Riding Unicorns

S3E17 - Jimmy Williams, Co-Founder & CEO @ Urban Jungle

March 30, 2022 Riding Unicorns Season 3 Episode 17
Riding Unicorns
S3E17 - Jimmy Williams, Co-Founder & CEO @ Urban Jungle
Show Notes Transcript

Jimmy Williams is the Co-Founder and CEO of InsurTech, Urban Jungle. Jimmy started out in consulting before pivoting towards insurance following his own frustrating experience trying to secure a policy. In 2016 Jimmy launched Urban Jungle in the hope of providing an alternative offering in what he increasingly saw as an unfair, expensive and slow moving sector. Having recently closed an $11.4m Series A round the company hopes to continue building its reputation as one of the key disruptors in insurance. 

Jimmy joined Riding Unicorns to discuss his transition from consulting to entrepreneurship. We learn how freelancing helped bridge that gap. We also probed Jimmy on how he went about finding and recruiting his fellow co-founder, Greg Smyth. Finally we dive into his personal philosophy on culture and why he prefers to overlook certain favoured metrics when trying to scale his business. 

Make sure to like and subscribe to the Riding Unicorns podcast to never miss an episode. Also don't forget to give Riding Unicorns a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep on top of the latest developments.

James: [00:00:00] welcome to riding unicorns. The podcast about growth startups. I'm James Pringle and I'm a technology entrepreneur and investor and the founder of Pringle capital. My co-host is Hector Mason. Hector as a partner at B2B investor episode one ventures. Our mission is to uncover what it takes to build a unicorn business.

For season three, we're speaking to some of the best founders, many from unicorn companies and asking them about their journey, operational insight, tips, and lessons they've learned along the way.

Today's episode is with Jimmy Williams co-founder and CEO of Urban Jungle. Urban jungle. Isn't InsureTech for contents and home insurance. They've raised over $22 million from econ ventures. And some top angel investors. And this episode, we covered the launching of urban jungle fundraising metrics and much more [00:01:00] let's get started.

James: Hi, Jimmy. Welcome to riding unicorns.

Jimmy: Thanks very much for having me on.

James: It's all pleasure. So Jimmy, we're starting each episode for season three, with a broad question, which is what does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Jimmy: there's a couple of things that a lot of people think it is, uh, that I disagree with or found not to be true. So one thing is it's not a get rich, quick scheme. In fact, probably better described as a get rich, quite slowly with a lot of hard work and an incredible vibe risk a scheme.

So it's definitely not a get rich quick scheme. I mean, the other thing people often talk about is, that it's the opportunity to be your own boss, particularly with this topic of this podcast, this is about not building our businesses about building unicorns. Nearly everyone on this journey is going to go and raise venture capital.

as soon as you've raised venture capital, you've got a board, you've got people you're reporting to you are not really your own boss anymore. So it's not that high there, [00:02:00] um, so what is it for me it's all about, um, having a vision of the weld or version of the weld that you want to make true and you want to make happen.

because it is so hard because you've got to push against the standard and what everyone else is doing. Everyone constantly wants you just to copy what's out there and you have to try and wrap up every, every rule book to get there. The only way you have the energy to do that is if you have this really strong vision, of what you want the world to look like in the space that you're in.

and so, yeah, from my point of view, you know, when we started the business, I was driven by. the insurance industry is crap. I've had personal bad experiences and I just want to make this not true anymore. and that's, you know, to be honest, what, what drives me? And I think that is for me, what entrepreneurial-ism is about is like having something you want to build and building it, whether, you know, it could even not be in a company, right.

That's not company specific, but that's how I think.

Hector: Yeah, it's a great take on entrepreneurship. I wonder, [00:03:00] um, Whether you always thought you would be an entrepreneur or whether, whether you're sort of early career helped shape you as an entrepreneur. And I know that your OCNC and as a sort of a group of view, B to C founders, including Tom Blomfield, um, who were OCNC and I think there were a few others who, but yeah, w I wonder how your early career and I, and actually your time at OCNC, shaped you as an entrepreneur, whether you think that helped in your journey.

