Riding Unicorns

S4E1 - Dom McGregor, Founding Partner @ Fearless Adventures

May 04, 2022 Riding Unicorns Season 4 Episode 1
Riding Unicorns
S4E1 - Dom McGregor, Founding Partner @ Fearless Adventures
Show Notes Transcript

Dominic McGregor is the Founding Partner of Investment Firm Fearless Adventures. Dominic however is perhaps best known for the role he played in helping to build the hugely successful social media agency, Social Chain. With the help of his co-founder Steven Bartlett the pair were able to transform a mere idea, dreamt up in their university halls, into one of the world's leading media companies. Having both now exited the company Dominic has launched Fearless Adventures in the hope of helping other founders on their own start-up journeys. Dominic is also a prominent mental health advocate and regularly speaks on the topic of his own personal struggles with anxiety and alcoholism. 

In this, the first episode of season 4, James, Hector and Dominic sit down to discuss the work that went into building Social Chain, his philosophy when it comes to hiring and the issues you face when running a heavily cash flow reliant business. Dominic also opens up on his latest venture. We go on to learn more about his vision for Fearless Adventures and what he is looking for from founders. The episode closes with Dominic opening up about his own battles with sobriety with Dominic offering advice on what coping mechanisms to employ during difficult periods. 

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.

Dominic: [00:00:00] And I always remember saying to people that, I genuinely believe that so Shane, if we were responsible for selling beds office and bathrooms, we'd be the best asset because we approach things with a different mindset. and that's what we kind of ingrained into people. From the start and ages from when they start associating, it's like the world is going to change.

Our number one mantra was, um, ever changing landscape. You know, you wake up every single day. Social media is different. you have to be able to adapt to that and react. So we created that kind of attitude in the business, where as long as there was change, we would play. And we became someone who wrote change.

actually like. enjoy change because we were set up in a way to operate.

Hello. Welcome to the riding unicorns podcast. This is the podcast all about growth startups on James Pringle. I'm a technology [00:01:00] entrepreneur and investor and founder of Pringle capital. My co-host is Hector Mason. Hector is a partner at B2B investor episode one ventures. This podcast is all about uncovering what it takes to build a unicorn business.

We speak to some of the best founders and investors. Many from unicorn companies, and ask them about that journey, operational insight, tips, lessons, stories, and the thing that can help uncover what it takes to build a high growth business. This is season four. we've got some amazing guests our first guest today is we've Dom McGregor from Fearless Adventures So,

James: hi, Dom. Welcome to riding unicorns. Thanks for joining us.

Dominic: Thank you for having me.

James: It's all flash so dumb. We often start with a broad question, which is what does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Dominic: Yeah, I think that's a great question. assuming. Pondering on for a long

time because people have asked me before, are you born an [00:02:00] entrepreneur or can you become an entrepreneur? and I think for tons about, you have to distill what is entrepreneurship. for me, I always kind of seen it as entrepreneurship is the idea that things can be done better, and not considered any kind of category, beat up, business.

I'll be that in life. But I think having an entrepreneurial mindset is just. Approach that things can be improved. Things can get better and inquisitive approach asking yourself how can things get better and how can things approved. So when it comes to the kind of debate of, are you born an entrepreneur or do you become an entrepreneur?

For me, I've always kind of said that, I wasn't the political school selling sweets, you know, I, I wasn't that kind of ingrained mindset. I've been a, hostile or anything like that. fell into a world that I didn't have much idea about, but I took the fundamental. approach had to life about questioning things, been inquisitive, and apply that into a world telling me that I was an entrepreneur rather than me being like, yeah, I'm an entrepreneur.

So, that's how I always approached that question, I think is a great, question and one which, really does get you thinking.

Hector: I think it's interesting [00:03:00] to think about what you just said there with the, people selling sweets at school. Cause I think that's definitely the stereotype there are. Found as you go on to build massive businesses who had that sort of background. But I do think Sometimes you have to ask the question, are those kinds of scrappy entrepreneurs like the zero to one entrepreneurs or are they going to go on and build billion pound businesses?

