Niche Investment Comms with James Church
James Church is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Robot Mascot, the UK leading pitch agency and the author of the bestselling book, Investable Entrepreneur.
In this episode, James shares how investors care primarily about the defensability of the product rather than the brand. The brand is going to contain the value of the business when it comes to the exit but it's regarded as something that can be changed through a rebrand if needs be. The patent like protection that names can offer is not something investors are alive to.
Robot Mascot started out as a generic branding agency. It was thanks to niching down and attracting an experienced investor that the business took off.
In brief this episode covers:
- The possibilities, such as licensing that a brand offers.
- Rebranding and the loss it can entail for a business.
- How the pitch agency focuses on creating critical funraising assets.
- Series A, seed funding and what investors are looking for
- The importance of understanding the problems of your audience, and what they want and need
LinkedIn: James Church
Book: Investable Entrepreneur
Brand Tuned Scorecard
Brand Tuned Accelerator
Shireen Smith: Hello, and welcome to the brand tune podcast, which discusses all things brand related, including the essential trademark and IP dimension. I'm your host, Shireen Smith, IP lawyer, Brand Manager, and author of brand tuned the new rules of branding strategy and intellectual property.
Shireen Smith: So welcome to the brand tune podcast James. James Church is the co-founder and chief operating officer is that right of Robot Mascot. Yeah, the UK is leading pitch agency. He's also the author of the bestselling book, Investable Entrepreneur. Something I find very interesting also about James, which we'll discuss during the podcast is that he has both a background in graphic design having taken a degree in it. And also, he has a Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma. And so, he delivers talks on workshops and workshops on marketing strategy and branding. So, James’s welcome.
James Church: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Delighted to be here.
Shireen Smith: So how do you use your design and marketing background in the work you do at Robot Mascot James?
James Church: Yeah. So, I mean, it's really that's the, that's the thing that I think makes us special in what we do. Because everyone else if you think about people who do what we do, which is help people create financial projections, business plans, pitch decks for investment, tend to come from a finance background, and they look at things through that lens. Whereas we approach everything that we do through the lens of communication, this is about making sure that you're, you know, all of these assets, your business plan, your financials, your pitch, all of these are tools for selling a product, and in this case, the product is your shares, you're trying to sell your shares in return for investment. So, we look through every everything we create from the business plan through to the pitch deck, even the spreadsheets as a communication tool, as a piece of marketing collateral as part of your, your campaign as part of your proposal for selling the shares in your business, and that's really what generates the success for our clients and means that they're 40 times more likely to raise investment than the average founder, because it's all through making sure that the investor gets it like straightaway is kind of to the point and they can find everything they need to make the informed decision, just like you would if you're doing any kind of B2B sales process. So yeah, it's a real hybrid of understanding what investors want and the complexities around the kind of business strategy and financial strategy and marrying that with brand and communication and kind of marketing practices to create what we've created a Robot Mascot.
Shireen Smith: And what sort of stage your businesses at when they come to you.
James Church: Yeah, so we tend to work with those raising their seed in series A rounds. So, for those who don't, aren't maybe so aware of the lingo there, that's people typically raising anything upwards of kind of 300k to as much as maybe three to 5 million. We're working with a client right now who's raising 20-million-pound series egg, so it can extend beyond that. But typically, we're looking at between 300k to 5 million investment that you're looking to see because it is a typical client.
Shireen Smith: Okay, so should they have a concept that's proven by the time they come to?
James Church: Yeah, ideally, they have some level of traction, some level of validation. That being said we work with people who are in the concept stage as well. But yeah, ideally, if you're raising those sorts of figures, it tends to be that you have some level of validation. You don't have to have a product to market you don't have to have paying customers on your platform or with your business. But you might have a certain level of insight from the market that validates your content. that, we wouldn't typically be working with someone who's just come up with the idea. We actually have a separate kind of accelerator program; we called the pitch ready sprint for those people who are raising kind of less than 200k to kind of validate their concept. But our core services are for those who have kind of been through that, to a certain extent.
Shireen Smith: Right? And who would you help with branding, for example?
