Episode 9 - A female founder's path to fundraising success

Seed to Success

Addressing allyship, balance and fulfilment in tech

Episode overview

In this episode of Seed to Success Alastair sits down with Emma Rees, CEO and co-founder of Deployed, who shares her unique journey and insights as a female founder in tech. She opens up about her experiences navigating the complexities of a male-dominated industry and emphasises the need for allyship among women in business.

Emma highlights the importance of timing, mentorship and the lessons learnt from early ventures. Discussing the very specific challenges of building an enterprise SaaS, Emma shares valuable insights for fundraising, project management and maintaining a work-life balance.  

With a candid account of the struggles and successes she’s faced as a female entrepreneur, Emma offers practical ideas for real change. This episode is a must-listen for anyone passionate about tackling gender imbalances and fostering inclusivity in the tech world!

00:00:47 (Alastair)

Welcome to the pod, today. Emma Rees, CEO and co-founder from Deployed. Thanks very much for coming on the show and it's great to have you here.

00:00:56 (Emma)

It's great to be here, Al.

00:00:58 (Alastair)

So Emma, you are the CEO and co-founder of Deployed and your H1 on your website is ‘Make every project successful.’

00:01:06 (Emma)


00:01:07 (Alastair)

That's awesome. What does that mean? And what's your elevator pitch?

00:01:12 (Emma)

Yes, what does that mean? Well, we go into large enterprise clients who typically spend millions and sometimes billions on projects, yet 70% of those projects fail to meet the original objectives. So our elevator pitch is we help them write, edit and publish better descriptions of projects to ensure that every project is successful.

00:01:38 (Alastair)

Okay. I love it. I love it. That's a startling and alarming statistic about how many projects fail in large enterprises. But I guess a lot of bureaucracy in those large businesses, so incredible. Can you give us a little bit of a size or a feel of where the business is at today in terms of either, how much you've raised, the number of people, clients, revenue, any kind of proxy that you're happy to share?

00:02:00 (Emma)

Yeah, absolutely. So we originally kicked off four years ago. Our first raise was in March 2020.

00:02:10 (Alastair)

Yeah. Tough time then.

00:02:12 (Emma)

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so we originally kicked off, I'm one of three co-founders. We kicked off in 2020 with our first raise by winning the Melinda Gates female founders competition. We won the Enterprise Awards… Global Enterprise and that came with investment from Microsoft Ventures. So M12 and the Mayfield fund. To date we have raised just over 4 million USD. We are currently around 20 staff and we are…

00:02:46 (Alastair)

Incredible. amazing. And two thirds of your founding team are female. Is that why you, is that the connection back to the original raise being absolutely female oriented?

00:02:56 (Emma)

Yeah, absolutely. So Microsoft were leading that and they really wanted to put their money where their mouth was. They wanted to ensure that female founders were getting more investment. So you had to have a minimum of 50% of the founding team was female to be eligible. I believe there was over 6000 applications and there was three awards. And we obviously then netted the Global Enterprise award.

00:03:20 (Alastair)

Amazing. From 6000 to one.

00:03:22 (Emma)


00:03:23 (Alastair)

There we go. And we'll definitely unpack what it means to be a female founder or co-founder or founding team then I think.

00:03:27 (Emma)

I would love that.

00:03:29 (Alastair)

So it takes back to March 2020, not the obvious way people go back to March 2020, but how did you get into the position of, hey, we're going to build this software to help enterprises scope out the projects better and save money and have that clarity on what's actually going on for all parties, all stakeholders involved. Where did that idea come from and what's your backstory to get to that point?

00:03:58 (Emma)

Yeah, well, not a traditional one. So I've always been an entrepreneur, but not really in the tech space. So I originally started as a hairdresser with a traditional bricks and mortar store back in Perth, West Australia. And then when I sold that to come to London because I wanted to have new opportunities, I built my first on demand platform. So one of the first on demand platforms in the UK, where we took blue collar workers and connected them with office people in the office wanting to have hair, makeup and nails done or to hotels, so concierges were booking us or private individual homes. We had about 150 freelancers on our platform and we had people booking through it. So that was really my first move from my traditional role into technology.

00:04:44 (Alastair)

And what period was this? Sorry. So this is a marketplace, right, which are notoriously difficult to get both sides of the market running at the same time.

00:04:51 (Emma)

So that actually kicked off pre iPhone. So it was a web based… a desktop, web based app that people would book through it. And yeah, it was my first sort of innovation into a very traditional sort of skill set. So essentially I was a tradie before, as you would call it, and actually just really seeing how tech elevated what happened. Like all of a sudden these freelancers didn't have to be in a bricks and mortar store working nine till nine. They could pick and choose the hours. And because we had limited overheads, actually we were able to give them bigger commissions. So they were earning more than they were typically earning. And that really started me thinking about how we could use technology to actually change the status quo. So then we fast forward to that business. I co-founded the business with my husband, Jamie Gannaway, and a very good friend of mine, Kayleigh Kuptz. And Jamie and Kaylee had worked together, so they had come from large enterprise corporate roles. Kayleigh is ex-Accenture and she was selling a lot of project based work to her clients, and her last client was Jamie. And Jamie was in a very large retail bank at the time, and his role was to stop excessive spending on projects. And they came head-to-head because Kayleigh's goal was to sell more.

00:06:10 (Alastair)

Land and expand?

00:06:11 (Emma)


00:06:12 (Alastair)

Every large-scale consulting firm it's got a small project, and and expand.

00:06:16 (Emma)

Absolutely. So the two of them started working together. So they butted heads in the beginning, obviously with very different objectives.