And I think sometimes it's actually the more like down the line, route through banking, consultancy type family who goes on to build huge businesses. Uh, but yeah, I mean, it's, it's a super interesting one to, ponder on. Obviously social chain became a really big business. and it's quite different to the sorts of businesses that James and I deal with on a, daily basis as VCs we're investing in software, not service businesses.

so I wonder, can you sort of talk about that journey through social chain, founding it, building it, and, and I wonder if you kind of recognize any differences between. Building a services based business versus software-based business,

Dominic: I can go for a long time packing too, on the challenges. but I think [00:04:00] one of the, things that, sets us apart, what we did is that we, we never saw a plan. We fell into something, social chain was a business built from a genuine passion, which, again, more and more rare, I think there's definitely those businesses, which, start with something, which is.

upbeat, a hobby or something, but back in 20 12, 20 13, when we first started the company, social media, wasn't an industry really, you know, it was the emblems of my space and Bebo had come and gone. Facebook was this cool kid on the block and Instagram wasn't even invented.

So to think that you can have. In social media or social media companies were going to be, something was very, very rare. So, we were just young kids who were experimented almost with social media and we found ourselves then, in a situation where people externally wanting to start commercializing it, and we'd built a massive media audience on a platform.

You know, we are reaching millions of students and young people across the UK and the world every single week. and we had to be told by [00:05:00] people that was about. Because we were so young at the time, we didn't know that owning, that kind of level of media portfolio would be incredibly valuable to someone.

So, fallen into it and kind of not really sitting back and asking yourselves, what is this, what am I going to do? What are we going to do? you kind of run before you can walk. And I think what we ended up doing, was going, had gone into tackling the. Businesses that have problems.

You know, people would come to us and ask us, how do we use social media? should we have an Instagram account? How do we reach human people online? What content should we make? And therefore you start helping these businesses with those questions, you then become that service provider. And it took us about 18 months into doing what we were doing to ask someone said, oh, so you're an agency.

Because what we we're, you know, we were a bunch of young people who had figured out and crack social media pretty quickly, so we can use that knowledge and spread that knowledge. So for the first couple years of business, that's what we kind of focused on. We focused on being that service provider, being an agency and, we had to fit into a bit of a [00:06:00] understanding of the people's world and where that sat.

So being a social media agency was something new, something exciting because they didn't exist. I always say people started a social media agency now. No, one's going to write about it. because it's so common, but we were riding a new wave, new pie and a pioneer in a new area. people were like, this is pretty cool.

and that's kind of where the, debate had been born on trauma versus becoming an entrepreneur kind of starts because you know, that opportunity to be able to take something by the horns and tackle a bit and make it into some big bar more than just. what it is in that day is kind of where I think the entrepreneurial spark comes because you run with the opportunity.

And, we kind of run with that very heavy. As I say, we were a service business and we asked ourselves the question about three years in, how do we become something which is stickier? So how do we become a business, which isn't just based on contracts? You know, thankfully our contracts were getting bigger and we work with bigger clients.

We're still a service provider. So we started looking at launching our own products that was [00:07:00] kind of our next fall. It was, you know, we have to create something which we can embed into our clients. We have to become someone who is, integral to that growth. we actually, a couple of own SAS products into the market at that point.

but these were kind of very focused. At tech marketing tech books, that was the kind of background we had. And we had some success in those areas. And a couple of our tools were very much linked into clients' businesses. started selling some third parties and, yeah. Knew that kind of having control over your revenue in terms of owning the product, a product, was super important.

So we continue to build out some digital products, but then we kind of saw. Um, marketing capability has been able to apply that to physical products as well. So we went from a service-based business to having no control over your revenue being based on 12 month service agreements, which in reality, come with costs of any single time due to business, in-housing it.

Or to change your market or change your conditions [00:08:00] to, ultimately then becoming the brand product. Well, our growth came from us having to pull the leavers of running our own businesses, and product. So, did the whole full cycle of starting of service, launched from SAS and became a brand owner.

I can tell you the more meaningful work came when not when you were getting paid to help someone else's business grow. But when you actually saw one of your products, one of your ideas, so that you created from the. Great in a market. And that's where I got much more fulfillment. That's where I got much more satisfaction.

And that's where I could see from my side as an individual, way the world was going. And, you know, that's what we're seeing now is the number of SaaS that's businesses. And there, because they're fundamentally integral to how businesses operate and if your integral is harvest. Then they're never gonna get ready. Agencies. Aren't integral sauces.

James: Yeah, I think it's a really interesting story for a lot of founders that Jeff was lost. Didn't know [00:09:00] what Amazon was going to do today when he started it. And some founders, I think Maury or potential founders worry about that. They have to have the whole thing mapped out, but actually you go on a journey, you pick a set to be, have unfair advantage in unfair knowledge in, and you start building something and then you iterate along the way and you find other areas to make more margin, more stickiness, et cetera.