James Church: Yeah, so our branding services are something that we talk less about, we tend to, that tends to come through referral and through our reputation, but we typically are working with kind of B2B enterprise, tech businesses. So, they tend to be, they tend to be slightly later stage, they tend to have raised a decent seed round of investment, and now they're looking to create a brand for the people to buy from a brand people want to work for, a brand that ultimately people want to acquire. So, they're really looking to level up their branding. That being said, we still have some clients who are in the earliest stages, but they know, you know, they're a high-end piece of technology, and they're selling this to a very small niche of clients, perhaps, you know, the top kind of footsie 100 companies or something like that, and therefore, they have to get it right first time, because they've got such a small pool of clients, if they get it wrong. First time around, there's kind of no going back, and they instantly have that that reputation in quite a closed niche. So, we do work with people who are at that earlier stage to make sure that that it's perfect from day one. But yeah, typically, within that kind of B2B enterprise tech space is kind of where we, where we focus.
Shireen Smith: So, have they already sorted out their branding if they've got traction and they're larger, I would have thought that they have less need a bit at that stage.
James Church: They tend to have what we call like we'd refer to as a startup brand, something that's been cobbled together to get there first, however, many users get their first kind of the MVP to market to start testing the market, they may be went on Upwork, or Fiverr, or got their mate to design their logo, and they've kind of its slowly evolved. And what they're really looking for is someone to bring it all together and look at the brand as a whole from kind of a positioning perspective in the market, looking at the proposition, the language, the visual, maybe a logo redesign or development of what they've got to kind of push it forward a little bit, something that just ties the whole kind of wider brand ethos together really.
Shireen Smith: Yeah. I've recently written a book on branding, and was quite surprised to find that, you know, designers and marketers received no training at all in intellectual property, which is so fundamental, not just to brand names, but to all the identifiers you might choose. Did you receive any training and intellectual property during your studies? How was that for you?
James Church: Yeah. Not officially, not officially, there is no mention of it on the course itself. However, I do remember going to a, an additional lecture that was kind of put on by my university that was kind of optional, and part of something kind of special week of events they were doing, and there happened to be someone there who was talking about IP, in branding for about an hour. And it was something to do with Kodak, and the value of their IP and some kind of infringement with Sony, I can't quite remember the full story. But that was my only exposure to the idea of protecting brands and IP more generally, within kind of what you're creating, not just brands, but products as well. So yeah, not really, it's not really something that that anyone talks about. It's all about the creativity and the idea and not at all about protecting it. I was just kind of lucky to come across that, and enough to attend the extra lectures, I suppose.
Shireen Smith: So, do you ever choose names for any of your clients and how do you go about doing them?
James Church: We don't tend to get involved too much in naming, as I say most of our clients have already got that, and they're pretty comfortable with the name that they've selected because they're already they're looking to tie everything together rather than creating something from scratch, and the clients that do come to us for the crazy things from scratch tend to already have an idea on their name. What we typically do is suggest to them that they get that checked out by a by an IP lawyer before they start engaging us to go and create a load of assets around that name, which they may not be able to protect in the future. Now, some of our clients do follow that advice and others just go, Oh, it's fine. Well, would we just need to get this brand out, we can't waste time or lawyers and just crack on. And you know, how disastrous that could end up being. But unfortunately, that that's the attitude that sometimes founders have towards that was their IP. So, we'll worry about that later, we just need to get it to market now, and that could be very, very costly. In the long run.
Shireen Smith: What about investors? How, how much do they understand about IP? And what interests do they take in it?
James Church: Yeah, so from my perspective, I think that the investors are my experience, the investors are looking, when they care about IP, I think it tends to be more around defensibility of the product that's being developed, the systems, the technology that's being produced, I don't know if they worry so much about brand. Although we often in the business plans, we create or talk about what's been registered in terms of a trademark and that kind of thing, because we think it's, it's obviously that's important, but when I think investors care for it enough to know, like, that's been protected, great. I don't think it would stop a deal going forward on the brand specific bit, they're more worried about the defensibility of the product and the technology, because that's the thing that really, they see is the you know, you could rebrand if you needed to it may be expensive, but you could do that. at series, A series B stage, if you had to really care about at the very earliest stage of the seen series A rounds is that defensibility of the product more than more than anything else, so I would, I would say, but yeah, we always make sure that we explore with our clients, what IP they have around that product, but also their brand, because I fundamentally believe that is an extremely valuable asset in the business when it comes to the exit come the end of the, end of the journey, you're going to be in a position where you're valuing your brand, but also your tech and everything else. But just look at Apple, right and how much just that logo on its own is worth and all of the systems design systems and structures around it is worth a huge amount of money as well as all the technology they've developed. Same with Google, Facebook, these things are worth just on their own, just the brand itself is worth a huge amount of money. So, I don't think it's given the respect it deserves from either investors or, or founders to be.