Jimmy: Yeah, it's a good, uh, it's a good point. So yeah, Tom and I started on the same day, uh, ACNC as our first sort of post uni job. but also, yeah, people like James, who was one of the co-founders of funding circle, Mandy who started Trevor for that. So there was a group of us. Um, I think probably it, you start earlier than that, right?

kind of growing up on background. So my dad, I'm not sure who described him necessarily as an entrepreneur, but he did start a couple of small businesses. So he was a lawyer and he started his own law firm. And I think there is something that somewhere in the back of your head about risk. So I [00:04:00] know my wife, her, both her parents are teachers I had does a university professor and her mom's a teacher.

They had one single employer, their whole life to her, the principle of styling business apps. But she kind of have it in her head that you could take that much risk with your Korea. whereas somebody is like, yeah, we know that's what people do. They start businesses. They take some risks. there's more than that.

So definitely there's like something that started there. obviously starting my career yeah. in consulting, like that was particularly driven by just a fascination with business. I've always really been interested in. So I started economics university with never interested in macroeconomics or was interested in micro, like how the companies work, how do they make money?

How do they differentiate from each other? And to kind of still, if I go to a shop and it's badly laid out, that really annoys me. Um, and I'm like, maybe I should write a letter to the CEO of this company and tell them how they need to reorganize this still to make a little money. And then I'm like, no,

Hector: Go straight to this Neo. I love that.

Jimmy: Exactly.

Yeah, they're busy. I [00:05:00] mean, we know it's a bit busy for that. Maybe like, you know, when I retire or whatever, I can write all these letters, but it's always like super interested in a business and, you know, particularly interested in the kind of details of making a proposition really work. And is it as interesting, I listened to your episode with that testimony the other day and the word he kept on saying, well, the time, which I totally agree with his proposition and just thinking about it.

like sometimes you can get carried away with new business models or, you know, grand visions of this new world that you're gonna create, but actually will offer matters. Is the detail of how does your product fit together? Does it all make sense? Can someone navigate it well, does it all add up to your brand?

Like the details of the proposition really matter? So I've always been obsessed with that. and then, yeah, I think particularly. Making the jump off consulting into that was very like, uh, I guess, encouraged by the fact that those guys have done it. you know, when you see someone else you've know, do something, then you're like, okay, well, if I can do, I can do that.

and so, yeah, the actually with, with [00:06:00] Tom, the first thing I did when I was like, I think I'll probably do under this entrepreneurial thing, I like text to him and say, let's go for Bayer. Is this fun? Was my sort of basic question to him. To which he was lying sometimes, but I went and went ahead with it anyway.

but yeah, just having those kind of, I guess, role models of people you've seen do something it's definitely impactful.

James: And you mentioned earlier that you'd had a bad experience that sort of led you to wanting to fix insurance. So what was that sort of experience? When did you realize that this is what I'm going to do? What did you do to get started? Because I think a lot of people probably set on ideas fill it from zilch entrepreneurship sort of bias to action.

And how do you get started? So what did you do to take


Jimmy: Yeah. Um, good question. So, I guess my, my pain accumulated, uh, it wasn't like a one light bulb moment. So first thing was, we were in a house [00:07:00] share and Melinda, when we first moved to town and. No one would offer us insurance because we were in a half share and we were, no, we thought good restaurant, nice people.

We had the old party, that was about it. But Alicia, no of adventurous. And I was like, that's weird. Why isn't it doing that? again like a proposition point, right? Why would you not help through people? Then I have this car insurance claim where my insurer literally shipped me to this.

Third-party. The try to fleece me for all of the money and like use me to get money out of other people and make like, claims for whiplash that I didn't have. And I was getting phone calls constantly for the next three years about, you know, all this weird stuff that I could do with my insurance. I was like, this is totally broken.

and then actually I started doing some insurance stuff and I think. Getting into the sector and speaking to the people in it. And what was totally crazy, it was to remain sexually crazy about sector is everyone knows it's broken. it's not like people are like, oh yeah, it's fine. Everyone's like, oh yeah, [00:08:00] nice.

Really bothered. We do that. Isn't it. But you know, everyone does that. So you've got to, got to do it that way. And I think.

Hector: It's cause the on it. You know, they're taking their margin and having beers at lunch.

Jimmy: Yeah, I think so. I think I've been trying to, like, that's definitely was my kind of incoming assumption. I've been trying to reconcile that with like reality. I think it's less than they're like fundamentally nice people and they're like, well motivated, but they just, the people in charge of just money people.