So I think. Anecdote for people thinking of starting a company that you don't necessarily need the 10 year plan laid out, but you can start and get going.

Dominic: yeah, I look so some kind of three, four year. Well, it's going to change so much in that time. So how can you forecast something when there's so many, so many unknowns? So yeah, a hundred percent. And I think the things you can control, your kind of founding principles, your values and the way you approach challenges.

And I always remember saying to people that, I genuinely believe that so Shane, if we were responsible for selling beds office and bathrooms, we'd be the best asset because we approach things with a different mindset. and that's what we kind of ingrained into people. From the [00:10:00] start and ages from when they start associating, it's like the world is going to change.

Our number one mantra was, um, ever changing landscape. You know, you wake up every single day. Social media is different. you have to be able to adapt to that and react. So we created that kind of attitude in the business, where as long as there was change, we would play. And we became someone who wrote change.

actually like. enjoy change because we were set up in a way to operate. So yeah, a hundred percent. That's exactly right. Things you can control as the team, how they approach things, their mindset, the things you can't control is where the company is going to end up what it's going to do. because there's so many unknowns.

James: your Genesis was obviously this agency model, but then you have these different departments and. particularly agency models, they're all about people, but obviously as you grew into different areas, you had new growing teams and stuff. So you must've hired a lot of people to manage a lot of people.

What were the biggest lessons around hiring and people management from the social change journey?

Dominic: I think that biggest lesson is that it's the most important part of the company. [00:11:00] That was the biggest lesson. It's something that I oversaw personally. I made sure that. 80% of the interviews, to a point or at least signed off people understood who they were, what their motivations were.

because again, collectively be straight back everything. You are just a bunch of people in a room. That's what a company is. we could be selling bucks and we'd have a, be the best at it. So yeah, that was the number one learning. And that, people do throw around cliches in terms of highest, slow fire, fast.

we definitely hired fast. we need to bums on seats very, very quickly to do. And we made some major mistakes there. We brought in too many people. We brought in too many people of certain demographic. brought into many people who, in my opinion, wanting to work with social chain because they wanted to work at social chain.

That's the worst motivation, the worst reason to work at company. you have to have some kind of passion in the area, some kind of passion, not just look at a company thing, you know what they've got look like. They're having fun over there. people, took advantage of our kind of culture and generosity [00:12:00] because.

It would be, it was going to be a nice place. And yes, we had, amazing perks and we've had amazing things, but the reason we gave that is because we want it to create a high-performance environment, not a place where people can come and relax.

Hector: yeah. Just how did you build a high-performance culture?

Dominic: Again, it kinda comes back to what I talk about in terms of the values of the company. What do we stand for? What do we want to be known for? and you know, we, put the kind of first feel this ever changing as our free value. We asked, we first, we have to be someone who gets into new areas before anyone else.

We have to get that information to ourselves to be able to benefit our own products. We have to be fearless and you feel this is about taking risks. and you can probably see the inspiration from fearless adventures, and where that inspiration came from it's. So I just, I just believe in, um, and ever changing, has it changed and just as I said before, Mark's.

The landscape we're living, it's always going to change, always going to evolve. The world will change. so how do we create that? High-performance it was, was drawing notes and distilling those values into it and looking for people who, who represented those values. and [00:13:00] that gave everyone a bit of playbook, really, to think how they should approach things.

You know, these are the values of the company. This is what the company stands for. we know who the founders are. We know what they want to see, and people then translate it into every single day. Every. you can't monitor 750 people across the globe. You can't have that influence in every single one of them.

It's just a manageable. but what you can have is you can create a mantra, which the company lives by and people can point to when they need to make decisions.

James: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think we've had a few guests talk about culture and it's sort of, the management when you're not in the room is sort of those values trying to impose on some people's decision-making and things like that, which is good. Uh, although it's not imposing, it's often set by the staff as well, which is something that's been raised in other episodes.

And so founders and investors can get quite obsessed with KPIs or metrics. What metrics did you guys optimize that, at social chain And is there anything that you stopped measuring as well as you.