Shireen Smith: Yeah, I find that people don't really understand how a name is a barrier to entry, that it can actually provide patent like protection for a business that takes off that successful. You know because others can't use similar names. That counts for a lot. But you know, when I talk about Clubcard how Tesco managed to create this brand without actually having a name that trademarkable. Most people don't understand what a huge loss it is because they spend a million promoting loyalty cards and then everyone else can use the same name and say, Sainsbury's club card and that means it's a huge loss, but people just don't get it that it might.
James Church: I mean, there's lots of parts of a brand that add value, and you look at the brands that achieved the biggest exit multiples, and there's fundamental truths across all of them, and yes, some of them are product based and they've got great technology or type of revenue model, that means its subscription based, and you can get the highest exit multiples there. But the other things that come into account are the soft assets like brand systems and processes culture, you know, culture is part of brand, right? It's the way you’re the way your internal staff think and feel and act around your business is as much about brand as your customers active feel and think about your business as well. So, it's a massively valuable asset in the business.
Shireen Smith: Well, brand covers so many things, there's one is sort of culture, the IP side actually is just about the name and the identifiers because that's what contains the value when, when a business goes into administration, and sells its brands, invariably, all its selling is its trademarks, and you know, any other IP rights, it might have protected. And there's nothing else to show for it.
James Church: Even if you're not thinking about a single or administration, the value of your brand to expand your portfolio, think of Virgin, and how they can just sell that and stick on a bottle of wine, and suddenly, you own your business worth, and that's everyone thinks that it's part of the Virgin Group, but it's, but it's not, I'm not sure that now, but it's, I'm pretty sure it's not part of the Virgin Group. And someone just licenses that brand off them. Because it has so much kudos and credibility, and you can suddenly start to build if you build a great brand, and you want to do that you can certainly build licensing deals in across loads of different industries, and you don't have to get your hands dirty building a whole new business, you can just go, here we go use my brand, and pay me x millions a year for the use of it, and it's super valuable to have that, to have that. Because then it gives you all have those options, all of those opportunities.
Shireen Smith: Exactly. But I think people are not really alive to that they think, okay, a brand like Virgin might be there. But I'm a little old me, you know, and they don't realize that if they're aspiring to be big, they could become, you know, quite substantial in a few years’ time. And therefore, that brand.
James Church: Absolutely. And the crazy thing is, is that our clients are will have that vision, they will have that dream, the reason why they're raising money is because they want to be the next Uber the next Airbnb, the next Facebook, the next Google, and you can you know, and I know they've got lots to do and lots of things to spend the money on, and there's so many priorities that are conflicting. But it's not that it's pretty inexpensive in comparison to building their technology to protect that brand.
Shireen Smith: Well, yes, I mean, it's basically the name shouldn't be taken for granted, because everything a business does is to generate name recognition.
James Church: Yeah. Yeah. And once you know, once you've started to build that recognition, right, and you're you, you've got your MVP, you've got your first loyal customers, and you could rebrand yeah, and it wouldn't, you know, but it starts to get so intrinsically, the more you develop stuff, and the bigger you get them in, the more that brand gets intrinsically linked into, into what you do, and then suddenly, it's like a massive pain to change it if you need to, because it's, it's important. Don't even remember, you know, it's not just updating the website, or when it's on every invoice, it's on every email communication, it's on all of these documents that you've just send out and don't even think about it. And all of a sudden, you think, well, there is so much here to do to change this across the organization. We've got 50 people in there now working for us, and there's all this stuff going in and out of the business with our with our brand on it. And the idea of then changing it at that later date is, yeah, he's actually a lot of people off rebranding, because there's so much stuff that has to change. Yeah. And that's where it becomes really, really costly.
Shireen Smith: That's the obvious cost, but then there's the cost of buyers forgetting you because you had some sort of recognition in the market. And you vanish if you have to start with a new name.