So they're just thinking about how do I make the most money? How do I squeeze margin out of everywhere and not thinking about what does a customer want? what experience do people want? How has this changed? How do new customers think about this in different way to all customers? So I'm going to give them a break on it's carelessness rather than malice, but who knows?

and then I think your other question was about how did, how did it get started? so I think some, some founders are like when they start out. that is any one thing. Like they know exactly the one [00:09:00] thing you know, when I quit, my job was like, I want to do this entrepreneurial thing.

Sounds like an adventure. and I had two or three ideas that I was okay around, but they were all stuff I've like had person experience over the top. But, yeah, a lot of it was looking at those two or three opportunities, turning them by the lucky. Is there as any investor remotely interested in this area was definitely one thing I looked at.

you know, are there any other examples of early versions of this around well that I can sort of learn from? and definitely that's where I got to insurance just felt like the industry was new. It was crack investors were saying, Hey, listen, this insurance industry is crap. Maybe some, excuse me about it.

And there were a couple of businesses starting to pop up, but they hadn't really sort of broken out yet. so that's what really kind of inspired me to sort of give it a go. one thing I did, which is very specific, if you think, if you, your audience like thinking about doing this as I'd definitely recommend.

So I went freelance in the industry that I wanted to disrupt. So, I became a freelance [00:10:00] consultant. I have to live with LT and Betsy went and looked at my supermarket for a while and did a couple of other things in the insurance space. that was incredibly helpful. Like disproportionately make a helpful because, and then had that on my CV.

So I could talk to everyone about how it, you know, how it was. Uh, it gave me time where I was getting paid. I was working on the business and thinking about the business and thinking about the problem. but the clock wasn't really ticking yet on my savings or, you know, anything else that might be a, so that was definitely a problem.

And then that also the big thing for me was when I quit my job, I didn't have co-founder. It's like every time. I found out my co-founder Greg, you know, and, and get that going. And then for me actually getting Greg and Greg as the first person, who's like this, you know, amazing TechSoup site, he has this incredible CV persuading him that this might be a good idea.

That was the watershed moment for me, because I was like, okay, someone who's not me thinks this is a decent idea that means I should probably do something here. and also, I mean, what's amazing is I was working on things like [00:11:00] on my laptop and, not really doing that much, to be honest, uh, on the, on the business.

But then as soon as I had Greg, it was like, okay, someone's expected some stuff out of me. So I was sending him business plans and thoughts of what we could do with the products and supplies we should be speaking to. And some of the, because there was another person that's not me, this whole thing became a.

Hector: So how did you, how did you find Greg and persuade? Because you know, that that is the first step that many founders will, I suppose often you would sort of have a meeting of minds with someone and an idea would come out of that. But the other way of starting businesses is your way to, how did you sort of go about


Jimmy: incredibly deliberately, I was like this, person's probably going to be somewhere in my network. so just be very deliberate about that. So I drew up a list of everyone. I knew who remotely worked in technology. I mean, the good thing about having already quit.

My job was I was pretty flexible, so I can have lunch and coffee with anyone I liked whenever. and yeah, it just doesn't that works. And every person that type of coffee with, [00:12:00] I asked them if they knew anyone and then these, you know, at least one person then allowed to cover with them. like, Greg, actually, I was really good friends with his wife at university and did kind of know him before.

but, I guess, yeah, if I hadn't done that whole process, I would never realize that he had just quit his job and was looking for a new challenge and, once you do this stuff, you can't wait for serendipity. You got be like very, very deliberate about the one problem I have is an outcry founder.

That's my number one problem. And that's my only problem I'm gonna solve that first. Then we'll think about the next thing.

Hector: Yeah, it's brilliant. I mean, we love this kind of advice on writing unicorns, practical advice on how to start a business. so that's great. so w what is urban jungle doing differently to, existing


Jimmy: Yeah. So there's, um, there's three things effectively that makes us different. so first of all, it's just, I guess what you'd expect to have a challenge. A tech startup is just being really customer centric. So our observation was that the big insurer is very, very generic. Like pick your insurance company that begins with a, on their trust policy is going to all [00:13:00] look the same as each other, especially no different.

and no one's ever spoken to a customer ever. So the next time that I was, and I talked to customers a lot and it's billed for what they want, let's make it flexible. Let's make it modular, and actually have something that is tailored to what customers want. Now, my young, particularly younger customers.