Dominic: I mean, one thing we [00:14:00] did low focus on, which is quite rare, terrible these days. we, we made sure that, you know, we were building a profitable business because that would allow us to do things elsewhere. So, um, I don't know if many founders have mentioned that recently. but, uh, no, I mean, it's actually a weird question to answer, but, the metrics which I got most excited about were, most soft metrics and a small.

the board meetings you go to every single month, you can give them a parts on how you feel the business is going. And there were moments when you can feel as kind of a seismic shift on how things are going, through. call it wave. I've got feeling, you know, you can, you can have an understanding of, you know, the soft metrics of how, briefs are being responded to how people are starting to see us in market.

How that feedback that customers are saying, why we lose pictures? the idea is maybe being too scary. It's always a good thing for us. So it's not always, again, the model, the model is different. It's not always about taking in what is the recurring revenue looking like?

What is, you know, the, for the forecast looking like there are kind of some times [00:15:00] where, just the. Feedback from listening to what's going on in the company, what people are hearing are we attracting the right talent? are we doing work that we're proud of all these kinds of other things that go on Chris a gut feeling within the entrepreneur to say, yeah, I actually think things are going to place right now.

and there was times when we had them had amazing mumps of revenue and things were flying off the handle, where you can actually say up. Things aren't going to stop it right now. You know, we got lucky with a couple of pictures. that a couple of things we're down to, you know, one or two reasons happening and we can't bank on this to be sustainable.

it's definitely not always the hard metrics, which we, put a lot of time into it as much more about, what we were getting back from people.

Hector: Yeah. I mean, people talk a lot about Running the businesses in a data-driven way now. what you're talking about, you know, the gut feeling and stuff. I think there is an adamant to be able to run a business on gut feeling, but I wonder whether you feel in hindsight, you could have run it in a more data-driven way.

And whether you think that that would have benefited you guys, you know, if you were able to measure [00:16:00] client happiness or. Proportion of pitch wins to pitch losses. I mean, you probably weren't looking at some of this stuff, but do you think there was an opportunity to run or still is an opportunity to run businesses, agency businesses in a really data-driven way.

Dominic: Hundred percent. And I think, you know, call metrics, we were measuring, you know, all, all of our stuff you mentioned, we were measuring, very much tight on, where we are in the market, but there was things where, you could look at the, Kind of types of pictures, you getting cut tech briefs you in and you can say, okay, we may not have won those briefs, but we're actually entering ourselves into a different category now of pitchers.

And the work we're doing is at highest standard. So we don't now need to win four contracts to get to, the level we need. We just need to win one of them. so actually it means that we're actually in a better position because we then get. Uh, lower dependency of customer base, less number of clients, which is a better thing in agencies, because then you can service them better.

instead of doing kind of ad hoc projects, you start saying no, well, actually we're entered into the category of.[00:17:00] bespoke pitches. Now in brief, some people are seeing them as a strategic partner rather than as a service business. So I think there's a hundred percent, able to run any business, but agent of business specifically on what they get that approach.

But I just don't think that you would then look at these things in as much focus, the types of briefs you're getting. Why are you getting the briefs? What is the market saying about you? I do think that always is room for improvement, but, some of the things that we just felt about the business at times, sending opportunities came from all the data that we quite said, the numbers that objective feedback.

and that just kind of understand we think we should do.

Hector: yeah, I was going to ask about, you know, running a profitable business, actually, because as you say, we don't. Meet many profitable businesses on this show, you know, many multi-billion dollar businesses and, most of those aren't profitable, yeah.

And kind of how you felt about that and, you know, did you ever have times where you were right up against the buffer, you know, close to running out of cash and no VCs to fall back on and what's it like [00:18:00] running a business where actually your, totally cashflow reliant.

Dominic: you actually had a little bit there about being cashflow dependent, profit as an SME cashflow. You know, we have this horrible period in the business where again, we had one of those kinds of growth moments where we were going from working maybe on like ad hoc projects, like 20, 30 grand to now being responsible for most territory and multi-product businesses.

Amazon's your feet, Fitch, Coke curlers. And what we kind of realized in that period was the contracts has got massive. huge and, they start to lump month after month when we start to win these businesses.

And, um, as a, not 120 day payment terms, Coca-Cola has nine payment terms. So we had this horrible period where. We've got to spend 50% the money. It comes out before we even see a penny. Do you actually that, that, like, we haven't got the cash to be able to actually do these campaigns, even though we've got the revenue secured.

So you then actually end up thinking, okay, what is the balance between taking Financial products [00:19:00] be deck would say, cause you know, the business is fine, but you know, you haven't got the cash to be able to deliver. So you start taking. Oh, both types of products on the market. So opens you up to different worlds, different options, you know, you start thinking, okay, invoice fracturing, you know, that make complete sense for this reason, these two reasons we should do that.

