Interview with Fat Lama

Fat Lama are an exciting marketplace startup enabling the borrowing and lending of just about anything.

I’m absolutely obsessed with marketplace businesses, and I think Fat Lama is a fantastic example of a true “sharing economy” startup: helping suppliers make money from under-utilised belongings, making it easy to borrow from trusted neighbours, and facilitating fast transactions through a secure and safe platform.

Musical instruments is one of their most popular categories, so we’ve been having some interesting discussions recently about how Encore and FL can team up…

An offshoot of those conversations was an interview on their blog this week where I discussed how Encore differs from music agencies, the highs and lows of starting a business in London, and more…

Why I Use: Encore

Published 18th May 2017

Encore Team

Startups Uncategorised

Designing for Generosity

Plate with tip money

Earlier this week, I ordered an Uber to take my family home after a pleasant evening in a Japanese restaurant.

When the taxi arrived, my Dad launched straight into conversation with the driver and didn’t stop chatting until the moment we arrived at our house. The journey was smooth and quick, and the driver was incredibly courteous.

The jarring moment of the trip came after we had left the taxi and were approaching the front door of our house, when my Dad asked:

| “So, did you give a tip?”

I was stunned as I realised that, within the confines of an app where every payment is seamless and invisible, I wasn’t able to tip the driver.

| “I don’t think I can, Dad”

This jarring confusion led to a feeling of guilt. Our journey had been much cheaper than if we’d taken a people mover with a traditional taxi company, and if I ever take a taxi and pay with cash, I always tip. It’s something I subconsciously learned from my Dad.

As we move further towards a cashless economy where every transaction takes places in the cloud, I think it’s important that we design systems where customers are able to exercise generosity.

Should the platforms enabling these transactions take a commission on these tips? Probably not. This might explain why Travis Kalanick and his merry band of world-conquering growth hackers are yet to build it into Uber…

Admittedly, we don’t support tipping in Encore yet. If I’m honest, I would consider it more of a “nice-to-have” than an essential feature, but it’s something we discussed in the office this week, and we may roll it out later in the year.

I don’t have a strong conclusion to this post, but wanted to air my musings and invite discussion.

Are there any marketplace platforms that already support gratuity? Am I being old-fashioned? Have I missed something?

Startups Uncategorised

How to increase your chances of getting hired as a developer

How to increase your chances of getting hired as a developer

Encore is growing fast, which means I’ve been in the process of hiring developers for nearly four months straight.

In that time, I’ve seen a lot of candidates on a variety of different platforms (we really like Hackajob, Hired, and Angellist) and I’ve gradually become more and more frustrated by the lack of individuality in developer profiles.

Here are the five things I wish more developers would do when looking for their next role:

1 / Show me your personal side

What makes you unique? What gets you out of bed in the morning? How do you spend your evenings and weekends? I’m specifically looking for people who love music, so some mention of music in your biography will do wonders for anyone wanting to work at Encore.

If you want to work at a sports company, talk about your sporting side. If health is your thing, talk about what it means to you. You get the picture.

2/ Build your own personal website

This is one of the best things you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. A fantastic personal website earns a lot of brownie points, and differentiates you from the other twenty people I’ve seen in a given day.
Your site doesn’t need to be flashy or extensive, just make sure it:

  • Does justice to your front-end abilities
  • Behaves nicely across all screen sizes
  • Doesn’t comprise of a completely uncustomised Bootstrap theme 😉

3/ Showcase your projects

I love to see the projects you have worked on, regardless of whether they were labours of weekend love or projects from previous jobs. This gives me an insight into your ability to craft a user-friendly product and present information in a clear way, and good projects stay with me long after I’ve looked at your profile.
“So, who are we interviewing today?”
“The girl who built that really nice one-page React app for doing X”
It’s a talking point, and we really enjoy going through previous work in interviews.

4/ If you can’t show me a live demo, show me screenshots

I go through the following thought process on a daily basis:

“Ooh, they’ve linked to a GitHub repo. I wonder what they built…”

“Okay, haven’t been able to find a URL so far. Maybe there are screenshots…”

“Oh, they want me to follow a 10-step process in order to run a server locally on my machine. And still no screenshots.”

I don’t really have time to install every project I see, so it’s really really helpful if you can provide live demos of your work. I don’t care if your URL still contains or, as long as I can play with the code you’ve built.

If, for some reason, you’re not able to host it online, or if it’s unfinished, then at least include some screenshots in the of your GitHub repo or in the Portfolio section of your website.

5/ Be specific with your ambitions for your next role

If you’re looking to work on hard machine learning problems in your next job, then please say so in your profile. It’s quite common to read through someone’s profile, talk to them on the phone and only discover after 30 minutes of talking that they’re not looking for the work you’re offering.