so that's, that's a big factor of what we do and that, that kind of leads into, our products being really different to, uh, to the big guys, particular, in terms of that flexibility. and then there's two things on the tech side. So one, is we automate everything. So if you think about your big insurer, typically they've got these huge call centers with lots of people are picking up the phones.

there's a very small, customer operations team here. picking out phones and giving you a very, very high service, but the tech is doing most of the work. And as a customer, you can basically do everything. Online. So really averaged no tactic to reduce that. What is one of the biggest costs, uh, elements of an insurer, and then the both of which you might see as a customer, then there's a third, but you can't see as much as the customer, which has for what is this really big [00:14:00] problem in insurance?

and we use, uh, effective, we use AI to spot fraud in customer's behavior. So whenever they come on our site, there are these sort of structured fraudsters that are buying with the intent to correct. and it's kind of low level open this crime type thing. and we can, in the way they interact with our site and the behavior they use using AI, we can spot that fraud and then say no to those customers say that genuine customers come through.

That's actually really important to us overall because we have this sort of, one of, one of our goals is around financial inclusion. essentially what happens a lot is the insurance budget is full of fraud. Everyone of knows. Well, the big guys tend to do is they'll just decline huge sways of the population.

So particularly lower income postcodes. It's very, very hard to get covered because the biggest show is just like, Ooh, there's quite a lot of claims that I don't know why, but I'm just not going to cover it. so what we can do, because we can Spall fraudsters in any given demographic, we can underwrite any demographic.

and that means we can run really high eligibility and [00:15:00] help lots of different customers.

James: And Jimmy, you raised more conscious way, says you've raised over $22 million from people like eco ventures and Amundi ventures, which is a Spanish fund and also some top angels. So how far into launching with Greg? Did you raise your first round? Um, what was that experience like your first VC round? I should probably say because you had a lot of success with angels.

So when did the first VC come in and what was that experience?

Jimmy: Yeah. So, again, keeping it super practical. So we did the first, first bit with angels, you say, and, and there is in the UK, this kind of benefit of EIS tax relief. That means that it is, in our space, probably easier. To rise from that group. And we did have offers from kind of CCG sees problems earlier than we eventually took one.

but I think, you know, certainly at the time we were ducking and diving on the proposition at all and like testing [00:16:00] a lot of things. and I think we just kind of felt like some of the VCs were. I had more of a prescription. They wanted us to pursue a very specific strategy and not divert from that.

Whereas we were kind of more like we're going to change the strategy once a quarter and see, see what happens and say that was why we sort of did the angel thing for probably a bit longer than we could have done. And actually also I think the CD ecosystem in the UK or Europe in general is definitely like evolving really quickly.

With smaller a couple of years ago when we were starting it than it is now. So I probably, perhaps would've done something a bit differently now. so the first, yeah, the first institutional investor we brought on was, ACA. I think again, bringing on, VCs, like a lot of people say. You should like rung this process, meet everyone in five minutes and make it super hypey.

and then like, you know, choose, choose the best of what, of what falls. I think that is true for this kind of 10 to 20% of max hype [00:17:00] companies that are in the news every day. I think the reality for most other people is actually the relationship building is more important. So. Particularly with the, you guys we've known them for, at least a year before we actually kind of made, you know, made the jump and actually came in and investment next time she would have been less than that, but, kind of what we know on that. And then similarly, with the Monday guys, we got to know them over a period of time, and then they got excited about the business and, um, kinda came in and say, I think, you know, the, the question a lot of founders have is should I, what's the split between a always be raising a and then B run a process.

I think there is a happy medium between the two. Um, and it's called take a coffee whenever it's on offer. and there's no harm in being sent for a coffee and getting to know them and, uh, or meeting them at a conference maybe in person these days. but, when you're raising the raising, I'm standing right there that you going to price this and you're going to get through

[00:18:00] it.

Hector: Yeah, I think it's really difficult that there are so many conflicting opinions credible sources and any, you read from like YC who say either you should be raising or you shouldn't be, and then you hear from founders saying, the relationship super important. So I think, think there are different routes that can work.

no matter who you are. because also it's so dependent on what kind of founder you are. If you're one of those founders, who's happy to just absolutely smash out a process and hype your company up loads, then maybe that's the approach to sort of take a really condensed, process.

But if you're not, then the other strategy is probably better.