00:07:22 (Emma)

And they came together and started running more successful projects. And how they were doing that was actually, they were looking at the… what are the objectives that this project has to deliver for the business? What type of skill set do we need within the team delivering that? And actually what are the deliverables? What are the milestones? What does success look like? And then from that, they were almost able to create a blueprint for the project. Now this was all done in a very analogue way, and all of a sudden…

00:07:47 (Alastair)

All the best technology businesses are in the first place, right? Don't put the cart before the horse. It's actually, let's just see how this works out. And then how can we optimise it with technology, once we've got the process right?

00:07:58 (Emma)

100%. So they actually started to build quite a bit of notoriety within the bank and they started seeing projects be delivered on time and actually, like they were increasing the success rate, they actually built out a team of about 50 people to do this in an analogue way because the bank at the time was spending around a billion pounds a year on projects, and that was massive. So we were having dinner one night and they were talking about actually, what sort of part of the process could we automate? So, although I came from a very different area of expertise, like with blue collar workers and many mini projects, but actually, how are we setting our team up for success to be able to go and deliver those mini projects? We started looking at actually could we apply some of that methodology to more complex projects? And what part of that could we automate? And ultimately, the problem that we're trying to solve is getting people to collaborate upfront. So getting the buyer and getting the supplier to actually collaborate on what success looks like and then really creating good definitions of that work, and then after that, creating good outcomes and milestones that are actually achievable for that project. So everyone is literally on the same page.

00:09:09 (Alastair)

So you said the bank adopted and loved this approach, and there was great feedback there. What about from the other side, the Accenture side? What was the feedback there?

00:09:22 (Emma)

Well, that's a great question because you would actually think, well, actually, if they're starting to make these projects more successful… so are they not able to expand and are they not able to have…

00:09:32 (Alastair)

Better relationships, better NPS, further on-sell…

00:09:36 (Emma)

But what we really saw was that actually because they were able to define the work quicker, because the process for getting work approved sometimes was longer than the project itself, which seems ridiculous. So actually, from the consultant side, they were able to get boots on the ground quicker and actually start billing quicker. So they were incentivised to actually take this approach as well. But it was still very analogue. We needed to be able to speed up and shorten that process and really apply technology to this problem.

00:10:02 (Alastair)

All right, and we're going to dig into what the next steps were after that. But if we can take it back to the marketplace a little bit, if you don't mind, because we kind of fast forwarded from that straight into the kind of the problem that you identified. What happened to that marketplace and or what were the lessons you took out of it to then fast forward and leverage your experience in building a technology marketplace to Deployed, or the origins of Deployed?

00:10:36 (Emma)

There was lots of lessons, I think, particularly coming from a very traditional role in a bricks and mortar store to then all of a sudden trying to have technology. So one of the first things that we struggled about was this was pre iPhone, so actually we didn't have an app. So it meant that before, before any of the workers left their house to go and deliver it, actually, they'd have to have the maps ready to go, they used to know where they were going.

00:11:01 (Alastair)

I can't even think about, like, when you leave a house and you have to print instructions or a map on how to actually get somewhere.

00:11:08 (Emma)

Yeah, absolutely. And London is a difficult place to navigate, right. Unless you know where you're going. Sometimes there's weird side streets and stuff like that. Anyway, I digress. One of the other big problems that we had was there wasn't really a lot of technology that we could just plug and play. So, for example, there was no such thing as a calendar booking system, whereas now you could just use one white label it and get it in your app. Whereas actually we had to build that. So a lot of the stuff that we needed, the infrastructure, didn't actually exist for us to sort of cobble this together in the form of an MVP. And that actually became expensive and time consuming. So we weren't really at a fast forward with that. Another big problem that we had was we were only ever as good as our last review or the last service that we delivered. And obviously, for us to be able to send that many people out, we really needed to make sure that they were trained in the standard, the service standard that we wanted to deliver to our customers. And because it's a service based business, if you get a bad review or a few bad reviews, then people stop booking.

00:12:06 (Alastair)

So was this under your brand, as opposed to, say, what's the best example? I can't think off the top of my head, but was this kind of. It was your brand that was going out rather than an individual going out on their own? And they were just being rated and ranked on a marketplace?

00:12:23 (Emma)

Absolutely. So we would bring them in. We would also help them get insurance, because on demand work, it was actually called mobile work in that day… on demand, the phrase on demand hadn't really even come around at that point. So we actually started to get insurance and training for the essentially freelancers that were working. And many of them, this was their side hustle and we needed to train them. So how they were greeting them, where they were wearing t shirts, what products were they wearing? How are we standardising that across 140 people across the UK.

00:12:52 (Alastair)

Yeah. Which is also hard when it's their hobby, maybe, or their second kind of most important job of the day. That's quite difficult to do, to get them to think in that mindset.

00:13:02 (Emma)

Yep. So how we tried to solve that was then we went into setting up our own bricks and mortar stores. So what we decided that we wanted to do was have a hub and spoke model so we could have concessions across London where we could bring those freelancers in, make sure they were being trained. They could also pick up regular shifts there, but also take the higher paying work that was on demand, because obviously then we had higher costs in those on demand stores. Now, actually, sorry, on the bricks and mortar stores. That was probably my biggest failing because the digital business had zero overheads other than the sunk costs of building the app, right. But when we started having bricks and mortar stores, we started having rates, you know, water, electricity, all those things, the fit out costs and, you know, plumbing in hairdressing salons and all the lights and things like that. And it did work for a little while. It definitely helped us standardise and it helped us train across the fleet of individuals that we had. But actually the costs were greater than we could keep. And actually, the digital business was our cash cow and it was paying for our problem child, which was the bricks and mortar stores.

00:14:05 (Alastair)

Who'd have a physical store, eh?

00:14:07 (Emma)

Absolutely. I'd never go back into it.