So, um, it makes you think more about the options you have as a founder to ultimately then take your equity because we've raised have to raise it, the raise, what y'all given away as your exiting the business. So being able to have that kind of, profitability. And on the stomach profitability, allow those in a business where, we raised a lot of money passionate to, industry in a service model that allowed us to set director position, because we were where taking capital and to fuel growth rather than to for losses.

So it kind of changed that a little bit. You know, we weren't promising a hockey stick growth. We were much more about sustainable growth, but were able to bucket business where we could say. The money you're investing is going into it's going into the opportunities and new growth rather than just [00:20:00] maintaining what we have at the moment.

James: Yeah, this conversation takes me a little bit back to the first ever riding unicorns episode, where we had some arts and so on. And I don't know whether you guys any, had any conversations with him, but maybe to take us to the latter part of the social change journey and the listing of the company and what that meant for you guys as founders of the business and the emotional side of it as well.

Cause it must've been a. Yeah, quite a big change in the way you guys were running the.

Dominic: he's a great guy. And I think if we didn't have an interaction with him enough, And the second is we were both and I think we had been doing it wrong. So, no, we definitely, we definitely have. so I think, the kind of responsibility we have as founders was to, to make sure that the company was in the best possible place.

Uh, and we kind of explored options of what we're going to do with social change, where the kind of longevity was and the legacy potential was, And as I mentioned that you had that transition of going from being a service business, to being a product owner. And then also in our own DTC businesses was [00:21:00] kind of the route we wanted to go on because it allowed us to kind of.

Much more aggressive growth. the growth from agency revenue is, is slow. it takes a long time. You open a new territory, you have to do completely new market. You have to do pitch cycles is not a case of, putting team in there and you can start selling from day one. but sales cycle is a long, long time.

so For us scale a business to the size. We want it to do enterprise value global operation. We knew that we had to diversify and we knew that diversification was so important. So we chose the route of, a, kind of essentially an acquisition of a company which had got the logistics, supply chain and infrastructure to be able to do.

which would then essentially in theory, add those together with the kind of front end marketing and bring together their backend operations to be able to put the two together, and drive their own products for our channels. So for us, it made a lot of sense, you know, in terms of being a business that was, a public traded company in Germany.

we have the connection through mutual investors. So there was some synergy. [00:22:00] So, but allowed us essentially to reverse merger into that company. And for us, it was, an opportunities, you know, as founders at first to get our listed, share price, going through the process of the, kind of the valuation, every single company in the kind of group and roll off.

So for us, yeah, it was the right choice for the business to. Give access to fresh capital, put it on the public markets. continued to market ourselves as, as a fast-growing company, and also realize that we're essential to kind of continue to drive our share price up. So, yeah, and I think for the personal point of view, first I'm company, you, you want to do these exciting things.

You want to have that ticker, you know, you want to be able to see open your, your stocks up and see your baby that have a business. You invented the rooming Manchester in 2013. Sat there it's just a great moment. Just a fantastic moment.

If there is, you know, when that possibility presented itself as a strategy, we just went for it.

Hector: Sure. And I presume you've taken a lot of [00:23:00] your experience. With building actual short and selling products, into your investing with, with Phyllis adventure. So it makes a good segue into what you are doing now, um, and, and what the vision is with Fairless and, what exactly it is that you're up.

Dominic: Yeah. So, you're completely right. That's adventures. It's a combination. my experience and my partner's experience from the running their companies, you know, I'm finding the company with Charlie eights and David Nunes, Charlie's backgrounds, corporate finance, he's done 1 billion worth of transactions.

And David is a serial entrepreneur and he's done two exits to fault C3 companies. So we kind of came together on the basis that we just love entrepreneurs. You know, we'd love speaking with entrepreneurs. Um, during lessons. Last year, we all left our company at the same time. We were all speaking about what it's like to be, a, in a pandemic and not being able to kind of realize that, that success and have that moment, but also what you do next, what is the future?

and we, we had some discussions and we found [00:24:00] ourselves just finding out days, speaking of entrepreneurs, on something, their world, what they're doing, what their problems are. and a lot of entrepreneurs that's looking. I'm here right now. And I want to get to here, can you help me? And it took me back to the early days of social change when founders were coming to us for that help and support.

And I was like, well, a cost. We come that's exactly what I did for years is cost. We can help you. And then that snowballed from there because what does that help look like? you then look at the private market, people looking at the private funding markets. What are the options for capital is. Um, you can raise money.

