindset is totally key. So how do you, you know, because you have to deal with, you know, high levels of risk, high levels of uncertainty, and those things could last for a really long time, and it can be really uncomfortable. And I meet and have spoken to lots of first-time founders or early stage founders, and they're not very well prepared for that. Maybe they come from corporates or larger organisations where a lot of that risk is kind of abstracted away. And so how you build that comfort or that ability to operate consistently, knowing that you will never know all the facts and you may not know what the outcomes will be, but how you continue to operate and deliver for your users and your customers and also your team in that environment, that's a resilience that, I don't think it's necessarily a universal role, but you kind of need to build through doing it. And along the way, you really need to take care of yourself and there's all that obvious stuff. But if you can't carve like an hour, 2 hours out of your day to make sure that you're okay, then I don't know how you actually do that for the long term.

00:18:30 (Alastair)

Yeah, definitely want to pick up on this point, this separate point in a little while, maybe dig a bit deeper in it. But just back on the kind of the resilience mindset aspect of what makes a good founder or a common trait you saw across good founders. Is it growth mindset or is it mindset? Maybe. I think there's some sort, probably some sort of stat in terms of successful founders, the backstory that they have in terms of, maybe they've come from less advantageous backgrounds or they've had to overcome some form of uncertainty. I guess what I'm trying to say here is… What am I trying to say here? I think I'm trying to understand what you saw as that common trait. What made them more resilient, I think, is what I'm trying to ask. Does that make sense?

00:19:30 (Adam)

I think nobody's prepared for how gritty it is. Right, it's not... When you're building something early, you know, zero to one or, like up to growth or Series A kind of level, you don't know so much stuff. Right. And it's not all hockey stick growth and, like, massive funding rounds and all that sort of stuff that makes the news. It's actually the day to day. It's the grind. How do you deliver this thing? How do you get this team to perform? How do you inspire them or get them to deliver? Am I answering the question?

00:20:10 (Alastair)

You are, yeah. And actually, I asked it. I fluffed and asked it in a really bad way. But I think what I'm. I think what you were saying, what I'm hearing is be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

00:20:22 (Adam)

I don't think I'm ever gonna be comfortable in the uncomfortable, you know? You know, I think it's really having a stable base. Like, I believe in what we're doing and knowing that the iteration is not forever. And you never know when the corner is going to turn. And if you have that kind of approach and no feature that bombs or campaign that doesn't deliver or higher that you spent ages onboarding doesn't quite do it, all of those things, they just look like bumps in the road, you know, on the long… on the long walk, the long, slow walk to, you know, and I was going to put you on the point, like, what does success look like? Because, like, what is success, right. If you, you know, I think if you. If you look at what gets the column inches, it's like raises and, like, exits and stuff like that. But, you know, if you can sustain, you know, and build a company over the long term, whether you raise or not or whether you take a different, different track to that and, you know, maybe bootstrap or, like self own or, like, try and do it from through generating revenue and building a different kind of capital stack, success isn't one thing. And, yeah, I mean, I joke with my friends. I probably failed more than anybody that I know. But actually, that learning has been what's made me comfortable with the uncomfortableness, because I know that those things aren't final.

00:21:53 (Alastair)

Yeah. And I think probably what you're also describing is having some sort of stability, but some sort of foundation that supports you in there's big highs and there's big lows, but having a foundation there that supports you, whatever that foundation is, whether it's mental resilience, whether it's a support network, whether it's experience from previous ventures, it's having a foundation to kind of help you get through those tough times.

00:22:21 (Adam)

And patient friends and family.

00:22:24 (Alastair)

And perspective I guess, kind of rather than looking in the short term always, because then you are going to see peaks and troughs that are huge, actually looking much further in the distance because then they're flattened out somewhat. When you look at the direction and the passion.

00:22:38 (Adam)

I feel like one of the key challenges for the western world is how do we move from being short termists to thinking more about how do we build for the long term. And I think that generally applies to building new businesses. But I think the challenge is if you're on that sort of, that cycle of raise burn, raise burn, raise burn, you're always just on the next milestone. And it's actually quite hard to see the long term. But if you don't see where it's going in five to ten years and actually, and you don't believe that that's going to happen, then it's going to be really hard to sustain that cycle.

00:23:31 (Alastair)

So just on that, you mentioned funding a couple of times in the last couple of sentences. So just on that, you haven't raised external funding, have you? Can we talk a little bit around that, the rationale, great conversation offline around the whole psyche of raising investment and not. So can you talk a little bit around how you got the company started with some capital injection or sweat and your thoughts around capital, external capital?

00:23:59 (Adam)

Yeah, I mean, we're going the revenue generating route. Right, so one of the biggest mistakes I think I learned, I was going to mention this earlier on, but I mentioned it now, was not getting into market quick enough, not putting some..