00:14:09 (Alastair)

I like the term used, the fleet.

00:14:10 (Emma)

The fleet of freelances.

00:14:13 (Alastair)

That's great. Okay, so biggest lesson from that then is the fact that technology actually is the leveraging technology is the better route to go than having a physical tie-me-down. Or what would the lesson be?

00:14:28 (Emma)

I think the one lesson is timing, because had it been two or three years later when the iPhone was out, and we could have built an app and technology would have played in our favour, where there started to become sort of salon bookings and calendar bookings, and we could have just connected into that. And I think we were just a little bit too early. The demand was there from consumers, and also it was very expensive for us to advertise. We didn't have any social media where we could kind of jump on the bandwagon of that. It was all very traditional sort of ratings and people googling for us and sort of SEO. So I think timing actually was the biggest lesson.

00:15:06 (Alastair)

Yeah, I hear that from a lot of entrepreneurs, actually. So with that in mind, if we then go to deployed, what was good about the timing in deployed now, obviously, we're at the start of COVID there, so there are other kind of factors going on. But what went well from a timing perspective there to get to the market.

00:15:24 (Emma)

I still think we were a little bit too early. I still think that we were possibly, from the traction that we're seeing now, hindsight's a wonderful thing, but I actually think we were probably about two years too early. And I think there's a huge change that's coming. And particularly now, I think we're riding more tailwinds now because businesses are under pressure to save more money and make sure that efficiency is increased. So we are seeing more people take this up now because they're conscious about that. Whereas four years ago, actually COVID was quite good for many businesses, there was lots of services being sold. Consultancies were growing at an all-time high because they were coming in to help businesses adapt to COVID and all these new policies that they had to have into place. So I still think we were a little bit too early. Maybe next time I have another business idea I just need to wait a couple of years before I execute on it.

00:16:19 (Alastair)

Well, actually, another question on the same thing. How… and maybe this is kind of in hindsight, but when you went from the previous business to Deployed, did you say to yourself at the time, oh, timing was off? Let's assess timing when we're looking at this potential business Deployed, timing was a key thing. Are we timing the market right? Or is this hindsight thing and going, do you know what? Now I realize it, now I see it. We should have looked at that a little bit more, focused on kind of a, b and c and critically assessed, are we hitting the market sweet spot at the right time and the right?

00:17:01 (Emma)

Al I wish I could say yes to that, I don't think so. And I think the reason why not is because probably, like most entrepreneurs, we're overly optimistic and there's a lot of energy and drive to just do things. So the thought of waiting, we probably would have turned it into something else.

00:17:20 (Alastair)

There's no tomorrow, isn't it?

00:17:21 (Emma)

There’s no tomorrow, let's get on and do it now. So I would love to say yes, but I think I've learned that lesson twice, but also at the same time, to build the technology that actually can enable that collaboration on really complex work has actually taken us about three and a half years for it to not only be security ready for these large enterprises to even want to work with us, and actually for all the features to be there to truly enable true collaboration on very complex work. When not only do you have the buyer, you've got procurement, legal, finance, you've got all different areas of the business involved, and then you have the mirror image of that on the supplier side as well, so there's a lot of complexity and a lot of people that need to be involved.

00:18:06 (Alastair)

So you've nicely led us into, well, a couple of topics there, but the one I want to pick on first is you talked about the technology. You know, took a few years to build. So what I want to dig in here… that sounds a terrible phrase, doesn't it? What do I want to explore?

00:18:20 (Emma)

Let's dig in. Let's go deep

00:18:21 (Alastair)

As a non-technical co-founder and CEO that's running and driving a technology business, can you talk… Tell us a little bit about that journey for you to get the most out of your product team, to understand how long sprints take, to understand a roadmap. A lot of non-technical. Well, I mean, non-technical as in developer founders or co-founders have different expectations initially, different expectations of how long it'll take to build something. And I think all three of your co-founding team are non-technical. I think Jamie's got more experience on leading product. But how has that been from your perspective as the CEO and the person that kind of leads and runs the business and faces off to other stakeholders. So senior customer stakeholders and investors, how do you manage that then? Because you're in the dark to a lot of actually what goes on under the hood, right?

00:19:25 (Emma)

It's really frustrating. The way that I've solved it is I feel like I'm levelling up all the time. So I'd immerse myself in podcasts and blogs about…

00:19:36 (Alastair)

What's your favourite podcast then on product development?

00:19:41 (Emma)

Oh, God, there's so many. Let me come back to you on that one. I just, yeah. Immersing myself, making sure that I'm part of founders networks as well. So the ICE network's been incredible getting access to people who have a technical understanding. And I think there's always tension between the product team and myself because I always expect it to not take as long as it'll take.

00:20:05 (Alastair)

A healthy tension or….

00:20:06 (Emma)

A healthy tension, definitely a healthy tension, and really understanding that there's only so many things that can move. So scope, time and cost. If I need to dial something up, something else has to be compromised. So really understanding a methodology and finding something that worked for us within the team. And yes, you're right, Jamie had come from a CPTO role at a challenger bank where he'd been taking them through getting their banking license, but from a very commercial perspective. So I do think there's benefits in it, because when we do get too technical, actually, we still need to bring it back to what is the commercial value of that decision. And actually, I think that's where I sit best, because I'm like, the business needs this. So there is that healthy tension between Jamie and I. I need this for a client we need to do this and then, and the business value to it. And then Jamie's like, well, actually we can only do this or we can only deliver on that. It's not an and, it's an either or. And I'm always saying there has to be an and he's like, okay, well then we need to look at time or we need to look at scope. So understanding the methodology, finding a really good cadence, and actually constantly levelling up, reading, absorbing as much information, I really consider myself a lifetime learner, so absorbing that actually I like it. And then I can come back and say, hey, I've read about this. What do you think about running it this way? And, you know, we'll have a healthy debate about it and get what we need to in the end. But it's been challenging. We've often been challenged by investors really wanting to make sure that the engineering team around Jamie and our Head of Engineering can actually understand the commercial value of that and then give us options. So rather than coming back with one option and saying, okay, we can do it and we'll do it this way, he's now great at coming back and saying, well, we could break it down and do this or we could do that. And then I can analyse those two or three options and decide which is the best commercial direction for the business to take.

