Startup life Technology

We made it from zero to one – now we have help to get from one to ten.

Our reflections on ‘zero to one’ and announcing help we’re getting to go from ‘one to ten’

Getting from 1 to 10. Photo credit: Jon Tyson, from

Going from zero to one means bringing something entirely new into existence, and being lucky – or far-sighted – enough to have created something that a lot of people find useful enough to use and to share with friends.

Going from one to ten means taking that early success and figuring out to make it relevant and exciting for a much bigger group of people. It means identifying and fixing the ‘break points’ in the current product, and it means scaling the energy of the founding team to a much larger organization.

Today, I’m reflecting on our own ‘zero to one’ journey – in our case that’s getting to the symbolic one million weekly user milestone on the one year anniversary of our product launch. And we’re also announcing and celebrating a new partnership that will help us get from one to ten.

Mote from zero to one

In January 2020, Alex and I started work on the project that became Mote. By the time we launched Mote just over one year ago today, the World was gripped by the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic, and we wondered just what this meant for our nascent startup.

We’ve been lucky – we got quite a few things right with our initial product idea, and we’ve been blessed with a fantastic community of users who shared their ideas for improving our product.

We’ve been frugal – we were largely self-sufficient for the first six months, and we only started paying ourselves once we started generating a meaningful amount of revenue, in September.

And, as we grew our revenue from sales, we were also able to hire brilliant team members with energy and expertise that complemented our own.

In getting from zero to one, we continued to refine our idea of what 10 or 100 might look like. In our case, we kept coming back to the key insight – Mote makes it easier to talk instead of type, and our users really like this. To get from one to ten, we will need to find more people, places and ‘jobs to be done’ where talking can be faster, better and more enjoyable than typing.

Mote from one to ten…and beyond!

Alex and I have always been confident that Mote has potential to become more than ‘just a feature’, that we are building something with real significance, however I’ve not always been very good at explaining this vision. That matters, because explaining the vision is really important in bringing brilliant people to work with us at Mote.

Telling the story and painting the bigger picture is also essential to attract the kinds of investors who are experienced at helping startups make the leap from one to ten. Today, I’m really excited to be announcing that we have secured partnership and investment from Craft Ventures, a top tier Venture Capital firm that believes in our mission, with a team that brings decades of experience in building startups through this phase of their growth.

With the funding we have received, we will be investing in growing our team and increasing our expertise to better serve the needs of our community. The funding gives us the additional capacity to address both the immediate top priorities of users and partners, as well as the longer term priorities that will help us meet the needs of both current and future users of Mote.

Some of the things we’ll be working on include…

  • Bringing a better Mote experience to mobile and tablet devices – starting with iOS
  • Integrating Mote into more products and ecosystems – starting with Microsoft
  • Better understanding and addressing ways to make Mote more useful every working day

For our users and customers, this means you’ve got a stronger partner in Mote – we have the resources to invest in serving you better than ever. We wouldn’t be here without the trust and kindness you’ve shown us so far, and we will be working very hard to win your continued support.

Most importantly, for our amazing team members, friends and early supporters, this investment is validation of the faith you placed in Mote and in its founders. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking the leap and for giving so much of your time and energy to this project – onwards! 🚀🌔✨

Startup life

One million motes this month…

Yesterday I noticed that we’ve now passed a delightful new milestone – our users have created one million voice notes (‘motes’) using our product Mote so far in September. By contrast, we saw 392,000 voice notes created in August and 711,000 created in May – our highest previous month. In this post I wanted to disaggregate what’s driving our growth.

44,000 mote creators

The great majority of our mote creators are educators. They tell us that they love using Mote because it makes delivering feedback really fast – because they speak faster than they type, and because Mote integrates seamlessly into their workflow tools- and friendly, because students appreciate hearing their voice and seam to be more likely to respond and action verbal feedback.

7,350 hours of mote voice comments recorded

The average voice note is about 25 seconds, so we’ve seen over 7,000 hours of voice notes recorded so far this month.

315,000 mote listeners

The great majority of people listening to mote comments are students, accessing their teachers’ feedback either within their homework assignments (e.g. Google Docs or Google Classroom), or on our website. While the US leads with over 240,000 unique listeners, we have had mote listeners in 152 countries worldwide so far this month. We’ve invested heavily in student data privacy and security measures to win the trust of schools, teachers and students, so we’re really happy to see this level of engagement.

Scalable Tech

I feel it’s important to acknowledge that this kind of growth would only be possible with a scalable technology platform, and we’ve been very lucky to have integrated a set of highly scalable technologies. Co-founder CTO Alex will be writing a blog post on this topic very soon…

Thanks for reading!

Startup life

Five things I’ve learned in my first month hustlin’ outside the corporate bubble…

After years of repeated and rationalized postponement I am, for the first time, making a sustained effort to start a business of my own. Here’s five things I’ve learned in my first month hustlin’ as a wannabe entrepreneur:

There’s a back story to this leaving gift, that’s all I’ll say
  1. Play to all my strengths.

It’s a far safer bet for both me and my potential investors to start up a business in an area that I already know well than in an area that I have a crush on.

For some time I’d been kicking around an idea for a start-up in the booming fitness-tech area, which I’m really passionate about, especially since my Ironman adventures last year. However as I talked to friends and advisors it became really clear that this would be a much steeper hill to climb than focusing on an area where I have more direct working experience. So that’s where I’m now focused — in digital music and entertainment.

2. Diversity breeds creativity.

Working with co-founders with complementary skills, experiences and styles can sometimes feel like hard work, but it’s ultimately how the magic happens.

I’ve been fortunate to quickly join up with two co-founders who bring tremendous skills and experience. There’s no way that any one of us alone would have been able to piece together the approach to the opportunity that we’re pursuing, but as a team we’ve been able to quickly find a pattern of working where we challenge and build upon one another’s thinking. We’re still iterating rapidly, but I think we may be onto something really cool.

3. The simple joy of doing vs leading.

It’s exhilarating to get into a flow state of actual work, re-connecting with the skills that built the foundation of my career.

Over the past few years, as I stepped more into more senior leadership roles, I spent less and less time actually creating my own end-deliverables, such as complex analyses and written documents, and more time giving direction, feedback and coaching. I love leading teams, and all the trappings of senior leadership, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy rapidly learning in depth about an emerging technology area, building business models and hungrily pursuing deals.

4. There’s nothing but upside in faking it until we make it.

Any start-up is a first-of-its kind experiment, and while there’s plenty of value in applying accumulated experience, there’s no way that even a well-qualified and balanced founder team can have all of the skills and experience needed to succeed. Without losing the fact-focus and humility, we have to be willing to dream and to sell ourselves as well as our opportunity.

5. My family are both drivers and passengers on this journey with me.

I now know that my health and happiness depends on my family understanding and supporting the start-up journey that we’re on. My wife has given unfailing encouragement and support as I’ve set off on this route, and been a fantastic sounding board. And when I cheerfully briefed them on cash flow restrictions, (no ski trip this year!), my kids didn’t blink. They are eager to hear the latest on my venture and to offer their feedback and ideas. I feel very lucky and I’m very motivated to repay my family’s faith in me.