Alex’s advice for other founders
As of June this year, Tractable is now worth $1B. It’s been an incredible journey to get there, and we’re still learning more every day. Here are just a few pieces of advice I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Find the technical magic that only you can wave
Finding a great addressable market was crucial to our success – but also important was that we had a solution that was almost unique to us at the time. We were into deep learning and image classification around 6 months before it kicked off, which gave us a great advantage – especially when competitors got onto it, but we were already ahead.
Don’t look in TechCrunch or what VCs are investing in for ideas – if they’re in there, it’s already too late. By deploying deep learning at the point of its breakthrough, we were able to leverage something that no-one else had.
To find this technology for yourself, read the journals. Speak to professors. If they get shy and embarrassed and say ‘you’ll probably find this really technical and boring’, there’s a good chance you’ve hit the jackpot.
2. Use FOMO to your advantage
As noted, it was when we got the first few big contracts that we really started to gather momentum as a business.
One thing we absolutely prioritised was trying where we could to announce our partnerships. This gave us that badge of credibility: we weren’t a small AI company, but were established experts trusted by other industry big players. And if you’re not adopting it soon, you’re going to miss out. This was critical in establishing us in our market, and increasing our penetration.
3. Utilise advisors – but make sure that they align with you
Advisors are invaluable in starting a company – especially if you’re less experienced or don’t have the rolodex available to make headway in a particular industry. In addition, they’re also going to ask for way less equity than it would cost you to get another VC on your cap table.
However, you have to make sure that they suit you, and what you need. For me, and for Tractable, that meant getting someone with a high appetite for risk, and a strong bias to action who would be making those introductions for us. If they’re not, then they’re wasting your time.