I really like when people mention the following:

  • Do you prefer front-end, back-end or both?
  • What size of team do you want to join?
  • Do you want to (are you ready to) lead a team in the near future?
  • Are there particular types of business that appeal to you i.e. marketplace, e-commerce, deep tech?

I hope this has been helpful, and if you have suggestions for how I could improve this guide, please fire them in my direction: [email protected]

And just to demonstrate that I practice what I preach: the last developer we hired had a fantastic personal website with a Labs section showcasing 41 different projects he had built, all with live working demos. He mentioned music in his biography, and was specific with the type of company he wanted to join next. Perfect. 👌

Startups Uncategorised

Announcing our £560k Seed Round

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we’ve raised a new round of investment from a line-up of stellar angels.

I’m excited for three reasons.*

*Okay, I’m excited for hundreds of reasons, but who am I to question the Rule of Threes?

Encore Team October 2016

The Encore house band is shaping up nicely. Taken at our home in TechHub London on 20th Oct when we only had 7 team members, this photo is already outdated!

1. Our team has doubled

Growing our team was the primary reason for raising investment, and after hiring five new team members, I could not be prouder of the world-class talent we’ve welcomed to Encore HQ.

We have folks who have honed their craft at Google, PayPal and the BBC, and the energy in the office is electrifying. To have a Bookings Manager, Heads of Design and Marketing, and more developers is ludicrously exciting, and I can’t wait to see what we produce over the coming months.

Encore iPhone app

We released our iPhone app earlier this month.

2. We’re investing heavily in product development and marketing

We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve with Encore, and this investment enables us to further develop the Encore website and mobile apps. We have plenty of improvements on the horizon designed to make booking musicians easier than ever before, and to help our musicians make more money doing what they love.

We want to bring live music to more private events than ever before, and this investment will help us spread the word about the magic and simplicity of our bookings service. If you don’t know how Encore works, check out our cinematic explainer video below:

3. We’re one step closer to connecting every musician in the world

Our dream is to create the platform that unites every musician in the world, and this latest round of investment takes us one step closer to achieving it.

We envision a future where musicians can be booked quickly and easily for events all over the world. A future where every musician’s dull admin work is automated, giving them more time to focus on their art. Above all, we envision a future filled with live music, and I am so grateful to our investors for believing in and supporting our mission.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far.

Believe me when I say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Encore app trumpet

To read more about Encore in our TechCrunch article published today, click here.

For press enquiries, please email me: [email protected]

Startups Uncategorised

Everything I wish I’d known when raising my first Seed Round

Everything I wish I’d known when raising my first Seed Round

Since founding Encore in September 2014, we’ve raised two rounds of funding that would typically be called “Seed” rounds. The first, a modest round in August 2015, enabled us to make our first hires and begin experimenting with paid user acquisition. The second, which closed this month, will allow us to grow our team further and further accelerate our rapid growth. Raising these rounds took six and three months respectively.

The good folks at Entrepreneur First prepared us well for fundraising, in a theoretical sense. We had various concepts explained to us, and went through a few practice investor meetings just before Demo Day, and for that I’m grateful. However, there was a lot that I figured out on my own and from swapping ideas with other founders (We graduated from EF 18 months ago, so a lot has changed and improved since then).

Below is a summary of the information and tricks I wished I’d known when embarking on the fundraising journey.

These strategies can be applied to any type of seed round, but it’s worth noting that we haven’t taken any VC money yet, and that the majority of my time was spent dealing with angel investors.

Use Streak

Streak was the single most useful piece of software during our latest round of funding. Honestly, I can’t imagine fundraising without it.

I didn’t commit to Streak properly last year, but this year I used a Streak pipeline to keep track of conversations with 136 investors and VCs, and benefitted immensely from it. If you take one thing away from this guide, please let it be Streak.

Firstly, set up your fundraising pipeline with the following columns:

  • Investment Amount
  • SEIS (for tracking how much SEIS each investor is allocated)
  • Type (Angel, VC, Syndicate etc)
  • Intro by (Name of the person who introduced you)
  • Notes
  • Date of Last Email (Magic Column)

Now add the following stages:

  • Lead
  • Email Discussion
  • Meeting Set
  • Met
  • Warm
  • Committed
  • Passed

Once you’re approaching your fundraise target, I would recommend adding Termsheet Signed, Final Docs Signed and Money in Bank stages to your pipeline, but don’t add them until you need to.

As soon as you begin emailing or even considering emailing an investor, add a box for them in your pipeline, and make sure you add any email threads to that box. I’d recommend setting up a Sum calculation in the Investment Amount field to easily track your running total.

I’d also recommend adding a Nudge view, to show you which investors have gone stale and could benefit from a follow-up email. The rule I used was:

Bonus: Streak also includes email tracking, so you can know when investors read your emails.