00:24:12 (Alastair)

The publishers?

00:24:14 (Adam)

I mean that one… that one we were beaten to market by somebody else, much bigger, so we couldn't compete.

00:24:20 (Alastair)

Just a little company..

00:24:11 (Adam)

Little company called Amazon, but it shows us on the right track. But you can't beat that distribution. And yeah, I think having been in companies where we've been on that sort of venture funding route, reaching the milestone, being able to raise again and stuff like that, and just sort of like, if you're not generating revenue to top that up and extend the runway, then actually you just sort of getting closer to this cliff. And that's kind of where the uncertainty and the risk starts to feel like it's a little bit too much, right? So you're flying, you're a little bit like Icarus flying too close to the sun if you're three months from missing payroll or… nobody wants to be in that place. Right? Nobody wants to be in that place. So I think fairly early on I realised that apart from massive, world changing 300 x multiple venture outcomes, apart from that, everybody else needs to pay their way and wipe their face as soon as they can. The race is to get to break even and then start extending the runway. Because that gives you optionality around what kind of money you take, what the equity is, what the dilution will be for you as a founder or the team. So yeah, I think now more than ever in the last ten years, probably there's less money floating about from funds and we're seeing funds finding it harder to raise next funds. I think that's that model. I mean, we've talked about it for years, right? We've talked about alternative models for funding. Does everything need to be a 60 hundred, 300 x venture outcome to be classified as fundable or bankable or a good investment

00:26:24 (Alastair)

Or successful?

00:26:24 (Adam)

Or successful yeah, and I think people have tried other things, right? But there was a famous one in the States called Indie VC that looked at like capping return multiples and stuff like that. And they had a really much broader approach to what they would invest in and invested in a much broader range of founders from different backgrounds. And I think that's really healthy, right. But unfortunately they didn't raise a third fund. I don't know why, but I think actually now I wrote an article many moons ago about like this German… part of the German economy called a Mittelstand, which is like small to medium sized businesses, up to like €50million a year. If you think about start-ups, like €50 million or £50 million or $50 million in revenue a year is actually pretty big, right? You know, that's pretty big. And the more of those we can create, the richer the ecosystem, the richer the team experience, the richer the recycling, and the more talent and money that goes back into the system. And then obviously some of them will fly out, right? Some of them will overshoot and become those massive, returning global companies. So I guess it's like, what are we aiming for, right? And what does good look like? And I think good looks like keeping in the game, staying positive, and keeping delivering on the plan, but also using money as it's intended to, to make something of value rather than not chasing it. I think.

00:28:00 (Alastair)

I love the way you described it when we were chatting before. Around the moment you take any capital, pre-seed, seed, whatever it is, the clock starts. And I think that's a really good way that you described. At that point, you are running towards your next milestone, and in some ways, you're never off that hamster wheel. You're continually either trying to raise or get to achieve the next milestone. Ultimately, there is a shift in the mindset at the moment, I think in investors where let's try and be more sustainable and get to break even. Certainly in some types of businesses, maybe not AI businesses, but certain types of businesses, there is that focus. But nonetheless, you are on the clock at that point.

00:28:48 (Adam)

Yeah, as soon as you take the money. And the challenge is it's probably taken for most founders, not for everybody, but it's probably taking you a lot of time and energy to raise that money. And you've probably got a bunch of projects or features or your campaigns or hires you want to make. You got to pay people as well. As soon as that money comes in, a big chunk of it is already allocated. And so you've got this remaining amount left to get to the next point that you're fundable and you've kind of been backed to build the thing that you pitched for. So whilst we always talk about pivots and things like that, actually you have to go and rebuild relationships if you're actually going to do a major pivot, right. People haven't backed you for those things. So it kind of sets in stone both what you're building and the idea and also the timeframe. So it starts the clock and you have to kind of prove it by then. And so you need to kind of know a lot of the things that you're going to need to do. So you have to have done some stuff before, so you've got a certain level of confidence that when that money comes in, you know what you're going to do. Because if you raise seed, pre-seed or like a growth round, you need to know what you're going to execute because you've probably got three to six months to start showing results. If you've raised for 18 months runway, two years runway maybe, and then if it doesn't work after three, six, nine months, you need to figure out what you're going to do because you're less than a year away from having to raise again, potentially.

00:30:21 (Alastair)

So you haven't raised money, you're revenue generating and you've got 20 people. And so how did you go about one getting revenue as quick as possible in order to hire the people and building your platform, doing the research you had to do on your nine partners to really understand the kind of transparency around the carbon offsetting? How did you go about that and how quickly did you get to revenue generating from starting?