James Church: Yeah, there's I'm trying to think of some examples now, but there's, there's loads of example, there's examples where people have gone back as well. Not necessarily changing their brand name, but just changing their look like Gap did it a few years ago than they were about eight years ago now. They didn't change their name, they just changed to a whole new look, and the market hated it and then spent all this money on rebranding that updated all of their store fronts and everything and then the market didn't like it and they had to change it back again really costly mistake for getting that getting that wrong, but yeah, you Monzo is an example they changed what they were called before.
Shireen Smith: I think Mondo, initially, they managed to just change the Monzo Book.
James Church: Yeah, so but they did it early enough in their journey that, that it kind of got away with it because they were just then starting to hit that scale up phase. And I think that's why a lot of clients come to us at that kind of series A, we're now looking to rely on everything and get everything done properly, because we've got our first early adopters, maybe we've got a few 100 or a few 1000 users, we don't want to carry on with a brand that may not be fit for purpose for the next five years, as we're starting to now really get traction, we've just raised 3 million, we're now pushing on to get a million customers the thought of having to do the brand thing then is terrifying, let's make sure we get everything our ducks in a row now. So, then we can push on don't have to worry about that for the next five years as we build that reputation in the wider market and start to scale. And I think that's why what we do comes at that point, because you can kind of blag it for the first little bit when you're just doing feasibility studies and getting it off the ground. But once you raise that kind of 2, 3, 4-million-pound round to really go and ramp this up and get your sort of million users or get yourself to a million revenue, or more. That's when it starts to get really serious, and it’s no longer just usability study, it's this is a business that scaling down is going to be huge. If we play our cards, right.
Shireen Smith: Well, I think in anything you have to build on solid foundations. So, tell me, are you generally dealing with tech companies? or what sort of businesses are they that you help?
James Church: Yes, when it comes to our investment services, and helping people raise capital, it tends to be pretty broad. And most of our businesses are involved in some kind of technology, but we're working with restaurants at the moment, we're working with service-based companies that are, you know, one of them like a translator for audio descriptions, and that kind of thing for kind of Netflix and Amazon and they kind of do a lot of the audio captions and that kind of thing. So, they're more of a service-based company. So yeah, real a real mix. But yeah, I would say about 80% are in in the tech space, and the rest are kind of something else in another niche, looking to scale their business.
Shireen Smith: So why do you call your business, what is it a pitch, pitch agency?
James Church: So that's our niche, where we recognize pitch, oh, yeah, we're recognized as the UK leading pitch agency, because we're best known for creating pitch decks that that convince investors. That's, that's where we started. In order to create pitch decks that convince investors we have to start right back at the business plan and the financials and make sure that they're, that this pitch has an underlying kind of story that that can hold up to investor scrutiny. Otherwise, you're going to pitch really well. And investors gonna be like, wow, this sounds awesome, and then the deal is never going to happen. Because they do their due diligence, the numbers and the strategy all falls down. So, but at the front end, what people know about us, or we're best known for is creating pitch decks that excite investors. So yeah, we're a pitch agency, first and foremost, it's about communication around investment, and that extends back to all the stuff you need after that pitch, but just the first thing.
Shireen Smith: Are you more like a consultancy? Do you actually do a search for people and generally sought out their business plan for them how to do.
James Church: Yeah, so we're done for you. Done For You service that take a client, we put them through our unique process, we've got an online platform that helps them with their strategic thinking, take all that information that we've guided them to produce, and we turn that kind of raw rough data and we turn into business plans, financial projections, pitch materials, and we've got a team of business strategists, financial strategists, copywriters, designers who work together as a team to produce all those assets for our, for our clients. So yeah, it's the idea with Robot Mascot as you come to us. brain dump everything about your business and kind of how you what your hopes and dreams and plans are for this for this venture. And then we turn that into these what I call the critical fundraising assets that you need to go and run a successful investment campaign. So yeah,
Shireen Smith: Might you turn people away if you don't think that their business is going to really be investable or what.