00:21:57 (Alastair)

How many are in your engineering or developer development team?

00:21:59 (Emma)


00:22:00 (Alastair)

And so now when you hire, it's probably… it's never easy to hire people, let alone developers. But now when you hire, it's easier because you've got six people in a team and they can help out. But when you were looking for your 1st, 2nd hire in that team, how did you go about going, oh, actually this person is good because you don't know in some ways, right? Yeah, sorry, not you. But like one doesn't know in some ways because it's a very different language and skillset. So how would you have gone about it?

00:22:31 (Emma)

You’re absolutely right. And I think the one thing that I have learned is everyone wants the A team, right? Everyone wants the really hungry, driven people. But the one thing I've learned to look for are the team players because actually sometimes those A team players that are super energised and like really go getters actually sometimes aren't the best team players. And the only way we're really going to solve these problems is by actually working really well as a team. So technical skills aside, actually it is really easy to do technical tests and actually understand how technically proficient someone is. But are they going to be a good team player because the team will run faster together and solve more problems than one individual going on their own and one individual going on their own kills culture, 100%.

00:23:17 (Alastair)

Don't we all know that? Yeah.

00:23:19 (Emma)

So having those team players, and I think I've got a better understanding now of what that person looks like and they do come across in lots of different characters, but understanding that they're going to be a great team player has been the key for us.

00:23:32 (Alastair)

What's been the biggest revelation, or learning, if you like, in working with a product team or building… building technology with the people building it? Do you know what I'm asking there? Not the business in general, not the biggest challenge there, but the biggest challenge directly attributable to, I have a product, I have an engineering team, and I'm the CEO, and I've either learned something, it's been a huge revelation to me, or I fucked something up and we've had to backtrack. We all make… I've got loads of stories around that, right. What would be the biggest thing that you have as a learning from that?

00:24:13 (Emma)

I think for us specifically, because the platform is quite complex, there's been certain features that we've built that have had to unpick some of the architecture and the foundations of it because it's not quite been able to scale in the way that we've needed it to. So, for example, drafting a statement of work, which is essentially what we do, if you need to have changes in it, is it having a knock-on effect throughout the platform elsewhere? And there has been a few things where, because we have been so myopic on deliver this feature, actually taking a step back and actually looking at the bigger picture and where are we heading? What's the overarching thing that we need to deliver and just making sure that we're not tripping ourselves up for the future. Because I think when we were building a true MVP in the beginning, like most tech companies, we had to completely scrap that and then rebuild once we knew how it was going to work because of the complexity. So I think that's probably one of them.

00:25:11 (Alastair)

Do you think it's harder building an MVP for an enterprise customer than it is what, B2B in general? Because I'm assuming if you're dealing with large organisations, they get procurement, they get risk and quality, they get legal, they get all these involved, and I'm assuming they're kind of all over this product to go. Where are the security risks? So how did you encounter how did you build an MVP with that in mind going, this is gonna get ripped apart? Any MVP is gonna get ripped apart, or you're not gonna be proud of your MVP once you built your main product. But how useful was your MVP in that whole journey to building an enterprise secure product that you have now?

00:25:59 (Emma)

It was useful for us, and we definitely did some pilot groups in the beginning. From the customer's perspective, it just felt like the product was underwhelming, which was…

00:26:11 (Alastair)

That must really hurt as a visionary.

00:26:13 (Emma)

Which is why it's taken us so long to then have people using it to its full extent, which is why I think it's taken the length it has. But also, if you look at other enterprise software in our space, that's solving for largely a procurement pain, but owned by the business as well. Many of these platforms took seven to ten years before they even hit a decent sort of, some of them sort of a minimum of a million in ARR, like seven, five to seven to ten years, and we're four years in. So I have to keep reminding myself that actually we are... When we play in our own lane and we compare against other enterprise software, that's solving a really critical problem within the business that's super complex. We also have four years ahead of any other competitors that are coming to market, which is a huge benefit.

00:27:03 (Alastair)

It's a big trust factor, a huge trust factor for many of your customers because it's very difficult for the business. So I'm assuming it's the buyer, the business, to convince procurement and risk, quality, whatever, to actually use the product. And it's their line on the neck, so everyone needs to be really trusting of…

00:27:19 (Emma)

And there's a huge digital transformation change for the business. And actually that takes time as well. So we've quite quickly realised that successfully onboarding a customer for us, when they have a team of digital transformation and they understand the change and the behavioural change that has to happen in the business, that's when our project is successful. So the implementation of the technology, but the behavioural change and the business has to be ready to do that. So they come and do that change alongside implement us implementing the software.

00:27:49 (Alastair)

Well, the key to any digital transformation is the people in the minds, right? And so if you're selling the software for it to be successful for you and to be embedded, and I'm assuming you're on multi-year contract, how do you support or as part of your implementation on the people in change, or do you leave that for the business to deal with?

00:28:09 (Emma)

Yeah, actually we, so they all have people within their own organisation that are driving the change. So it'll come from a much higher level strategic decision to make this change. We also have a learning coordinator who specialises in teaching people how to learn. And actually, then we work with those change managers and we help them train the business with the change, and we do it in bite sized pieces. We get cohorts together and we help them see how they can change. And we also educate them that it is a big problem for the business because many of these individuals don't actually understand that they can be part of a solution. That's a huge business wide problem. And that's when we start to get advocates. But we now have a learning coordinator that focuses purely on that and the software adoption, and that's been a bit of a game changer for us.