Jimmy: Yeah, I'm going to think th the thing that is challenging as a founder, especially around fundraising is everyone's got their advice. Everyone's got their, their small sample of the PDN and, you know, certainly in Europe there aren't many people who've done it. Multiple. Very very, very, very few.

And the ecosystem changes every week, like new people are [00:19:00] entering. So, I think you've got to fail your way. and I think, you know, in, in some instances, one of the things I found most helpful is having a bit of, like you mentioned the SNC guys out there who are very helpful to me, but I've brought a group of other founders where we just like, there's a lot of Intel shad.

You know, this is what the market's like at the moment. This is what, you know, even when you get to terms, this is what's market for the certain term, whatever it is, like building your network of founders. So that also when you're having a rough week and we've had a lot of nos, then you know, you can hit your founders, like, oh yeah, we had, you know, 10 days last week, they're more about it.

You'll get them next week kind of thing. And I think that's, that's probably more important than having a singular strategy.

Hector: Yeah, I think that's right. I mean, I'd almost say that, even found it, you've done it a few times. We'll have seen less than invest is if you can find an independent VC, if you have a friend who's a VC, ask them what the latest and greatest tactic is because they're the ones [00:20:00] who are saying lows of founders going out and running fundraising processes.

but yeah, so super interesting. So, so going back to sort of, your business in particular, Have you found there been any challenges kind of specifically with stars in InsureTech business? What have been the real, the really difficult things, on your journey

so far?

Jimmy: I would say the standard startup challenge is always distribution. Like how, how do you crack distribution say I certainly spend a lot of my time. We have a big team here. He thinks about that every day. And it's like, how do you differentiate? How do you communicate? How you're different?

How do you get in front of people economically? Like that is the obsession that you have. I think that's not unique to, uh, start to get in short tack. there was another thing that makes them sure. Tech. which is about the supply side. So there's this weird dynamic and insurance where I basically have to partner with generally speaking people who are the incumbents.

So, uh, every time I write an insurance [00:21:00] policy, I might sell it for five pounds, but the person who turned around the next day and climbed 2 million pounds. So I can't balance sheet that myself. I've got to work with, um, call schools their party. And by the way, they're like, I'm kind of interested in working, you know, within imitative companies, but, uh, you haven't raised any money.

You haven't proven anything. I'll come back to me in a couple of years. Like that would definitely at the beginning was like a very kind of constant story. So, you almost needed to get investment from your suppliers in a way, which is a kind of. And mystery, you could not keep a whole mess.

Well, you just fly to China, find a factory to get, to build your things, and then you start selling them. so, managing that supply and, you know, getting your head around, it has been probably one of the toughest things. Good news. There's now massive barrier to entry. so they they've actually been very few FastFoto as in our space, which we've kind of grateful for.

and you know, there's a few businesses, a bit, my thought was very believe, but it's a reasonably small [00:22:00] number because of this, the supply side challenge. it didn't feel like it at the time, but it's a blessing looking back, um, that it was that it was a hard

James: Jimmy, so what were your after you raise money from angels, you and Greg work in the product proposition? Well, who were your first hires beyond you guys? What did you get, right? Or maybe wrong in the early days with hiring, it's such a key theme with all of

our founder.

Jimmy: so our first employee is still with us. so mum's before Greg and I paid ourselves a penny. We like put some of our savings into the company and started paying another engineer, so that we could get moving a bit faster on the product. But yeah. because w actually our product is pretty complex, so it is quite engineering heavy.

So that slowly starts in the first couple of engineers, engineers. uh, and he's now a head of engineering, so we hired well. so it was a good start. The next people we hired actually didn't last that long. So [00:23:00] maybe we don't give ourselves too much credit, but I think, you know, one of the things, and it was, again, something unique to ask them, Because of this real supply side challenge, the first sort of six months, 12 months quite slow, where I was getting supply, pace, getting regulated, which is obviously a difficult thing building this quite complex platform.

So it was mostly like engineers doing stuff. And then occasionally like submitting stuff to the sea. So I had some time and, what I did then, and I'm very thankful we did, I would definitely recommend every founder kind of corners off. Some time to do in the very early days is I wrote down.