James Church: Absolutely yeah, so we have we have quite a process that our clients have to go through to get to us we must generate around between 200-300 leads a month, and we end up working with about eight to 10 of them, because they're suitable. So, there's people that they're too early stage, or they haven't got enough traction or validation yet, but they go through this process they created, they take a scorecard, which gives them a good idea of where they are not a good idea of where they're at, so there's this initial kind of quiz to find out kind of where they are and whether or not that's suitable, is it a two hour strategy session where they learn about how we approach things, and they can start to decide for themselves whether or not with a potentially the right fit, they know whether they fit our, our criteria, then they do an eligibility assessment, if they're still interested in working with us, there's an eligibility assessment, which again, make sure that they hit certain criteria. And then finally, there's a one-to-one interview with, with myself usually, to make sure that they are the right type of client for us. And once they've been through that, it means we're working with the right people, with the right foundations in place to make sure that, that what we do is actually going to add a huge amount of value, because the last thing we want to do is charge someone to use our services. And it turns out that they just had this idea the other week in the pub with their mates, and there's no substance to it, right? Because there's no point then already yet. So yeah, that's a big, big problem.
Shireen Smith: So, for seed funding, a business, what sort of investment do they need to put into your investment help to get to raise seed funding?
James Church: Sorry, how much?
Shireen Smith: What sort of investment do they need to put into having your help to get seed funding?
James Church: Yes, so I see clients pay anything between 4 grand and 16 grand, depending on what their requirements are. And the most popular packages is around 8 grand. And that's delivering, though, that's delivering the majority of those critical fundraising assets I talked about. So, it really depends on kind of where they're at. But yeah, that's the typical, typical range for seed clients.
Shireen Smith: And how do you have people that you feel this is going to be an ideal investment for you, you know, that you can approach investors who you think would be really interested in a particular type of opportunity? or how do you find investors?
James Church: So, we're always clear to say that we're not a brokerage. We, of course, have a network of investors. And part of the value we add to our clients is that we've got a database and network of over 300 investors that collectively invest 800 million or so a year into businesses, ranging from angels, to VCs, to family offices, across loads of different sectors. What we don't do as a as an agency, we're not broker and we're not picking up the phone to every single one of them and brokering the deal. For a couple of reasons, one, that's just not us. That's not our, our expertise, we're about the communication and the campaign assets. And secondly, really a seed stage, you should be as a founder out there talking to the investors yourself. It's not until you get to that kind of VC investment where you're raising 3 million or more, the brokerage really works as a model. And anyone who's trying to offer seed stage brokering services, in my experience, ends up kind of going, there's a big gap in the market, and no one's offering brokering services for seed clients. And within six months, you go and try and send a client their way. And they say, oh, no, I'm not doing seed anymore, I'm only doing venture deals of 3 million or more, because they soon realize it's exactly the same amount of work. But 1% of 3 million is much more than 1% of 300k. And it's exactly the same amount of work. So, it's very difficult to find a profitable way as a business to operate a brokerage firm for seed, so we don't do it for that reason. And we'd much rather give advice support campaign assets to help a founder effectively approach angel investors themselves, approach angel groups give lists of funds and Angel groups that they can approach.
James Church: Our services involve campaign support in terms of giving them the tools and the assets and the strategies they need to go and run this campaign themselves. Because we feel that's the best way and to be honest, angel investors want to see the founder getting out there and pushing their business in the early stages. They don't really want to be approached by a broker representing you they just kind of feeling that you're not really as in volved in these businesses, perhaps you should be as a founder. So yeah, for a seed stage, it doesn't really work. It does at a later stage. So, for us, it's more about preparing a founder with those assets, giving them access to our network and kind of sending out an email saying, look, he's one of our clients, are you? Are you interested in getting in touch with them, doing some promotions on network on LinkedIn and giving them the campaign tools and assets and knowledge they need to, to go and meet investors that work much better.
Shireen Smith: Than to go out for opportunities.
James Church: Yeah, you know, this is as much going through one of our programs is as much about us creating these assets for a founder, as it is preparing them mentally, for their investment campaign, getting them, you know, the whole point of that strategic planning tool I mentioned, at the very beginning of the project, it's almost like it's a dry run of all the things that investors going to ask you, as soon as you get into that, past that pitch stage and into that second and third meeting and the due diligence process, they don't want to know this stuff. If you, if you can't tell us about it, then we need to, we need to help identify the gaps, you have the red flags that would come up and work with you through our process to fill those gaps. And so, it's as much about developing you as an individual, to prepare yourself for what's going to happen. As soon as you start talking to investors as it is actually the production of these assets, you could almost say that the production of these assets are a byproduct of us, supporting you to become an investable entrepreneur, as I as I would say, and kind of develop you to be investor ready.
