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How To Build A High Growth Startup With Tyler Spooner

From living on the street to founding one of the most promising social enterprise startups in Australia: Tyler Spooner is the real deal and Feedmee is making a difference.
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What if every time you ate, you could help someone in need eat, too? 

Tyler Spooner is the Perth based entrepreneur aiming to turn that dream into a reality, through his promising social enterprise FeedMee Australia. FeedMee is a platform designed to take the decision making out of food, while also aiming change the game in online grocery delivery.

As the founder, Tyler has an imposing but not intimidating presence, giving off an energy that balances both the hunger and passion of a youthful leader, with the composed and considered energy of an experienced one. 

Even a short conversation with Tyler is enough to reveal the breadth and depth of his knowledge which is well beyond his years, but what was most surprising was to discover that his path to business was anything but a conventional one. Orphaned at the age of ten, Tyler grew up in New Zealand, moving in and out of foster homes, before spending a period of time on the streets. He spent much of his life relying heavily on charities for food and support. 

After receiving a one way ticket from his sister, to start a new life here in Perth, Tyler launched his first business and after successfully exiting that venture, became committed to finding a way to give back. FeedMee became the means for carrying out that mission.

Our hour long conversation is packed with insights that come direct from Tyler’s experiences as a startup founder and provide some the most honest, raw and valuable takeaways I’ve had from the podcast so far. If you attack this one with curiosity and an open mind, I guarantee you’ll take away something invaluable for your business or your life.

Here are some of the gems you can expect to learn along the way:

  • How FeedMe pivoted from their initial concept to avoid being a “zombie startup.”
  • What to consider before jumping into a startup accelerator.
  • The critical mistake most people make before building an app.
  • Why founders need to get used to talking about the flaws in their business.
  • The importance of vest agreements and setting expectations with your co-founders.

To listen to this episode or any episode of The Network with Mike Drysdale simply hit play on the Soundcloud player or any one of the buttons below:

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Get in touch with Tyler and Feedmee:

Via their website: www.feedmeenow.com

Via Twitter: @Feedmee_au

Via Instagram: @Feedmee_au

Via Facebook: www.facebook.com/FeedmeAU

If you were a fan of this episode make sure you check out my conversation with Chris Nurse: Expert developer, networker, mentor and stand out human being. We discussed the importance of balancing soft and hard skills, the democratisation of knowledge through the internet and how to build a world class network.

The Show Notes:

1:32 – How does FeedMee work and what makes it unique in the market place?

“We have two basic concepts… the first is kind of like a search engine, like Google but for recipes and the second part is a grocery delivery platform, so same day delivery of groceries but every time you spend $50 we can donate a meal to someone in need.”

“We use a share economy so we aggregate Coles, Woolworths and Aldi into one online shop and then we use a network of share economy shoppers that go and shop for you. So you have your own personal shopper and it gives you the ability to shop across stores.”

“Coles and Woolworths set it at 24 hour delivery window, we set it at two hours.”

3:42 – FeedMee seems to exemplify the greater resilience shown by social enterprises during the pivoting process. What does the experience of pivoting actually feel like?

“It gets harder, the more stake holders you have, once you take investment on board and the more traction you get, it’s very hard. So the big risks I find that startups face is there’s two: They either have an idea that completely flops, or you can have what I call a zombie startup. It’s where you hit the mid level, you get a bit of traction, but its not enough to get to volume. You’re still kind of making money, you can pay for overheads, but then you’re not attractive enough to get investment and I feel like that’s a very risky situation to be in.”

“We’ve got to be careful of that right? So every time we hit that level, we figure out how can we grow? How can we get past it? If we can’t we’ve got to talk to the consumer, get that constant feedback loop of what do you guys want? How can we help you?”

5:15 – How important is delivering real value to consumers in a social enterprise?

“In social it’s really important. If you want to be a social business, like a business for good, you actually have to give value.You can’t just stand for a social cause. So our main goal is how can we give the consumer value, in a way that they can support us to make an impact? 

5:32 – What are some of the iterations FeedMee has gone through to get to the stage that it’s at today? What has that journey looked like?

“So basically the idea started off with restaurants. What if every time you book a table, you actually donate a meal? We got a little bit of traction, got about ten thousand users, got a couple of integrations with Uber Eats and a partnership with Quandoo and getting more traction, but we still put a lot of money into marketing and it wasn’t growing as much. 

“The product was still very much a push product, consumers don’t usually eat out every day, if they want to eat out you’ve got to push them onto the platform. Where we’re at right now with groceries it’s a pull, because our consumers eat groceries every day, they buy groceries every week. So we were in restaurants and we talked to our users and said what would you like? And they said well the interface would be nice for recipes.  Then we asked what do you guys need in the recipes and they said well how can you help us get our groceries and then we looked into that and that’s how we came to the share economy of personal shoppers.”

6:46 – How hard was it to move on from the original Tinder swiping method for restaurants and recipes that you’d developed and had gained that initial traction and did you ever feel like you were turning in the wrong direction?