Use Rapportive

Rapportive is a simple but incredibly helpful Gmail extension that shows you the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re emailing. This is useful for quickly seeing which of your contacts is connected to the investor you’re talking to, and speeds up the process of requesting references or intros.

Pro tip: if you need to guess someone’s email address, try various combinations ([email protected], [email protected] etc) until their LinkedIn profile appears in Rapportive. When this happens, you’ve landed on the email associated with their LinkedIn profile. 😉

Use DocSend

DocSend* gives you an insight into who’s viewing your Pitch Deck, how long they’re spending on it, and which slides they’re lingering on. You’ll often see names appear here that you don’t recognise, which means an investor has shared your deck with a friend, and you can usually figure out who shared it based on the origin link.

DocSend’s analytics will help you identify patterns in investor thinking. When we were raising our round this year, most people were impressed by our traction and strong growth. A common question we heard throughout meetings with investors was “How big is the market?” and this was reflected in the DocSend stats, with investors spending the most time on our Market Sizing slide:

These stats are particularly useful just before a meeting, and can help you predict which areas of the business an investor is most interested in, and which questions are likely to come up first.

*use my DocSend invite link for a $15 discount.

Take EXTENSIVE notes

After each meeting, try to find a cafe or lobby to spend ~20 minutes noting down everything you talked about (I love Evernote). Meetings with investors are always educational, and the discussions you have about your business will reams of valuable information.

Crucially, take note of any names mentioned, and if you can, try to do this during the meeting.
At the very beginning of our fundraise in May, I had a meeting with two of our existing investors. We spent a good 15 minutes working through a long list of people who might be interested in investing, and luckily, I wrote every single name down.

I was flicking through my notes at the end of August, and came across a name I hadn’t reached out to. That person happened to be one of the most enthusiastic investors we met, and is now an investor in Encore!

Keep emails short

I know myself that I’m more likely to reply to short emails that don’t require a lengthy, essay-like response, and this is even more true of investors, who receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis. Try to get over the preconception that short emails are rude or terse (This took me a while).

Have your intro paragraph ready at all times

When introducing you to new contacts, investors and mentors will usually ask for a short paragraph summarising your business and fundraise progress.

Writing this from scratch for each new intro is a waste of your time. Always have an up-to-date version of this paragraph ready to drop into an email at a moment’s notice.

Learn more about intro etiquette from Fred Wilson here and Mark Suster here.

Pro tip: Streak’s Snippet feature is perfect for this. Assign a keyboard shortcut to your primer text, then drop it into emails using just a few keystrokes without ever leaving Gmail.

Make sure you can edit your deck

We hired a designer to present the content of our pitch deck nicely, and were incredibly pleased with the results.

However, he produced the deck using InDesign, and neither myself nor my co-founder had access to InDesign to edit the deck over the following weeks. Make sure you don’t end up in this position — it’s not fun!

Do not try to raise part time

You cannot raise part-time. Meetings, phonecalls and negotiations take a lot of time, and it’s unfair on yourself and your business to do this in a half-hearted manner.

I spent six weeks raising “part-time” while also dealing with various operational and revenue-generating tasks in the Encore office. My work suffered, and fundraising progress was slow, so we hired a part-time Bookings Manager to handle booking enquiries and customer support. This allowed me to focus all of my efforts on raising investment, and was one of the best business decisions we ever made.

That part-time Bookings Manager is now full-time and an outstanding member of the Encore team!

Don’t raise in Summer

Raising in Summer is frustrating. Most investors take at least one extended holiday, and having your fundraising schedule pushed back for reasons outside of your control isn’t ideal.

Try to avoid beginning a fundraise around April/May, and if you can’t, at least try to schedule as many meetings as possible before June comes around.

Fundraising is Hard

This sounds painfully obvious, but it’s important that you grasp this.

We were warned about how difficult fundraising would be, and heard from other entrepreneurs about the struggles of raising their own rounds, but naively, we thought our situation would be different.

The reality is: raising your first round is tough, and you shouldn’t do it unless you’re absolutely convinced that your product needs to exist. There were various points during our first raise when doubt crept into my mind and I began to crave the stability of a normal job.

One of those points, for example, was renting out my own bedroom on AirBnb and sleeping on my flatmate’s bedroom floor to make extra money and extend our runway… I truly believe Encore needs to exist in the world, and it was this conviction that helped me persevere during trying times.

Even this year, we spoke to 136 investors and VCs, of which only a handful invested in our round. Conversion rates like this aren’t unusual, and so you should prepare yourself for repeated rejection. It sucks, but it’s the nature of the game.

Don’t panic

Brexit happened during our fundraise this year, which gave a couple of investors cold feet and definitely made our fundraise harder.

Things will go wrong, but if you roll with the punches and keep a cool head, you’ll be just fine.

Thanks for making it to the end! I really hope you found this useful, and if I missed anything or you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to email me: [email protected]

Good luck!