Shireen Smith: So, are they generally, what sort of age are you is your typical client? Are they male, young women?
James Church: Typically our clients are over 35, they have 5 to 10 years industry experience, either as a founder of another company, and this they've probably running a consultancy, and they've said that they've seen an opportunity to create a piece of technology that would completely change the landscape of their of their niche and their industry, and they're in the perfect position, there may be developed something in a small way to help systemize their business and they now want to, they now want to scale this up and create something for the whole industry to use. And they're sort of pivoting out, or they've got kind of 5 to 10 years’ experience, kind of top-level position in a corporate spotted an opportunity in that kind of enterprise space to really change the game. And they've quit that job. And they've started this startup to follow that kind of passion, that dream of creating something themselves in an area that they know really, really well. So that that's fairly typical kind of client of ours.
Shireen Smith: Are they male or female?
James Church: Yeah, there's, there's probably more males and females, but I'd say about 60/40. We ended up working with quite a quite a lot of female entrepreneurs through this process.
Shireen Smith: I read somewhere that 90% of new products fail, because mainly because they're not properly researched, and the market need isn't properly understood. And people just don't into creating something. How do you help people to ensure they're not one of the 90%.
James Church: So, we tend part of our process is identifying that we tend to work with people who've already got a certain level of validation. And if they're raising at the smaller end of what we cater for, then then perhaps it's normally to a certain level of validation. This is to build their proof of concept or their MVP to go and get more validation. And they know the risks that the investors know the risks at that level. If they're earlier than that, and it is very much in the concept stage, I'd be I'd be suggesting that they go on our pitch ready sprint, because there's a whole part of the pre work module. The is like the first week of that program. And there's a whole bit about how to validate your ideas, the four different areas for validation, different tactics and approach you would you would use to validate your idea sufficiently so that you can raise up to 200k to build your first kind of proof of concept and start to validate that even further. So, it's all about steppingstones. A lot of founders, in my experience will who haven't been in this world will kind of see these big numbers thrown around If so and so's just raised 10 million for their business and they kind of think I've got great idea I can raise 10 million for that as well and you're much better off saying I need 50 to 80k to build a proof of concept so I can go and test this on 1000 people and then we can take that information and we can decide what's working, what's, what isn't working, and then we can go and raise 200k, to do the next version of the product and get to maybe 10,000 users or whatever, then go and raise a million, then go and raise 5 million, then go and raise 20 million, rather than just try and do it all in one go. So, the initial stages, it's kind of baby steps, under 150-200k, to begin with, then around about 500k to a million. And then about 2 to 5 million after that is fairly typical. That changes massively for different sectors, we just had a client in the Fintech space, the financial technology space, who closed their what's known as a pre seed round that that would typically be around 200k or less, they just closed their alpha 750k, with no product, just research, desk research, validation, primary research, and surveys are sort of a very basic prototype that was like a clickable design. No more than that, because it's such a hot space. And they've got a great team with great experience. And they managed to attract with the assets we created for them, some of the top European VCs to come and invest in a deal that's quite unusual for them, they'd normally be looking at something a bit later stage, and they got a huge amount of money for the level of the level of stage they're at. Because that sector is so hot, because they had all the assets in place, and the investors could see how awesome the opportunity was. So, it's always exceptions that break the rules.
Shireen Smith: So, is this your only business? Aren't you tempted sometimes to create, you know, a product or something and raising to how much you know about it.
James Church: Yeah, yeah, I mean, it's definitely probably my future. I'm just loving doing this right now. I've got a young family, a three-year-old and a five-month-old. So, my time is precious. And I don't want to miss them growing up because I'm, I'm off trying to create a global empire. So, I'm loving doing this. I'm loving scaling, robot mascot. I love working with really awesome founders. Getting all of this experience from them as well. And yeah, I think probably, when the kids are a bit older and a bit more independent, there's probably a part of me that would love to go in to go and do that with the right idea, the right founding team. So yeah, I think robot mascot is a is a steppingstone in my, my career, I'm sure. But when that will be will be when the time's right on a personal? I just love doing it right now.