00:30:46 (Adam)

Wow. I mean it's been, it's been going a while, like two and a half years. So I said it took ages. I originally said I found my world, my way to the product through being in market, right. And building in market and hearing what people are asking and actually learning about the space and accidentally becoming quite, I mean I don't want to like I want to be British about this. Like, you know, I don't want to be British about this but I actually, you know, deeply knowing what's going on in the market and the space. I'm hesitant to say subject matter expert but like I'm definitely not, I'm not like a climate scientist or anything like that. But yeah, it took a really long time and it just reached a point where I was like I cannot, I can see what's next but I can't do this alone, right. And I need more people and I need so, you know, I guess having built so many things I wasn't afraid of just putting stuff out there and saying, seeing what happens. So building sites, building early versions of products and getting feedback and talking to potential end users and trying to figure out is there more demand for this group or is this more consumers or B2B which is feeling easiest to of reach but also most able to contribute something, right.

00:32:09 (Alastair)

And how quickly were you iterating and getting that feedback? Are we talking weeks or are we talking months? Or just to get a feel of how quickly was that feedback loop coming in?

00:32:19 (Adam)

At the beginning when it was just me, it was probably on a, probably like a month cycle to release something. I mean we say we… so royal we on that one. I was releasing something and then just gathering small samples of feedback. And you don't need that much to know if you're directionally right. It's not necessarily statistically valid at that point. You're not getting 20,000 hits, you're getting qualitative over quantitative. But that kind of iterated and then actually felt like a, caught a wave a little bit with the rise of carbon removal, having the dynamics of new markets and me being really comfortable in having that market making, articulating that value. And then I guess now we're probably running, we've got two UX researchers that are helping me out. We're probably running like eight-week cycles where we sort of release something and then we release at 80%, right? That's kind of my rule, is that we never wait for perfect. Yeah.

00:33:28 (Alastair)

And both of what you described there, the kind of iterate quick and learn speak to users, end users, who's the actual market here? You know, getting that product market fit and getting it to 80% right. They're all traits of somebody that's done it before. In my mind, that absolutely traits of somebody who's done it many times, or at least a few, rather than a first time founder. It's no disrespect, first time founders, but you got the experience of let's not build something. It's huge monstrosity and weight and get users once we're 100% complete.

00:34:02 (Adam)

Yeah, I mean, there's no risk in putting something out there and then backtracking unless you've promised something. If you've promised something, then you need to deliver for that person or be really honest and open and stuff about why you haven't. But, yeah, I think the first thing I built, I was like, it has to be shiny and it has to do all these things. And I think the longer, I mean, maybe it was a venture studio, we were just shipping. We were just shipping little MVP's that were kind of non-functional every two weeks that cycle. The learning loop on that actually was more important than the success of any individual experiment. And I think also when I've built or contributed to other companies, that the last 20% usually takes the same time again. But you can build that and you can change the priorities based on real feedback rather than people's opinion by putting it out there and being in market and having those conversations. But, yeah, I think sometimes, I think my team was like, come on, we can get it. 85, 85 is fine, too. But I'm like, no, I think we need to get it out there. And it's not saying that we're not confident in what we've built or what we're doing. It's just, you want to know that you're building something that people want rather than building on a house of cards. That's based on assumption. Yeah, there's a lot of lean start-up stuff here from the old days.

00:35:48 (Alastair)

What does success look like for you? I mean, you're two and a half years in, 20 people bootstrapped, revenue generating. What does success look like for you?

00:36:00 (Adam)

It's a bit different on this one than my other ones, that actually, because it's kind of very purpose and personal rather than how do we build a new tech product or a new fintech or a new whatever. So my personal obsession is obviously, climate change is a big complexity problem. It's also a values behavior technological challenge as well. And all those things are massive opportunities we are talking about through decarbonising the world in the next 30 years. We're talking about reinventing the whole economy, and that's incredible. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? But on the other side of the coin is actually increasing climate risk and all the downsides and obviously escalating extremes, extreme events. And something that people don't really realise in the science and in the models is that when people talk between 1.5 degrees increases in two, it doesn't sound like much, right? But every increment and warming isn't linear, right? It's potentially exponential. So it's a multiple of frequency of extreme event. So that's the real motivator to kind of keep going. And my personal obsession is like, how do we go in the next… Because to hit our goals, we have to, not just our goals, but the entire goal of tackling climate change. We have to reduce new carbon emissions, annual carbon emissions by 45% between now and 2030. How do we get people…

00:37:38 (Alastair)

It's a huge number, isn't it?