00:28:59 (Alastair)

Yeah, that's awesome, because that just embeds it yet further within the business, doesn't it? So working with enterprise customers, you have high ACVs, you have long lifetime values. I'm assuming they sign up for three years or that sort of thing. So huge positives in terms of understanding, in terms of predictability on revenue, on lifetime value of a customer. What are the downsides to working with enterprise customers? Because I'm sure if there are a lot of upsides, there are a lot of downsides as well.

00:29:29 (Emma)

Sales cycles are really long. It's a lot of relationship building as well. And then we need multiple stakeholders involved to actually understand the benefit. Many of them know that it's a huge problem, but they're also, some of them are not looking to solve this problem because they don't know a solution exists to solve the problem. So there's a huge education piece. Sales cycles are long and then people move around. So the downside of someone moving that's been a key stakeholder for us is what we have seen is when they go to their next company, actually, we're one of the first people that they bring in as strategic change. So it is both…

00:30:03 (Alastair)

Or even in the same company, but a different business unit perhaps? Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. So it's a stakeholder thing. I remember when I was at my previous employer, we had this, we were selling to, it was a franchise, a chain of restaurants, and the COO was a huge advocate of what we were doing, was going to put it in all these restaurants, this kind of solution that we were selling. And then he left the business and all of a sudden the person that we'd spent multiple meetings with had gone and we had no relationship with anyone else. And therefore the opportunity was gone completely. It was a really good lesson in my career of having multiple stakeholders in the same business and actually understanding who the decision maker is and who has the power in the business to make those decisions and to buy. So sales cycles, how long can a sales cycle?

00:30:54 (Emma)

Our average is exactly 356 days.

00:30:57 (Alastair)

356 days, wow. So basically a year then.

00:31:03 (Emma)

And we're trying to… so we quite often will take a forensic look at our pipeline. One of the biggest things for us is making sure that we qualify people out of the pipeline, because they do. It takes us a lot of time to keep those relationships and manage them, and actually a lot of them will come back in time and have done. But for us, our biggest thing, because we're still lean on the team, is removing those people from the pipeline if they're not showing signals of buying.

00:31:27 (Alastair)

And it's all a people focused prospecting cycle. There's no other kind of digital or SEO or anything like that. It's all people.

00:31:37 (Emma)

Not really. We run webinars to try and educate as well. We do a lot of LinkedIn outreach, we do a lot of sort of public speaking. So if there's ever procurement conferences, getting up and doing a keynote on what we're doing and the problems that businesses are solving by using our software, they are the biggest drivers of getting leads in for us.

00:31:59 (Alastair)

How do you… you know, I love data and I love metrics. How do you go about attributing customer acquisition cost to a specific... In some ways it's harder, in some ways it's easier. It's harder because it's over a prolonged period of time. And in other ways it's easier because I'm assuming you have fewer, fewer prospects, much higher value. And actually if you go for a dinner or an event or whatever, it's much easier to then allocate it to one of five or one of ten or one of 15, rather than, hey, there were 5000 here, we need to attribute it. So how do you go about… Well, first of all, do you track CAC?

00:32:32 (Emma)

Yeah, we've started to.

00:32:33 (Alastair)

Yeah. And how do you then? Cause it's such a long period. How are you tracking that then? Do you track it in?

00:32:40 (Emma)

So now we look at all of our sales and marketing costs. We also look at the certain events or whether it's webinars or whether it's keynote speaking events. How many leads or decent leads does that generate for us? So we actually know then where to put our money, but then we apportion all of our sales and marketing costs, then to the customers that we have within that year and the conversion rate that we had, and then we're actually left with that cost of acquisition across those customers. And typically, in terms of pipeline, at the moment, we're converting one in six, which is not too bad, but could be better.

00:33:15 (Alastair)

Yeah, that is great. That's great. So you mentioned ICE before. Yeah, just changing tack completely, right. You mentioned ICE before, and so for people that don't know, ICE is basically a community of entrepreneurs, right. I think it actually stands for the international conclave of entrepreneurs.

00:33:34 (Emma)

It does.

00:33:35 (Alastair)

So I'd like to explore a little bit of why… because it's lonely at the top, right. And that might sound a bit like superficial, a bit arty, but I don't mean it's lonely top, but as a CEO or a founder, you have unique challenges that sometimes you can't share across the business and other people can't necessarily appreciate the challenge you have and everything that weighs on your shoulders. So, obviously… so I want to explore the concept of mentoring groups and, you know, working in some capacity with like-minded individuals. So can you tell us a little bit about what you… what ICE is or, you know, a little bit around that and what you get from it? I'm obviously laughing because we're members of the same ICE cube, right? So..

00:34:19 (Emma)

We are, absolutely.

00:34:21 (Alastair)

So I'd love to hear, in your words, a little bit about that without breaking our confidentiality.

00:34:27 (Emma)

I think you did a great job in describing it, and ICE specifically is focused, as you know, on tech founders. They host a lot of events, they do dinners, they do roundtables. Lots of the other founders have come back in and educate other founders in what they're doing. But I think the key differentiator for me is the smaller groups. So the cubes that you mentioned where there's sort of eight to ten people in a cube, and we meet ten times a year and we follow a really strict process. And actually, that's where I've had the most amount of support. And the thing that I think is really beautiful about it is it's not just work problems, because actually, as a CEO and a founder, it seeps into all aspects of our life. Like, as you know, when you're a parent and you're trying to juggle everything and you're trying to juggle relationship, and for me, trying to juggle relationship, co-parenting and co-founding a business with one individual in my life can become really challenging. So having people that will hold space for you with no judgment, there's never any advice sharing as you know, it's. You can only share shared experiences, and actually, we learn from each other by doing that. And I think there's, there's. If you can have those groups around you that support you, you never feel alone or you really feel like nothing's insurmountable because you have other people that have actually been there that empathise with you. They got your back, and that's sometimes all you need.

