2 October 2019
Tell us about your professional journey so far and why you founded CEW.
I fell into PR and tech, completely by fluke. This wasn’t the plan, I’d originally wanted to get into film and television. I loved storytelling, and that’s the one constant between what I thought I’d end up doing and what I do now. I help companies, and the Founders behind them, tell their stories and play a role in the stories of much larger things.
I started out as an intern for the London office of a Silicon Valley firm, we were small but fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest names in the London tech scene. Almost ten years ago, I was on the team working with Index Ventures, Moo.com, Etsy, and launching Transferwise. I quickly got addicted to the passion and drive that came across in meetings with the founders of these companies, and got stuck into the community of the growing London tech scene. This was before Tech City (now Tech Nation) and around Shoreditch in particular, a lot was going on.
Within a year, I took on the responsibilities of Acting MD for that small agency, and I loved the operations side of PR as much as the work itself. That was when I first decided I wanted to build an agency in the future, but I wanted to ensure I got some great experience under my belt first. I moved to another agency, Founded by 3beards’ Bryce Keane, and helped grow it from two people to 16, before leaving to go in-house at Seedcamp, a great early stage investor, and then Tech City UK. When the referendum happened, I couldn’t keep spinning positives about Brexit as a Head of Communications in an organisation tied to Government, so I decided enough was enough. Let’s go start the company!
I wanted to build an agency that operated like a startup – one that could be agile, understand the startups we work with, and leave room to try new things.
We now specialise in working with early-stage startups up to Series B, packaging some of our services and working across a wide mix of different markets. We’ve carved out a specialism in mainly working with B2B companies, across Fintech, PropTech, InsurTech, Health, HR, SaaS, and ecosystem partners – the businesses that work with startups.
What makes CEW stand out from your competitors?
I could give you an answer where I rave about all our USP’s, but the truth is that in the agency landscape, a lot of people are lying when they say they are different.
The one thing I would say is that our attitude isn’t common, we honestly care and we’re not going to mislead our clients – sometimes this won’t work out in our favour, I’ve met a fair few people who would prefer to be fed a lie about where you can take them.
We don’t believe in promising coverage in the BBC, if we can’t get it or don’t think it’s possible – we’re matter of fact. We want to do a good job for our clients, but my job isn’t to inflate the ego of the Founder involved – my job is often to educate them on how to work with the press, be realistic with their expectations, and how to create and become a part of a story bigger than themselves. PR is not an immediate fix. It can take years to develop a reputation, and seconds for it to fall.
Where would you like CEW to be in 3 years?
Alive and thriving! We’re coming up to our third anniversary now, and we’re a comfortable team of four supported by consultants. We’re looking at making inroads into new cities and opening our services up to further clients across Europe, who are looking to expand into the UK and English-speaking market. We’re starting that work now exploring Barcelona in particular, so in three years time, I’d love us to be an international company, doubled in size – at least!
What is your view of the Tech Sector in London over the next 5 years?
I think we’ll see more people stop referring to Tech in London, but increasingly referring to the London FinTech Sector, or London AdTech sector. They’re is so much activity in the city now, that to bracket everyone under one tech label, doesn’t do any of the industries any favours.
I think there will be a slow down in the next year as those on the cusp of starting businesses maybe wait to see what happens with Brexit, and for those that are still going, I think there will be an impact with more companies receiving less funds or talent. But, with that, the companies that are doing well will be able to bring on talent let go by businesses who close down, and continue to grow. Consider it a consolidation of the tech scenes best players – there will no doubt be more ‘unicorns’ to come.
From your experience, what is the number one issue start-ups face with communication?
Thinking press is an immediate win and not being strategic. The companies that regularly get covered by journalists, took a long time to get there, and they used lots of other channels. You can spend all your time thinking about your business or product, convinced it is the best thing in the world – but the average person doesn’t care. That is the brutal truth.
Press takes time, and it’s all about being seen in the right place for your audience, not the best place with the shiniest name – the BBC won’t move any needle for a B2B focussed insurance company, but The Insurance Times might help!
Startups need to get better at being strategic about where they want to be seen and how they get the best messages across. They need to think about how owned channels – such as social media, company blog, and spokespeople – operate and share updates, in tandem with earned channels like press.
Why would a journalist feature the CEO of a business who can’t be bothered to update their Twitter after two years, when they could use the Founder who shares their opinions and creates further reach?
Ask why anyone would care about you? If the answer is they wouldn’t, then find something related to you, that they do care about – and build yourself into that narrative.
If you had one piece of advice to a founder just starting out, what would it be?
Remove your ego. You are not entitled to anything. You need to earn it. Be helpful, learn, and be considerate.
What are the biggest challenges Tech businesses should prepare themselves for post Brexit?
The competition for talent is going to get worse. Smaller companies will struggle to hire the talent they need, as the pipeline for technical talent in the UK isn’t growing as fast as is needed, and we risk more people being unable to move here or turned off the idea by the wider problems being caused by government and worse.
I think we’ll see a lot more companies splitting their teams between London and another European city where the cost of living is cheaper and there is an access to the talent needed. Increasingly, I think a lot more companies will adopt remote working – for Londoner’s particularly, the cost of living is growing, but salaries aren’t. More people will be questioning their quality of life, and I think there will be a sharp increase in talented individuals wanting the option to work remote from wherever they want in the world. Startups will be a big part of embracing that – more so than they currently are.
What is something you’ve learned that you use daily?
To breathe. You’d think I would have learned that before I started my business…maybe when I was born… and I know it sounds a bit ‘hippy’ but I am talking about deep concentrated breathing.
I get terrible anxiety, and the stress of running a company each day can vary. Whether it’s something not going to plan, chasing someone for a well overdue invoice, or an issue amongst the team – sometimes panic can set in that you didn’t account for, and you just need to breathe.
In for 6, out for 6. A little bit of calm in the storm. I forget to do this as often as I should, but it’s the most important thing. More important than any tool that saves me some time!