You can do that. But when you look at DTC brands or even tech brands, or even, you know, any businesses out there, you know, requirements of Cassius is, quite the same. It's 30% for people. It's 30% for product and it's 50% for marketing and 10% tends to be a bit. I have not seen many decks with straight too far from that, to be honest, I don't know if you guys have, so you look at it and go that's what businesses need is they need people and the [00:25:00] marketing.

So how do we tackle those two things and build a product where we can provide the capital for the rest of the stuff they need. We can provide the support when it comes to actually the people that need to do the marketing side of things. And then we can actually do the marketing. Because again, Quinn's about back to Paul about agencies.

When you start working with. 50 cent and the money you spend is on fees. So you actually, your wasting half your marks and budget on time on other people when that money could be spent either bringing in people in house or, And having an impact. So, Phyllis adventures is a company which invests in brands and supports them through the provision of services that they need.

and I think the biggest thing for me was speaking to the founders and this was probably more a pandemic situation, but there was a lot of founder fatigue. lack of understanding of who to turn to, who could find us to go to for support. they'd say that board meetings were not productive.

Um, and they were looking for, someone just to give a bit of guidance and, bringing together three entrepreneurs. Who've kind of been there and done that. [00:26:00] That's also, a large part of why people are interested in us because we can help them with those kinds of entrepreneurial problems and struggles.

James: Yeah. it's really interesting when you break it down like that in terms of use of funds and things. And so what types of companies are you going after? Is it, DC? E-com agencies? I mean, you could, you could have all three. So, um, in what types of companies are you looking at?

Dominic: So are no agencies, rule number one, never go back to agencies. we've done two tech businesses and free, direct to consumer businesses. we've got an ambition to continue. More in both areas. So, we're going to spin out specific products for tech unfold, direct to consumer, to continue to be able to provide provisions for each of the needs because they are slightly different.

You know, we, we run that this with a kind of central base of what we assumed most people needed, but kind of spending time with, to invest in to tech companies and VC businesses that requirement's slight different. So we'll be looking at, building out portfolio across both.

Hector: how is it working? So.[00:27:00]

Dominic: I mean, the biggest thing for me, is the feedback from founders is the fact thought if they've just been around the say, I wish we could have had you, if that in the process of raising it's like, this is exactly what I need. for me, that's, been the biggest validation.

Yeah. The actual fact that people, they understand that straight away and they go, that makes complete sense. you can actually come and help me and do this to, for me that I'm raising money to try and figure it out myself. Because a lot of the times, more than I actually fought myself marketing the problem to companies, they could build a great product, be it tech or physical, and they don't know how to get it that way.

B2B or B2C. So it is a continuous problem. so yeah, that's the been the biggest validation?

Hector: I was looking at companies through the lens of, in a way kind of marketing arbitrage. Like, do you see a company and you think, okay, well, I think that looks really interesting the product, but you're, [00:28:00] marketing's way off point. do you see opportunity there or do you want to actually invest in people who are doing marketing well, but you could probably still help them.

Dominic: it's a great question. I think there's definitely, businesses across the entire spectrum. So there's businesses we've looked at who have raised a lot of money. spent a lot of money in, not the only thing and literally 30 seconds in their ad account. And you can, in some way you can go, okay, this is what you do.

You spent, uh, we have got examples of spending a million and been like, you're just doing this wrong. That is a completely wrong, Like you've wasted a million basically. so there are other people that have raised money in doing things wrong. There's also, you know, when you talk about the resources, it requires to run a proper marketing, more omni-channel strategy.

There's a lot of resources. It needs, you know, businesses. These days tend to have 1, 2, 3, Fall channels maybe, which are actually delivering for them. and they haven't focused on other channels because of the cost and resources. So, you know, businesses [00:29:00] which are doing really well. They're on Amazon.

They're on retail wholesale bit, great CRM strategy. Be it Facebook they've spent the time. On those channels to build that business because they know they're working, they haven't gone in and gone. Okay. Let's give me your own try somewhere else because Pinterest, for example, or to try Snapchat or to try re you know, even like retell themselves.

It's like, that requires me to take a step into the unknown, hire someone who's a specialist that probably, I don't know where work. Um, When I know that this is currently working, so we've seen a lot of businesses. It's a bond from that. So, it's not a case of, you know, looking at a business and be like, you're, you're not doing anything welcoming and make it as a case of understanding the business where we think the opportunity lies and would then present it in a plan B like these are actually the opportunities that you guys see we're bringing in a whole team.