00:35:50 (Alastair)

Yeah. I think whenever I walk away from an ICE Cube, I have this warm energy around me, and it's really difficult to explain to someone else that's not part of that community, but just the sharing and love that comes and knowing actually, you're not alone. Obviously, you have other relationships, business and personal and the like, but some of the challenges that we face, yeah. You're not alone in those and others have been through it or seen it and have those shared experiences, as you say. So I think anyone that is in a unique position in the business, having a mentorship group similar to what we have with our Cube and ICE in general, is a really powerful thing to share the load, know you're not alone, and it can also help propel and mitigate some of the… some of the lessons that others have actually experienced along the way, you know, together, I think, were way greater than the sum of the parts because.

00:36:57 (Emma)

Absolutely, 100% agree.

00:36:59 (Alastair)

And of course, we have an amazing annual ICE weekend away as well, so that's pretty cool, I think. So I'd like to move into… you mentioned co-founding with a family member. So a lot of people co-found a business... not a lot of people, quite few people used to hear stories of co-founding a business with someone they know most often, or even a friend. In your situation, you've obviously co-founded a business with your partner, and you've co-founded a business with another friend as well. So I'd like to understand some of the challenges around co-founding a business with multiple... well, it's even harder, I think, when you've got multiple parties that are friends or know each other. So can you share kind of, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing or a good thing or a hard thing? Maybe not bad, but a hard thing, I think.

00:38:07 (Emma)

Absolutely. With all relationships, whether it's our friends or our family members, things are challenging. You often have differences of opinions. I think for me, having two people that I implicitly trust means that we can make really quick decisions and we can have really healthy debates. And I think that's the key to making it work. But the challenges are you have to compartmentalise. I don't always do that perfectly well…

00:38:40 (Alastair)

You're human, right?

00:38:40 (Emma)

I'm human, right. Sometimes Jamie and I have a bad day at work and there's no, like, closing the door and coming home to your other partner and being like, oh, how was your day? Like, I know how his day was. I know it was really hard and just. It's funny, I have two kids, so ten and twelve and sometimes they will say to us on the weekend, please stop talking about Deployed. Like, we've heard enough about it. Are you fighting with daddy? Did you have a bad day at work? But in a cute way. Like, they can tell.

00:39:09 (Alastair)

And so sometimes it must be really nice for them to be so embedded and actually see the inner workings of running what it takes to run a business must be really inspiring for them as well.

00:39:22 (Emma)

Yeah, absolutely. You ask both of them what they want to do and they're like, we're going to be a CEO. We're going to run Deployed. I'm like, well, hopefully we still don't have deployed in 20 years when you're going into your career, it's been sold by then. But, yeah, I think it's fantastic. I think it's definitely taught them an incredible work ethic. So sometimes on weekends when we do have to work, like, we will definitely share the load. One of us will take the kids and one of us might work, but I see it in my daughter already with her homework. She'll come home, she'll set up, she'll sit at a desk next to mine, because they just imitate us. They imitate what they see and she'll always have it in on time. So I think there's been a huge benefit. I think the one thing I've had to be mindful to teach them is that downtime is equally important as important, because I don't naturally switch off so hard and neither of us do.

00:40:06 (Alastair)

So hard isn’t it, always being on?

00:40:07 (Emma)

Yeah. And that mindfulness of going, actually, if I'm going to be with them, I have to put my phone away or I have to be present, because then I'm one foot in the business and one foot with a kid.

00:40:15 (Alastair)

You feel bad in both sides, don't you?

00:40:17 (Emma)

I'm just managing… I'm juggling guilt from one side to the next, so. But I think it is difficult, but I do think coming back to the first point of having people to run a business with, that you implicitly trust, and trust gives you a speed in which you can operate because you're not trying to understand someone's motive for that decision. You know them so well. You know, you both have the same goals that you want to achieve and actually supporting each other when things aren't going so well. Like, we're all three of us, and it's rotated where we're like, actually, do you know what? I think you need to take a couple of days off. I've got this, or one of the kids is sick and the other one says, I've got this, or Kayleigh will step up, or we'll step up for Kayleigh. And I think because that bond is there, that doesn't feel like a burden in those moments because you know it will be reciprocated so you can then manage life and everything else that goes with it because you need that.

00:41:12 (Alastair)

It's like an unwritten pact, but maybe you also have a written pact as well, but certainly an unwritten pact when it's someone you know so well. And I think the important word you said was trust. It's a huge benefit from doing that. Emma, I love to talk about the article in Sifted that you wrote or contributed to in terms of being a female CEO in a male dominated world. Can we hear it from your perspective as to what it was like fundraising in a predominantly male focused world? And if I'm using wrong terms, then shout me out for it. Okay.

00:41:55 (Emma)

That’s okay I will correct you.

00:41:58 (Alastair)

Yeah, please tell us around that experience.

00:42:00 (Emma)

Yeah, the article was really focused on actually the lack of female allyship within a male dominated role. And there are a huge amount of theories around this. So there's the Queen B theory, the glass ceiling, actually, that there's... If there's a token woman in the room, does she want to allow other women in there? Because she's going to lose the token spot. And I don't think it's necessarily all women, but actually, some of my hardest pitches, when I've been really put through the wringer have been from other women, almost for a sake of challenging on challenging sake, because maybe they've had the experience that they've actually been put through their paces to get where they are. So that then becomes the mental model for them to do that to others. I don't think it's always conscious, but I think for us to make change happen, there needs to be more allyship. We need to support one another. There's a fabulous saying that I read that, actually. If you've taken the lift up, make sure you send it back down for someone else.