What I wanted our culture to be like, I wrote down like really simple stuff, like how I wanted us to set objectives as a business. I wrote down how I wanted our review process to work. And I thought through all those things, and I talked to other businesses about how they were doing it, I'm broadly speaking those work at the side now, as I did then, but we've tweaked them oversee.

And I know as we go, through. things have evolved, [00:24:00] but broadly speaking, that kind of framework is still that that has made life so much easier as we've scaled. And like, do your VC round and you, you hit these big inflection points where it's like, oh crap, we need to hire like 10 people this week.

Uh, and the last thing you want to be doing is harm 10 people a week and rewriting your recruitment policy and your hiring policy and your culture day. All that stuff at the same time, it's just really, really tough to do. So I think if you can get some of those fundamentals out there early, that's really helpful.

And I think, it depends what kind of founder you are as well. Right? So like now there's loads of really good open-source stuff up there. So I think, for example, the ones that guys, we haven't in a lot of their kind of internal documents like that, that are really kind of helpful to build on from my point of view.

One of the reasons I started a business, this was, I wanted to build a unique culture and I wanted to do people differently. and so, we come up with our own version of, okay, [00:25:00] ours, we've come up with our own version of review processes. Nothing is taken from anything Connie's any software.

Cause it doesn't have to have all of our own staff. But that was really, that was really important to me. If not, you know, if, if. That's not your thing. Then you can do things a different way, but for us, that was, that was big.

Hector: can you go into that at all? How, what was your people vision and how did

you execute? on it

Jimmy: Yeah. So driven by context. so You know both Greg and I had seen and been in organizations that were really high growth. We did a lot of firing and we love that. I mean, that was one of the reasons we, started. Like having this thing where you're constantly hiring you constantly getting new, fresh people in who are super enthusiastic.

It's just really fun. And there's definitely a muscle for hiring. Like, just knowing that you have to allocate 30, 40% of your time to hiring like that. If you work in a normal company, that's not, that's where it's like, but having that kind of gene, I think what we'd seen in a lot of companies was that, [00:26:00] especially in like high performing cultures what can what can happen is bad behavior can be tolerated from really talented people.

and actually you can be very, very difficult to work with, but perform and get rated and paid very highly, whilst frankly, not being very nice, uh, or not looking after your bodies. Right. Well, and, I guess that was the one thing that we wanted to have really high performing culture, but not have that.

And so from very early, we had this hypothesis that We could hire an entire team of high performing, really nice people. and that's that's what we do. I mean, it's incredible when people join, they're like, oh, you told me about this, but it really is true. Everyone is so nice here.

Um, almost painfully. Nice. What's been interesting about that is a high performing nice people tend to have quite common traits. Um, so. I tell the team, this is not like speaking out of school, but they're all a bit new at it. So they all like really want loads of feedback. and so [00:27:00] actually there is like this direct consequence of only hiring really nice, uh, ambitious people is that they just constantly feedback hungry.

So we've had to set our whole culture out. Like everyone's getting feedback almost daily, but written feedback, probably once a month, definitely once a quarter. and so we just spent much more on some of that stuff than others, because that's the, I guess that's kind of the basis on which the whole company is built.

Hector: Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, I think, there is a strong correlation between, neurotic people and high-performing people. but that's probably something for another conversation. sort of moving the conversation on slightly, and something that you touched on a bit earlier, it was kind of around, how do you scale, economically and how do you acquire new customers economically?

and I'm actually just kind of fascinated myself because episode one, we mainly do B2B investing. So we don't see a huge amount of. huge number of companies that are going from early stage to, you know, through to much later stage. And [00:28:00] so we don't see how those, sort of numbers scale. I wonder how, what that journey has looked like for you, because of course it's so important for investors.

to see great CAC to LTV for, for listeners who don't know what that is, that's, cost to acquire a customer versus lifetime value. but yeah, it's super important for the investors or at least to have belief in where those, numbers are going to go. Um, so yeah, just keen to understand how, as you scale, how do you keep those numbers really compelling and think about kind of increasing that


Jimmy: That's a big question. That's how many hours you've got. so like one of the things I'm one day when I, you know, I'm not really cause he visited the business, how Ryan extensive blog post about this. I genuinely feel that people too obsessed with you neck and all might say in the first phases of businesses and they expect to get seed deck last or all proven out.

And certainly that's just not been our experience. So, basically what [00:29:00] we've done all along is painted this vision of how we get to restaurant. And I was an organism's really strong now, but that's because over time we're really attracted on retention. We've really iterated an average baskets.

