Interview With Laurent Guyot
Describe your product or service:
“Qwil Messenger is a single chat app for staff to communicate securely and in full compliance with prospects, clients, and partners. Chat, share documents, and start video calls knowing that every participant is who they say they are. Qwil Messenger is multi-tenant, which enables users to be invited by multiple firms on the same platform, everyone in their branded space, with their rules of engagement and respect for privacy.
Deployed to the largest wealth managers in the UK but can be deployed globally in minutes to any professional firm or any size. We remove the risk of cyber attacks or data breaches as we are a wall garden, invitation-only, and tested to banking grade standards.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Making professional communications with clients safe and compliant. Becoming the ‘WhatsApp for professional services.’
Becoming the app for all professional services, whether a client of a bank, a staff of a legal firm, a parent at a school, or a member of a charity — everything in the same place, and everything secure and compliant globally.
Email has been replaced in our personal lives, MS teams have replaced internal collaboration, time to replace email when communicating externally!”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“$3.5 million (7). Pre-Series A.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“10 (three directors, co-founders).”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“Although the company officially started in March 2017, the idea of secured chat began a few years prior. The CEO, Peter Reading, has over 20 years of experience in the wealth management industry [and is a] CRM expert by trade, implementing Salesforce.com in 2006 at Barclays, and had witnessed firsthand with over 300 bankers the pain of communication made worse by regulation. With the CTO, also an ex-banker, they saw an opportunity to use what was becoming the most used communication channel, instant messaging, in a business context. But rather than adapting an existing solution, the key was to start from the ground up to satisfy the requirements of multiple data locations, [the] need to build for scale, one-click deployment, two user types (staff and client) with unique identifiers to integrate all within one unique platform for everyone!”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Qwil is the ‘modern’ version of Quill — the pen used to sign the most important contracts historically. Messenger as we are all about communication, not only conversation.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“All directors have decades of corporate experience and witnessed firsthand the challenges of communication and realizing something had to change. It is less about becoming an entrepreneur but wanting to disrupt the way things are done and building for tomorrow — something only possible when outside of a firm and not limited by the "today needs thinking.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“All the time. I think the biggest challenge is focusing on what we thought was right — not being influenced by customers, by investors, by competitors. The fact we are disrupting the way firms communicate with their clients means that most are reluctant to change. Most people and customers are also only focusing on today's problems and have a preconceived idea of the solution. For example, it needs to connect to WhatsApp … without realizing that the security is not met and makes that tool useless, or building "in my app" without thinking of what staff use or about prospects! If it was easy, everyone would do it. It is only when it is done, that people realize that was the way to do it!”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“We started in wealth management for a few reasons:
- Background of founders. Don't solve a problem you don't fully understand
- Lack of technology in the sector and urgency to have a solution
- Connectivity to key common platforms and to all other professional services
- High ratio staff to clients (important for network effect)”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We benefit from all three channels and can cater to 10,000 staff companies to the sole trader across the market. Enterprise has been the biggest focus to date with direct sales and outreach, but we are rapidly developing a partnership network and online sales through lead generation. The key for a long time was to explain the problem — but with cyber attacks, phishing, hacking, etc., and banks being fined for social chat use … we can now focus on the solution.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Mostly direct and through partnerships with our platform providers.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Daily activations — i.e., when staff invites their clients to the platform.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“How to Become a Rainmaker.’”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
‘“Don't Stop Me Now.’ Freddie Mercury.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“You become the person you need to be.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Working from home.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Always looking for new ways, things, improvements.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Always ask and listen/take help and advice when given. There are a lot of people looking to support you. Then give it back — everyone wants to hear from someone who has just done it.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Banking — capital markets. Be able to take rejection and continue.”
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