00:43:00 (Alastair)

Don't forget where you're from.

00:43:01 (Emma)

Don't forget where you're from and actually supporting one another. And I think that's a really important thing that women need to be super mindful of to support us because it is really difficult and there is an imbalance.

00:43:14 (Alastair)

Do you think there's an overcompensation, maybe on a subconscious level where if it is a female asking questions in front of others, then actually they want to be as rigorous as possible so it doesn't perceive to be allyship. Do you think there's an element of that as well? Or not?

00:43:33 (Emma)


00:43:34 (Alastair)

I mean, you were the one in the room, right, as they say in Hamilton, right?

00:43:40 (Emma)

Yeah. I think probably one of my most challenging questions from, or statements from a woman was I was at an IC, so an investment committee on the final sort of leg of being the deciding factor as to whether we would get the investment or not. And there was one other woman in the room, sat around by eight men, and she turned to me and asked me, what's a hairdresser doing here pitching money for a tech business? And I was almost flabbergasted to think, actually that's my strength. That's absolutely my strength. I'm an outsider, I come with a different perspective. And hey, if I've made it this far, I'm going to make it further. And I think that doesn't happen all the time. And actually some of my most amazing allies and supporters have been women. So it's not all, but I think there's very much a lack of female allyship and we need to be more mindful to make sure that we're being inclusive. And just because we had a hard, challenging time getting there and we are a minority, we don't need to be more male or more sort of masculine to sit in that. There should be a comfort with our own femininity and our own sexuality and power in that place without feeling like there's a gender imbalance, we can just be ourselves, unapologetically ourselves, and accept that from other women.

00:44:52 (Alastair)

And so the focus of the article was, and this conversation is on allyship.

00:44:58 (Emma)


00:45:00 (Alastair)

And that's women towards women.

00:45:02 (Emma)


00:45:03 (Alastair)

What do you see? Do you see anything in the men towards women area that needs to change as well?

00:45:10 (Emma)

Absolutely. And I think from when we did the last round, there was many conversations that actually didn't go to plan. And I remember being on the call thinking, I can't believe you've just said that to me. Jamie was on a call with me once, sadly, I took Jamie to a lot of the calls because actually, we would progress further through the investment when I had Jamie in the room, too, so maybe it was because they were seeing a balanced team that they were pitching to. I got asked, you know, how I manage the kids. I got asked if I take them to school. Jamie got asked if he cooks to balance. Like, he was on the call as well.

00:45:45 (Alastair)

So I was about to say, did he get asked?

00:45:47 (Emma)

Yeah, he got asked certain things as well. And I think the thing is, at the end of the day, yeah, I'd have moments where I'd come off and go, I can't believe I was just asked that. But actually, there's no point me being angry, sort of shouting fist at sky, like, one individual of me is not going change it. So, actually, how can you play the game and get ahead?

00:46:05 (Alastair)

But it is interesting, and, you know, those questions were asked because husband and wife were on the call, but actually, a lot of founders have a partner that also works, male or female. Right, as a founder. But I don't know if they're asked, like, who looks after the kids and who cooks and who cleans. I suspect not, because it's quite… quite an unusual thing to ask in a pitch meeting, I think. So then it begs the question, why does it need to be asked?

00:46:32 (Emma)

And this is the thing. I genuinely do believe that many of those questions don't come from a conscious point of view. I think they're just subconscious bias that's ingrained in them already and they're asking those questions or they're curious, maybe, or they're unsure.

00:46:47 (Alastair)

Maybe they want to know how it works so they can balance it better themselves. Maybe that's the... hopefully that's the, the way, isn't it? Yeah, to a differing degree when I was at PwC, I worked part time, you know, and that was quite a rarity here in the UK, in London, to work part time, so I could spend and pick Sienna up and spend more time with her after school. In the Netherlands, weirdly, when I worked in Amsterdam for a few years, it's actually quite normal there to have Papa day. So daddy day on a Friday, a lot of the fathers would take the Friday off and spend with the children. Still not the same balance, but in the direction towards it, so…

00:47:24 (Emma)

And that's really where I think the change should start. Because if, if we're seeing that and our children are seeing that and our children are seeing an equal split of tasks and roles, actually, their mental model then will be when they get married, if they're in a hetero relationship that actually will…

00:47:40 (Alastair)

Be more balanced, but that's a generation away. What do you think needs to happen today or tomorrow for it to be a kind of more fairer world view?

00:47:50 (Emma)

Conversations at home? And actually, maybe that… maybe it doesn't need to be as balanced for some people. Maybe they like to lean into those traditional gender roles and that's equally okay.

00:48:01 (Alastair)

So, yeah, so I completely agree that that's fine for, you know, how people want to live life, but then when, you know, asking questions that maybe are invasive or maybe aren't the right questions, you know, what do you think needs to change in those to get that more balanced and fair?

00:48:17 (Emma)

I think there's a big education piece. There's actually an incredible professor at London Business School, Dana Kanze, and she's quite famous for a Ted talk she did on prevention and promotion questions, and she talked about how naturally and whether it's a man or a woman asking it. But they'll typically ask a woman prevention questions. So what about if the market's not that big? What about if competitors come to the market? But actually when there's a male there, they'll ask, well, how big could the market be and what's all the upside? And actually, when she did the research, she realised that when the woman in the hot seat was asked a prevention question, if she was able to change it to a promotion answer, they would actually receive it like they would receive the male answer. So I think there's an education piece around… and maybe people could record, and there's so many more AI note takers these days. It's so much more common to actually record those. Maybe taking like, a sales approach and actually making people listen back to what questions they asked and actually really analysing whether there was any gender bias at play there. And can they themselves be more mindful in changing that?