You know, we got a team of 25 people. To put, putting together a hundred at time to get [00:30:00] things set from running. and from that, then this is what things should look like. So there's no one where else you could get access to 25 channel specialists fall not only for no cost, but actually as part of your investment, who can call me and look at a business and make meaningful changes.

Hector: I think it's a super interesting model, partly because you can, in terms of the people you're hiring there's 25 people, it must be a really appealing proposition to those people. The idea that they can be part of a team. Employed, but working with tons of different companies, at the same time, in a way it's just a very varied, day job.

Dominic: Yeah. I mean, what people about agencies is the variation. That's what keeps people at agencies is the fact that you wonder you're working here one day, you're working there. What people will go to bronze ball and work brand side is because, yes, it's a bit monogamous. You do the same thing over and over again, but pay slightly [00:31:00] higher security, slightly better, and kind of career progression is better.

So when you combine, that's kind of two things together where you have. Ability to work across more projects, but in the environment, which is a bit more professional, ultimately we are in financial services here now. people go from an employment standpoint. Well, of course I've made that, we haven't lost any stuff yet.

one of the girls, they would show me, I think since, like I said, somebody's job offers. But that's because people, they have a lot of the fulfillment that they want, that they have things that they enjoy from other areas in one place.

James: it's really great that, you're offering those kinds of specialist services across the portfolio. there's this sort of trend around FBA acquisition kind of roll up models at the moment. What's your view on that sort of like cost saving and everything that that's trying to do? What, what's your perspective on those types of.

Dominic: I know data, I've seen data, I've heard stories. I think the idea of fully buying a company, getting rid of the founder of the [00:32:00] entrepreneur, put it to a grad student who's they have an MBA from some company and tell them, this is all you need to improve it. Isn't going to work.

I think they trying to grow too quickly. Yes. It's a competitive market and that bit in each other and then running out targets now because there's not that many companies out there, but my opinion is caught in the head off any company to be at a founder or anything. You lose everything, you lose the integrity.

So any kind of roll-up or any kind of, centralized platform or aggregates or whatever you want to call it, they need to find a model to keep founders incentivized. And I think just by, in a business and assuming you can make it better than someone who is putting their blood, sweat, and tears every single day, waking up and doing it is very naive.

James: Yeah. Well, I love that as an answer because it's just sort of the human side of it. It just sort of seems so obvious. Um, which is great. So Don slightly switching tasks, we'd like to try and get to know you as the individual, as much as understanding your journey for your [00:33:00] companies. I know you've been a huge advocate for sobriety and you post some amazing content about.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about why that's so important to you and sort of how that's helped you through.

Dominic: Yeah. I mean, my sobriety came about as a part of me as a person deteriorating because of pressures because of stresses Because I was a 22 year old guy, running a company with like 200 people. and I wasn't set up for that. I didn't appreciate what I take out with me from a physical, mental, emotional standpoint.

So, I put it all on my shoulders and had a massive, massive kind of crushing feeling upon me, which then what led me to have this kind of niggling voice in the back of your mind, which is telling you you're not good enough. You shouldn't be doing this. things are going to go horribly wrong and you've gotta, we're not a cash.

All these things are going to go wrong. And the only way to get rid of that voice is to drink And to show you that's why father is there any way to manage it? So you have this cycle where [00:34:00] you drink, the voice gets louder. You drink the voice gets loud. You drink more, ultimately the vice quieter, you just drink, drink, drink, drink.

So now you're at a point now where you're basically your life revolves around alcohol every single day you're drinking and you become a shell of a person because you're just literally functioning to stay alive and treading water. And then you start messing up. You start hurting people, damaging relationships and all these other things, which alcoholism has.

And then you've got a choice. You know, you've got a choice and I had my choice. I had a choice. between is social Chain the place I want to be Or do I want to carry on being able to drink actually to distill it even further? do I want to be alive or not? so for me, breaking everything down and going through kind of the process of why I was drinking, what was causing me to drink, drinking was my medicine.

It was what I used to. breathe basically. so I had to stop it I had to get rid of alcohol and tackle the kind of root problem. So yeah, that helped me kind of get over my imposter syndrome. My anxiety, [00:35:00] my depression, and then made me a much happier person I realized that the problems that were happening, that voice inside of my head was not.