Shireen Smith: You'll have so much expertise If you do.
James Church: Yeah, you know, one of the best ways to grow a business or create one of these big scalable kind of tech companies is to get you get a load of experience doing a kind of a consultancy type business first, you learn so, you know, the first three, four years of robot mascot were pretty much disastrous, you know, there's nothing really happening and, you know, you kind of constantly kind of battling, but all of that experience means that we can launch new products within months, and they're a success. And we've got that experience now that we can, that we wouldn't have had if we tried to do that with someone else's money and would have completely wasted that money and would have been one of those failures on the list. So sometimes it's better to that's part of the reason why, you know, the founders that we work with tends to be 35 or over, they've got quite a lot of life experience behind them, which gives them a better perspective on things as well.
Shireen Smith: So, what happened to help you to succeed a Robot Mascot you say it was difficult in the first few years? What changed?
James Church: We brought on board an awesome advisor, guy that you know very well called Daniel Priestley. Yes, so he, he's a shareholder in Robot Mascot. And that that really helped us have someone with experience who'd made a multimillion-pound businesses in the more specifically in the in the service industry to really help guide us through and there's a lot to be said about having the right advisory team around you. So those sorts of things absolutely helped. The other thing was niching being comfortable to niche and that can be really scary. When you first start a business, we started off as this kind of generic branding agency. We did some TV campaigns, you know, TV ads, we yeah, we've done radio ads, we did brochures and logos, and we were just like, yeah, we can do that style now as we go.
Shireen Smith: All over the place.
James Church: But it was just kind of there was no real focus, and once we realized about two, three years in, we had some advisors as who were also angel investors, we had some clients that were startups that we did their branding for. And they were starting to say, can you help us with our pitch. So, we did that pitch for them, our advisors who are angel investors, like, wow, this is amazing if you could, if you could package that somehow, and turn it into a service that you that you offer for every founder, because compared to what we get sent in our inbox every day, your stuff is just exactly what we need. That's what we're looking for. So, it kind of gave us this idea that there was something there, there was a massive problem to be solved. So I spent 12 to 18 months really researching that took myself out of the branding business, Nick, my co-founder focused on the branding stuff, and I went and, and researched and really got to understand the investment side of things, Nick had attended a few tech events to explore it as well and spotted the opportunity himself as well and sort of came back to me excited to go and there really is something here, James, we should we should do this, I went off and did the research, ended up with the book, and kind of really niching the business into this into this kind of specialist communications agency to help founders communicate their ideas, to investors, and that niching has just given us attracted people like Daniel Priestley to come and mentor us and it really, really helped us kind of push on so. So yeah, that's, that's probably been the secret is to not be afraid to some niche and become the expert in one small thing, which actually turns out to be one big thing, once you get it right. There’re more people out there to help than we could possibly manage. So yeah.
Shireen Smith: So, before we finish, just is there one piece of advice you would give to a founder who wants to grow something big, I mean, what's the one piece of advice.
James Church: Oh, one piece of advice, really get to understand. But if you're looking for investment, and we're talking about a founder, that's looking for investments.
Shireen Smith: You’ve got a big idea.
James Church: If you're looking to seek investment, my biggest advice is that it's really, you've spent your whole life and your whole journey and your business so far, really getting to understand the problems of your of your audience, and the wants and needs of the audience you're selling your product to. If you want to go and raise investment, you need to spend just as much time and effort understanding the problems and the wants and needs of the audience, you're going to be selling your shares to and really understand what it is that an investor makes an investor tick. What are they looking for? What ticks their boxes? What makes them say yes to a deal? What are they really, really looking for? And that's kind of what my book covers and what my book talks about. But so many founders struggle with the whole investor communication thing, because they're failed to realize they see it as giving away shares, right, I'm going to give away shares, someone's going to see this awesome idea and they're going to give me some money. If there's so many things that investors are looking for, to satisfy their requirements to make an investment that founders just don't talk about. And that's why so many failed to raise investment. So become an expert in your, in your, the audience you're selling your product to but also become an expert in the audience you're going to be selling your shares to as well would be.
Shireen Smith: That's excellent advice. We'll add your book into the show notes as well. So that also we do. Well, thank you very much indeed. James. That was great. All right man bye.
Shireen Smith: Thanks for having a cheers bye.