00:49:18 (Alastair)

There we go. Project it back differently in a more positive way. I love that. Emma, what does success mean for you and deployed?

00:49:27 (Emma)

Oh, my goodness. I think, again, coming back to being a founder and being overly sort of optimistic and ambitious, I think, you know, I'd be lying if I didn't say deep down, of course, I'd love to build a billion dollar company, of course I would. But I think as I've aged and spent more time with coaches and actually, really trying to understand, actually, if I want to start to manage my expectations with reality, what does success look like in that new frame? And I think to be able to build a business that's genuinely solving that problem, that customers are delighted to use and it's a joy to use and we're a profitable business that now is success rather than just building the billion dollar.

00:50:13 (Alastair)

How long did it take you to move from the kind of the eternal optimistic entrepreneur, I'm going to transform the world and have the billion dollar unicorn to fulfilment and success?

00:50:27 (Emma)

Probably in the last couple of years, as my kids have got older and actually just starting to understand actually what is important and what brings happiness. And actually when you get feedback from a customer, that's like you've completely changed how we do things, you've changed our lives. The product's a delight to use. I really realised how much joy that was bringing me and then with working with several coaches to just reframe it. And I think that's all it's about, is reframing what happiness is and what success is.

00:50:54 (Alastair)

Fulfilment, love it. And, you know, I love metrics, I love data… on the way towards that, what is your kind of the most important metric that you track?

00:51:07 (Emma)

In terms of the business and where we're going?

00:51:10 (Alastair)

Yeah. Unless you have a personal metric that you track as well. I'd love to hear that. I can add that to my list.

00:51:16 (Emma)

Yeah, that's true. Yeah, I do love that because I think the biggest thing for us, and one of the metrics that we track within each individual customer is how much of that project based spend is actually coming through our platform. So rather than users on the platform, because it's very different for every organisation, sometimes they have super users who will do this, sometimes they have departments, sometimes they don't. Those B2B traditional metrics of how many users have you have on the platform just is not fit for purpose for us. So we started saying, well, what does success look like if we want 100% of their projects coming through our platform? So typically we'll start off in one business unit and actually we look at the growth and how quickly we move across a business unit until 100% of that spend is running through our platform. So on an individual customer level, that's a success that we track and it's the growth of going through the FTSE 100 and how many customers we're peeling off on that. So I think actually having two or three of those customers onboarded every year is success for us.

00:52:22 (Alastair)

Amazing. And lastly, what would be your one piece of advice to someone founding a business today? Whether it's an enterprise, whether they're selling to enterprise technology, enterprise business or B2B. What would the one piece of advice be that you give?

00:52:37 (Emma)

Spend more time planning.

00:52:42 (Alastair)

Get the timing right?

00:52:43 (Emma)

Get the timing right. Spend a little bit more time planning. I think there's a real benefit in actually playing out the different scenarios of where that can go and actually mentally walking that path. So if everything goes okay in plan A, fantastic. If things don't go okay, what are the alternative plans, and are you okay with those? Because I think one of the things I really struggled with, with my own success metrics, was looking at other people now my age who have been in the workforce for more than 20 years and where their career is and what they're earning and what they're doing, versus obviously being a startup founder and not having a salary. If you're okay with those alternate paths, because plan A never, ever goes to plan, but if you're okay with plan B, C, D, and E, and you mentally walk that path and you're okay with that, then by all means run ahead and do it. But if you fast forward ten years and you're not okay with those alternative paths, then actually really reconsider why you're doing it and where you want to be. So I think the planning and scenario, planning on the outcomes is so important.

00:54:01 (Alastair)

I think a lot of people dream ten years ahead, but a lot of people don't actually plan ten years ahead and look at all those scenarios. So that's great advice. And do you have a personal metric? Like a metric you track for yourself personally or not?

00:54:15 (Emma)

Do I have a personal metric? Let me have a think about that one. I think my personal metric that I look at is my stress levels versus my happiness. I think my happiness dips when there's a huge amount of stress. And I think actually throughout the year, I don't tend to look at it in blocks of quarters anymore. I tend to like to do a review of the year. And overall, have I still managed to have time with my family? Have I still managed to have a few holidays? Yes, I've had stressful moments at the end of the quarter when you're trying to get things over the line. But overall, from a holistic perspective, has my happiness actually still been there? And what have I learned and where have I grown?

00:54:58 (Alastair)

I love it. I love it, I think it's great to do that looking back, because an entrepreneur's stress levels during the day can go sky high and then back down to zero again. And the same with happiness is inverse relationship, right? The same with happiness. It can be sky high, and then all of a sudden, depending on customers or whatever happens in the team or whatever, it can go back down and reset again to baseline or below into that trough.

00:55:22 (Emma)

It's so volatile, right? So I think if you don't step back and as a founder you're so focused on the future, actually just taking steps, and just looking back at the last year.

00:55:32 (Alastair)

Even to be in the present and reflect on what you've achieved is very difficult when you're always looking, you're always walking forwards, always looking forward. Emma, how can people find you if they want to reach out to you?

00:55:44 (Emma)

I'm on LinkedIn and obviously my email so emma@deployed.co and check out our website. We typically don't sell to startups, you have to be spending about a minimum of 100million a year on projects. But obviously any corporate or enterprises out there that feel like they could achieve more project success, we are your company.

00:56:02 (Alastair)

Emma, thanks so much for doing this. Lovely to see you again.

00:56:05 (Emma)

Lovely to see you too. Thanks, Al.