Because of social chain, it wasn't because of what was going on It was because I couldn't deal with it. So it gave me the ability to deal with that and process it and get over it. And then, you then realize that, you know, you don't need alcohol in your life because you don't want to go back to that point.

James: And I'm sure lots of founders listening might be feeling quite under the cautious at the moment. So what are some of the other ways that you deal with that pressure and where have you found your tools and coping mechanisms? Cause you're still running, you know, high growth businesses managing lots of.

Dominic: Yeah, I think the biggest thing to me was kind of understanding, not, What is your Everest? What is that point where, and I say that in a, not in a good way, but in a bad way. Well, in that situation, which the most stressful, darkest, deepest place to go off.

And I got out of it. So like now everything is [00:36:00] insignificant on plates. Every problem, everything is like, I can tuck a lot because I've got, I did this. So my coping mechanism, and it's a horrible thing to say. My case was me hitting rock bottom because I then had relative understanding of that likely it's not like.

I have me, I have my health, I have my beautiful fiance. I have my lovely dog. I had everything I need. So everything else, every problem, every stress is just temporary and I can deal with it. So, yeah, it's a lot of internal looking at yourself and saying to yourself, well, you know, it's relative, it's relative, you know, it's, it's not, you know, we used to talk about fires and things.

We don't fight. the size of the fire. Once you've seen the fire for the first time, get smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller to like, you know what people call us like a, we've got the problem. People thinks we problem. Actually, it's just a speed bump. You just go, let's do this and we'll go over it.[00:37:00]

So yeah, my, my, kind of anchor is experience. We just started, which again, unfortunately, to entrepreneurs listening to this the first time, it's very difficult. Take any kind of lesson from that, because what I'm saying is you've got to go for it.

Hector: it's great advice and it is all about perspective, but Dom, I mean, thank you for opening up. I think it's, it's something that we, really appreciate and the listeners I'm sure lots of people will relate. so yeah, thank you. but before you go, we always liked to play the dinner party guest game, um, where you can pick three people that are alive, to come to a dinner.

Who would you have.

Dominic: Yeah. I mean, look, I live in the past. I'm a, I love history. I love understanding, wanting to understand the mysteries around things we'll never know. so for me, like it has to be free figures from history because I also have. They hold the key to so many things. So number one, my idol and they kind of [00:38:00] probably the only person I'm a little, like I mildly inspired by, is, um, a guy called Napoleon.

I think he is fascinating. I think number two, Hi, it's Richard. The third, as a person, he stories on told us he was a by-product of mass propaganda after his loss of the throat. So I own some whether he thinks, and then finally, um, I think he is probably the person I have the most.

Admiration for, as a human being and as a leader, I actually think he is the, greatest leader ever, with anyone and it's, uh, Abraham Lincoln,

Hector: fantastic. why Napoleon? Why are you inspired


Dominic: like going back to the point of what I think entrepreneurship has, it's like, think you've been screwed on better. Um, and he pioneered in a completely new way of thinking about the. off the embers of the French revolution, the kind of,[00:39:00] ideas, Liberty and freedom for every single person. He kind of embodied all up on brought back to reality, into France and then into Europe, you know, everything that's happening in Europe in terms of.

the European union in terms of the three markets, in terms of everything that you kind of see in Europe today, down to the law, the legal system, and people being tried as individuals fairly is down to him that for me, I could debate with people, brought us into a hole, a bit disappeared me, but here's the person which led to a kind of free.

every year of what we see today,

James: That's really interesting. I think you've got three points for originality. Is that why I had to, I don't think we've had those three before, so it's always great. And I'm Dom, thank you so much for coming on and telling us your riding unicorn story fearless has got huge potential and you guys have done so much in such a short period of time, which is massive Testament to you and your.

And the social chain story is obviously [00:40:00] one of the biggest kind of, uh, entrepreneurship stories in the UK. So it's been amazing to hear a little bit more about, how you guys did that and the journey that, so thank you so


Hector: Thanks Dom.

So that's it for episode one of our new season. Uh, we've got lots of amazing new episodes coming up. Every Wednesday, we release a new episode. If you aren't already please subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast platform, whether that be Spotify or apple or somewhere else. We also have a newsletter called reading unicorns on sub stack. Just go and follow us on social media. And you'll be notified about how to follow that. Please do look out for it. We don't just talk about the podcast. We also keep everyone up to date if the world of unicorn building. So please go and have a look. and yeah see you next time on riding unicorns