We have thought about how we expand from kind of, you know, lower spend the customers, the highest spend customers. We thought about how our product works in different customer segments. And that has moved significant, like in a four X, five X over time, you can make those sorts of changes. and I think, you know, if we had had investors who would just like, I can't see how these two numbers add up right now, then you know, that the one where those people are and they send that to us.

So, um, there are, fortunately, there are investors who can sort of see a bit further along, along the line. And I think, you know, if anything, you can actually write a mathematical proof that, sometimes it makes sense to blast through your unit economics a bit in the early days because your people burn so much more.

So if you're building a tech company, you probably got engineers, probably got product people. You might have data [00:30:00] scientists. they are not contributing usually directly to growth, right? They're building this platform that allows you to grow very, very quickly and they are fixed costs and they will burn your cash.

and so sometimes it is rational to get your revenue growing more quickly at tighter, you know, you know, maybe it's not negative LTV cap, but two to one instead of three to one or whatever, it's actually, if you do the math economically rational. With the runway that you have to grow quick, a hand. And so you can amortize that cost.

Say one is I encourage all seed investors out there to put you in economics. Like that's a one side as often as possible. I think, you know, for us, w why was running courage? It was the dude. He's like, look at the economics of the big players in our space and they're, they are profitable. Right. Um, and in some cases it's already profitable.

And so let me tell you how, okay. Let's start with, there's a really profitable player in the space. I'm [00:31:00] a look in detail that and economics and the way that stacks up. And I got to tell you how I'm going to beat them on every metric over time using technology, et cetera. but I think, sometimes that, that can be the special, but, but yeah, I would say actually sort of weirdly the logic, some people have is that it gets only gets worse over time.

And then our experience. Very definitely. Yes.

Hector: Yeah, that that's great advice. I think that. looking at incumbents and, sort of making them your reference point is actually just a really great idea because, theoretically, if you have a better brand, if you're smarter about things, all of these things they should add up to in the long run, you know, having better unit economics.

So it is it's part of it is painting the vision, right? as this as itself, in the case of this.

Jimmy: Yeah. And I think, uh, what, what people look at too is gross margin. And often like the ultimate profitability of a businesses is what the gross margin is. So, and you can actually get a view of that pretty quick. and then looking at a lot of the, you should be able to get rid of,[00:32:00] I know you shouldn't have to have that cool sentence for people.

Like I said, so you can take that kind of, you know, fits cost out or whatever, and then change the whole economic stack. But, to an extent there's only so much you can do in gross margin. So if you really understand the gross margin of your space, then that really helps

James: Yeah, I do also think there's a lot of the seed consumer investors in the UK do lack of it, of conviction. And so they try and use these like series a metrics at seed stage and they miss out on, I think, bigger opportunity, higher risk, higher reward. Deals then maybe the ones that have got their unit economics right earlier, but there's less barriers to entry.

And so they've kind of done it quickly and there might only be a 50 to a hundred million pound business rather than a full-blown global unicorn. And I do think. Problem in the UK consumer space around that. and it's interesting to see that from your experience that you can get those unit economics [00:33:00] better as you scale, as you optimize, as you iterate through software, which is the whole point of venture capital essentially is to invest, invest, invest into something that is then very defensible.

 And so just on metrics, apart from kind of LTV cat ratios, is there a north star metric that you guys have. Um, which other metrics have you made, you measured for a period and then dropped because they weren't that useful, any kind of vanity or useless metrics, then your opinion that you would advise founders from kind of.

Jimmy: so to be careful, I'm not going to get my investors to kill me about some of this stuff. So until recently we didn't really track unit economics that much. At least. So we've reported to our investors. I would, you know, have a close handle on it, but, I think it can be quite a difficult abstract metric for the team.

And sometimes just simplifying things is a little [00:34:00] easier. So, for a long time, and it's, it's getting more sophisticated now, but for a long time, the north star to get people with just as many customers. That's it go and find more customers go find us places. We can find customers because you know, and there's customers may have had different retention profiles and different average and guts and values or whatever.

And you can have, if you find a pool of new customers, it's like, let them find the problem, your customers, if they're their customers, great. We'll have less of them. If they stop that, just team go and find us some customers. and that's a really simple message rather than. Oh, the chorus margin in this section of customers and their retention rate on a three-year basis is like, people just don't understand that, they're not finance people.

