Jiminny CEO & Founder: How Forward-Thinking Leaders Profit from Breakthrough Innovations
In this interview series Richard Richie, Managing Partner of Alcon Maddox, gets some of London’s most forward-thinking tech leaders to spill the beans on what is making their companies so successful and what innovations the future has in store.
This week Tom Lavery, CEO & Founder of Jiminny, gives us the low-down on the importance of focus for growing tech companies, and the key role that customers play in product evolution. Also, we cover how adopting a never-quit mindset is a primary determining factor in the success of a business.
RR: Tom, tell us a bit about what Jiminny is or does.
TL: Absolutely Richard. At Jiminny we’re a conversation intelligence platform. We record, transcribe and analyse calls, meetings and emails. That's the basis and we use that in a powerful way for teams to be able to maximise revenue. We're very passionate about delivering it in a way that enables teams to use the data to effectively coach and give feedback.
We're a very mission driven company. I was VP of sales for 10 years in a previous company, and I know how hard it is to coach at scale, how hard it is to get visibility of what was going on in multiple geos. So, you know, it's really cool. Jiminny is about helping individual sales reps and customer service managers become better.
RR: I have to ask, the name, any reference to Jiminny Cricket?
TL: Yeah. Look in 2016 when we founded the company, everything was .io this and cloud that, and a more logical but boring name would have been something like ‘coaching cloud’ or something, but we’re more creative than that.
If you look at parts of the product, and even when you consider automating everything to Salesforce, it's like Jiminny was always designed to be your sidekick. We even have a Chrome extension, which is a personal sales assistant, which pops next to Zoom. So, yeah, it's just a play on always being your guide, your conscience that's there to support you in sales.
RR: Love it! Ok, so you've been running the business for seven or so years now. Tell me about your biggest successes to date that are worth shouting about, under the frame of breakthrough innovations.
TL: For me, your product market fit is when a certain amount of deals can be done without you as the founder being involved. You could win a load of big clients and have a million dollars of annual revenue, it doesn't mean you've got product market fit. It's about knowing the point at which it's going to scale.
It takes a lot of iteration. I think it takes six months to get an MVP. Then I'd say most of the time it takes a good two years of iteration to really get something that's robust enough and, you know, valuable enough.
So, you're looking at a three-year gig just to get to that point. Of course, you can acquire customers and revenue along the way, and I think when you start a business, you’re minimum signing up for a 10-year contract, if you want to call it that, to build a good company. It doesn't happen overnight.
When you start a business, you’re minimum signing up for a 10-year contract, if you want to call it that, to build a good company. It doesn't happen overnight.
That very much relates to the product as well. I always think it's like a piece of art that’s never finished. The product is constantly evolving. So, you know, in the early days, and even now to some extent, with certain things, you've just got to ship it.
It will never be completely polished, it will never have every bell and whistle that you need, but you just sometimes need to get it out there. It’s sometimes hard to do that though because all you want is a perfect product, but like I say, you've got to allow people to use it in order for the iteration to take place.
You can test and QA everything but as soon as you put it into the world and you give it to users, they do weird and wonderful things that you don't expect. They use it in different places in different ways - on old laptops, weird browsers, you know, all sorts of things. Try and do something you'd never thought of, so there's really no substitute for getting it out in the wild and getting people to use it and then getting their feedback.
All you want is a perfect product, but you've got to allow people to use it in order for the iteration to take place...there's really no substitute for getting it out in the wild and getting feedback.
Sorry, to come back to the question and frame it in terms of successes, look, I think most companies don't fail. People quit. So just being honest, I think it's less than 1% of companies in tech make it to $10 million ARR, but you’ve just got to never, never give up. You’ve just got to find a way to make things work. That’s what I’m proud of. There are so many different things to juggle and manage. I think we've been lucky in some ways because I'm solving a problem that we physically had, and the market has been good.
RR: Given everything you've gone through, what do you recall as being the best advice you've received over the years, as you've been building this business?
TL: I had to learn it myself. I wouldn't say it's necessarily advice, but I think you can get so caught up. A lot of people who start companies are very forward looking, they have a vision, they have a goal or an intent. Always looking at the end result.
So, you're constantly thinking about the next thing. But you know, you've got to enjoy the micro results along the way. Just running your own race. You get worried about how big you're going to be, how many employees you have, how much funding are you going to get, you know, all the vanity metrics that people use to judge whether a company is good or not.
It doesn't always make sense. I think in tech you tend to get evaluated on those things and then that’s not always what makes a great company. Instead, focus on what's right for you. Pick a model and a path and stick to it. Ours was to bootstrap, take debt, and go with growth equity, not venture.
When you take external investment, institutional investment in any shape or form, you are getting married, but you're also getting divorced. That is the best way that someone's ever described it to me. You pick your partner very carefully. Most of the time there's a cycle to this. So, you have truly got to be aligned. It’s very important, otherwise it can very quickly go wrong.
Focus on what's right for you. Pick a model and a path, and stick to it.
RR: I'm curious, what does the next level of success look like for you guys at Jiminny?
TL: Look, I'm very passionate about solving the mission. We talked about it earlier. I still think people are distracted, or in too many applications every day, and losing focus. We're really deeply embedded into the Salesforce and the HubSpot experience, and I think you'll go full circle.
You'll want whatever widget you have within the CRM to spit out the results rather than having to go into another SaaS product and find things. So, I think the whole self-driving car to automate the process and to kind of spit out answers is key. We haven't finished that and like anything in life, we've gone through these cycles of internet, big data, AI, there's always a wave. But we're running off solving one problem again, and we haven't fixed the other. Most businesses are probably still getting their sales reps to manually log something into a CRM yet we're running around trying to fix something else, so that’s a big part of our mission.
A lot of companies that are bigger have decided ‘we're going to do a platform play and just build all these other products’, but I don't think anyone really can call themselves revenue intelligence today because they're not giving answers. We probably have the most valuable data in the sales and marketing tech stack.
It's just how we use it to give insights, because we're capturing all those conversations and interactions. We have hundreds of customers. The next thing is how do we get thousands of customers? You go on that journey. I think you kind of look at it in cycles. I think you've seen the first few generations of our tool and platform, now how do we thrive in the next six or seven years?