Chapter 21: Organic growth is gruelling


Demos Demetriou

Chapter 21: Organic growth is gruelling

Organic Growth

Topics and inspiration for this blog can come at any time. This week’s topic came about while I was chatting with Nargis on Slack. We were chatting about social media accounts and how hard growing your followers is when you’re doing it organically. If you don’t know already, Nargis is in charge of all of our marketing and yes you guessed it… she’s awesome. She is thinking of her next posts and ideas when she is eating, drinking, baking and sleeping. In recent months she has been posting some great content regularly, but the number of followers is not increasing at speed, hence her comment about organic growth being gruelling.

I’m sure there are lots of social media specialists out there that can explain to us why someone has 900M followers and when all they have posted is one picture of a ladybird when their own business could be selling shoes. In fact, they may not even have a business they are probably still at school. Now I’m only guessing here but that isn’t a social media account that has been grown organically. Have they purchased their followers with pocket money or is it just a fake account?

Anyway, when Nargis commented “Organic growth is gruelling”, that got me thinking about how the same is true in business especially in startups like our own. We’re great believers in organic growth, although it is slower, it feels like you’re building something that’s on a more secure foundation. This would be compared to a debt/investor fuelled business that is forcing growth to gain a market share be it through buying followers or splashing out the cash to keep up with a huge growth rate.

Now I don’t think you can continue just with organic growth long term, well you could but that’s going to take hundreds of years and I’m not sure about you, but I won’t be here for that long; you do need to raise funds whether that’s from an investor or by borrowing to scale effectively and make sure your growth is sustainable but organic growth is still part of that process.

At a startup’s early stage there is a place for organic growth, and it is so important. Although it is gruelling and at times very slow it gives you an opportunity to understand your product and users. You can spend the time getting feedback, tweaking things and improving. I would think that working that way would be a huge challenge if you were forcing your growth through spending.

Growing organically also means you can stay small for a bit longer. Many startups (including us) want world domination but you have to start small, listen to your users, improve and then scale. Lots of people reading this will say, “Duh, of course, that’s like business 101”. OK, but how many people have forgotten this in the quest of explosive growth?

We are still on the organic growth path for now until we are back on the investment trails. I heard recently from a company involved in funding that early stage, pre-revenue investors have disappeared since the beginning of this year. This makes a lot of sense given our conversations earlier on this year with potential investors. An investor wants to see some growth (even if it’s small) before they commit their kids’ inheritance to your startup. I would do exactly the same. That’s why we are focusing on that organic growth to show that what we’re doing is working and ultimately growing then we will go back to the investment drawing board.

Getting Big

I have spent some time recently dealing with some bigger companies in my personal life from phone companies to car companies. Many of them are established companies, they didn’t grow into behemoths overnight, it’s taken them years. So, can someone explain to me why their customer service is so crap and why they can’t do what you need them to do. I mean, it’s not like I’m asking them to jump out of a plane without a parachute. It could just be a case of changing my phone package, but it is SO difficult. Now I’m not going to name and shame anyone here, especially not AUDI, but my point this week is that getting too big, especially quickly can actually hurt.

It’s not something we’ve experienced with Marlin yet, but I hope in the years to come we will. Not the crap customer service, but the growth. I do hope though that all of the lessons we learn from these big companies failing to look after their customers either through growing too quickly or quite simply operating badly will be a catalyst for us to avoid that same future and deliver a product and service that is unrivalled no matter how big we get.

That’s going to be a huge challenge but one we are all very much looking forward to. It’s what we live for in startup land and all of our lessons and our journey will be reported here for as long as possible.

Some Updates

As mentioned previously we’re in talks with a couple of Hotel chains about using our platform across their groups. It’s still early stages but the initial conversations have gone well. One thing that is even more apparent in talking to these Hotels is that the way Hotels and Restaurants find staff is changing because it is far too expensive and time consuming using the current methods. Now that’s music to our ears!

On a separate note we have just started working with Braithwaite who are Tax Specialists. It’s not for them to advise us where to move our millions in profits, it’s actually to do with Research and Development. It turns out that we may be entitled to some tax relief for the work we have done on the App since we started. Still too early to tell if we will be successful in a claim and, given we are dealing with HMRC, it will probably take a bit of time to find out. In any case as with anything in startup land it’s a learning experience and one that I hope to report on a bit more here as we proceed.

Until next time…