00:37:39 (Adam)

It's huge. It's like something like 25 billion tons a year. I just need to chop and stop releasing. So a huge driver of it is how do we get people to be engaged and to care about it and to feel like they have ownership and agency over these really big problems? And so the way I see it is maybe I've worked in tech for too long, but everything looks like a bell curve, you know, and we're at the really early adopter stage in people's mindset and understanding what the answers to it are and actually feeling like they have some kind of ownership over the problem, because they do. It's just we've kind of been told that we don't for so long. So how do we go from like the 0.2% of the population? I've made that up, by the way, you know, climate scientists, even less climate activists, you know me, just me. Hi. And all the people I've met in carbon removal that are kind of like really trying to push the technology forward. How do you go from that to just a few percent? It's three or 4% of the population being engaged. And that is, there's really good data and some reports that as soon as you get to 3/4%, you sort of escalate from that point, right. Sort of go straight up that curve. And so that's kind of, Can we, this tiny, tiny, UK based, remote, global by design climate company, have an impact in that in some way? It doesn't have to be big, but can we help with that? That's kind of what success would feel like.

00:39:24 (Alastair)

I love the passion. I feel the passion.

00:39:26 (Adam)

Yeah, yeah.

00:39:27 (Alastair)

Hopefully listeners can feel the passion coming through in your voices. Well, from your passion to one of my passions, which is metrics and data, what sort of metrics are you tracking in the business?

00:39:39 (Adam)

We're pretty soft on metrics right now because we're early stage, actually.

00:39:43 (Alastair)

So that's a good point. As an early-stage business, when you aren't tracking, say, MRR growth or compound annual growth or those customer acquisition costs, those types of things, what are your metrics? Maybe your lead indicators that you're tracking rather than the hardcore or fast ones.

00:39:57 (Adam)

Yeah, I mean, so we sort of do two things. I didn't mention it so far. So we do, well, I guess I mentioned at the beginning, we do these online learning courses that are easy to read and help people understand climate science and what they can do in a practical way in like ten minutes or less. So we sort of track our reach there, right. How many people are we reaching with these things? Because that's about hearts and minds and also communicating complex subjects in an accessible way. So we track the countries and the volume of people there. So we've reached 70 countries now, but we're mainly focused on Europe and North America because of historical emissions. But also that's the markets we know best.

00:40:40 (Alastair)

That’s like awareness stuff?

00:40:41 (Adam)

That’s top of the funnel awareness stuff. And also helping people understand what the worldview is, that we think that it's exciting and we can be hopeful and there's lots of things we can make progress on and we can also know at the same time that it's really complex and it's a big challenge, but we can overcome it. But, yeah, so other things are like LTV. When you look at LTV, MRR monthly recurring revenue and pretty high-level stuff right now, we're not going much deeper than that, churn. But I think we have really low churn for my users because they…

00:41:27 (Alastair)

It’s purpose from them, isn't it? They're way more engaged.

00:41:31 (Adam)

And actually, if you're a small business or not to be a pitcher here. If you're a small business or an individual, you cannot buy the things. You cannot buy carbon removal easily. If you're a big company, it's a bit different, but I think for. For everybody else, it's actually still quite hard.

00:41:50 (Alastair)

And just very conscious of your time. So, lastly, I think you've got a plethora of experience across the different ventures you've been involved in. If you could distil it down to one piece, what would be your one piece of advice to a founder, a co-founder starting out?

00:42:07 (Adam)

Be patient. Be patient with yourself, your team. You never know when something ticks. The things that have gone well and the things have gone badly. It's very rare that I've been able to guess the inflection point, but just keep going. But carve out that time for yourself. Fill your day, fill at least an hour or two a day with something that gives you energy rather than takes it. It could be whatever, it could be the obvious things, food, exercise, family, friends, you know, but find the balance, I think. Because if you want to run a full pelt for a long time, a problem, then you need to balance, but you need to find value beyond the thing that you're doing as well. And there's that joke. Is it a joke? But life is a thing that happens when you're making busy, making plans, right? So carve out a time to have a life as well as building something impactful, or a company.

00:43:07 (Alastair)

I love it. And from a practical sense, put it in your calendar. That's one thing I do every day, is put my sessions in the calendar so they're blocked out.

00:43:15 (Adam)

I literally live hour to hour with blocked out time, at this point, I don't know whether it's a good thing. Sometimes it feels a bit oppressive, but actually, sometimes, yeah. Do one thing every day that moves it forward a little bit, just one thing and it compounds.

00:43:28 (Alastair)

One foot forward. It moves you in the right direction. It's brilliant. So we had product, we had distribution, we had purpose. So I love the intersection of those three. Adam, thanks so much for doing this.

00:43:38 (Adam)

Thanks so much, Alastair. It's been my pleasure.

00:43:41 (Alastair)

Thank you.

00:43:41 (Adam)

Take care.