So I think that that would be the one thing is like, if you can possibly get it down to literally one match it as much as possible, that is really, really helpful. and is there anything that we have, we have tracked that we shouldn't have done? I think, um, [00:35:00] But it's a different way. So I guess I was consulting background, very numbers, driven, very project driven here.

And we, you know, we always try to make decisions with data as much as possible. And we're very particularly, I think one of the mistakes you can make as a startup is not understanding statistical significance, say two numbers are different. Are they really different or is it just random variation? And the trouble is when you're at a startup and the numbers are small, especially in consumer.

Like you, you can have . you can look at two things and go, yeah, this was definitely better than that one because it's 40% better. And you're like, well, the sample size is eight. Like that, this means nothing. This is the same as rent variation. So, I think one of the things we did quite well was actually say, w we basically started, I remember the first three or four, like monthly meetings.

We had, I made the guys making like a deck with all these like slides in it and all this. And then they didn't really move very much. Do you want to stay a bit depressing? Because we weren't quite as lost to be like right at the beginning. Um, we were learning nothing because nothing was to see his Navigant.

So [00:36:00] we changed it to like, right, what are we going to do? And you know, what, what is that like? We know that if we build these products for these customers over this cadence, that that should deliver the plan that we want to build. So we're much more focused on how have I done this thing? has this shipped, has I, have I got the supply side?

and then I think if you can do those things, and they're the right things, right? So there's a bit of like choosing the right stuff to do, but if you do those things, the numbers should take care of themselves. so being very alert to statistical noise, I guess, is one of them, one of the big things that


Hector: Yeah, that's great. And Jimmy, just as we, draw the episode to a close, I just want to ask where you see, uh, been juggling kind of five, 10 years. do you think it will still be contents? Insurance will have branched out. What are you


Jimmy: So we've already brought SAPs. We do have insurance now. So we do, so I guess one of the things we've, we've always thought. is [00:37:00] trying to make the platform as applicable to everyone as possible. And we talked about a little bit about how that's really driven our metrics, finding like new pools of customers in new places.

So ultimately the vision is all insurance, whoever, whenever well that's what we're trying to pay off. And we have thought very carefully about the proposition to just not exclude people, and sort of not put barriers in the way of anyone mind. So. You know, we're not for every element of design for everyone.

Maybe I'd typically designed for slightly younger customers, but everyone's welcome. and we want everyone to be welcome for every product. So, uh, I guess we're blessed that we are in these massive domestic markets, so that need to do 17 countries to make, make a really, really big thing. facts, you know, they're, they've already been built plenty of, and she'll texts in shelter, unicorns at a single country.

Right. So I think you had maybe had one or two unfocus as well. So, that's nice that, that kind of, you know, it makes the stuff easy to build, but,[00:38:00] yeah. How helping more people with their insurance in more categories is the plan.

James: Well, some was a, it's a great vision and we wish you all the best for that. Jimmy, we'd like to wrap things up by doing our dinner policy guests, get. which you may have heard on a few other episodes. So if he were to have dinner with three people, anyone in the world, who would


Jimmy: Yeah. So you prepped me for that. So I'd have to think about it. they don't like really talking about work at dinner is why I decided, so I want to talk about things that I love or interested in it. So number one, it's a bit of a task of the management bottom, a big Welsh rugby fan. So I'd probably have Warren Gatland there for dinner and talk about the glory years of, lost grand slams.

I've done, uh, big intervention travel, to clear the land. So I think Michael Palin has done a lot of really super interesting stuff. I talk to him about around wellness days and then also really into outdoorsy campaigns. Stop and have always loved writing is so [00:39:00] he'd be, he'd be my three. So it's an interesting light starting with three, but,

James: well, Jimmy, those are great answers. Um, uh, yeah. Thank you so much for coming on and telling us your writing unicorn story,

Hector: yeah. Great stuff.

James: That's it for this week. I hope you were able to take away many learnings from this episode. Thankfully, we have plenty, more amazing guests and insightful conversations coming your way. Every week, every Wednesday. Be sure to subscribe to riding unicorns on apple, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Thank you again for listening. If you're interested in supporting the show.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at riding unicorns underscore And follow us on LinkedIn as well by searching riding unicorns. See you next time.