“It was hard to move away from because the development was really nice, the product itself was actually really nice. That was the hard part, but you’ve got to know when to burn it. The other problem with pivoting is that you can have two products going simultaneously which means you’re distracted right? You should be spending all of your time on Plan B, not Plan A and then they can both turn out to be bad products. So you need to know when to say this isn’t working we need to cut ties right here.

“We never really felt like we were turning in the wrong direction. We did scare some of our advisors, because they were like ‘woah, what are you guys doing? Delivery is a big beast, are you sure?”

On moving from restaurant bookings to grocery delivery: “I look at it like it’s the human body. Before we were kind of like a kidney, you can kind of take them out, but I wanted to be like a heart. Because you remove the heart the consumer wants that back.”

8:35 – Advice I received from Matthew Dunstan, former head of Marketing at Health Engine and Tyler’s advice on how best to talk to customers.

“Don’t be afraid to disappoint customers, don’t be afraid to lose customers if it means you get feedback.”

“When you make these assumptions, that’s when you can be in world of hurt, because you can spend $100,000 on an app and then find out: They didn’t actually want those features at all.”

“The one thing you’ve got to be careful about, a lot of our consumers were female, so it was kind of creepy if I got on there and went on Facebook and said hey I want to talk to you! So you’ve got to be careful about who your target market is and how to get to them.”

“You can’t incentivise it too much because people will just be like ‘yeah I’ll do a survey for $20. When consumers love your product they’re happy to talk to you.”

11:00 – What major marketing avenues have you used to help fuel the growth of Feedmee to this point?

“42% of our growth has come from word of mouth.”

“When you find a pain point, it grows.”

“Now we need to educate the consumer and teach them the language to use when they talk about the product.”

“It’s got to be clear it’s got to be accessible and it’s got to be something that people can put into their own words. Because so often in business, what businesses tell consumers to tell their friends is so filled with jargon that it ends up feeling robotic or like it’s part of a multi level marketing scam where it’s like ‘this doesn’t even sound like you, who are you?’ It’s inauthentic.” Mike Drysdale

18:00 – Tyler’s story from living on the street to running a promising social enterprise

“I like to think of it like fish. A fish doesn’t know it’s in water until you pull it out. When I was in that part of my life I was hanging around with bad people, because that’s just what happens right? When you spend some time on the street you get into drugs, you get into gangs, you get into these things and I think the best thing that happened to me was I got that one way ticket over here. Which kind of pulled me out of the water so to speak.”

20:55 – On working two jobs when Feedmee began, to learning how to motivate his team while understanding their needs.

“I did it wrong, I made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot of lessons. I used to work nights, which gave me the ability to wake up early, sleep for a couple of hours and go meet people. So it gave people the perception that I was on it full time.”

“Because I came from labour, with labour you don’t actually have to think, you can just push through, so I would say ‘hey guys, we’re doing twelve hours, you can have three hours sleep and then we’re doing another twelve hours, we’re going to get this done. But you talk to a developer and you’re like hey man I need you to stay awake all night and finish this. They can’t, because they’re using mental energy, they get mental fatigue and you can’t push through mental fatigue, because you’re actually spending two hours looking at a problem that should only take twenty minutes, but because you’re so tired you can’t push through.

22:45 – The Founder Rule – I have a co-founder and we’re founders and that’s the founder rule. So I expect 10x from my co-founder what I do from my employees.

27:32 – What was the process of going through the Plus 8 startup incubator program like for Feed Me? Did you find Value in it?

“Yep. 100%. Can’t deny it. I feel like we wouldn’t be where we are without the program. Were there flaws? 100%. We were the first cohort though. Because we’re helping out this year, looking back at what they’re going through now, they’ve cleaned up a lot of things that were just chaotic for us.”

27:57 – What do you need to consider before jumping into a start up incubator?

“With an incubator, you’ve got to think: What do I want out of it? You need to come up with a clear goal of ‘I need to get this out of this incubator’. Not just thinking what are they going to provide? Look at some of the partners like Tesltra, 7 West right? So if you’re a company and you’re like ‘I need to get exposure’, then you should have goals in place like I need to get contacts within 7 West Media and I have to see how I can leverage those contacts to grow. Or this person on the panel for the Plus8 program and he’s an expert in SAS companies and I’ve got a SAS product. I need to spend a lot of time with this guys, I need to get him on my advisory board.

I wouldn’t be thinking: This accelerator is going to change my business, or my startup, that wouldn’t work. Be smarter think about what you want to achieve out of the accelerator. But it also does give you a slight advantage when you’re going for investment. You think of an investor right, they get hundreds of pitch decks and emails and opportunities to invest and they need a way to filter it. Accelerators do that really well. They go ‘Hey look, we’ve pre filtered these start-ups. We reckon these are the best ones in Perth at the moment, so that does help you in that way.”

29:52 – Why it’s important to fight the resistance many founders have around asking for help.

“It’s the same kind of philosophy around raising capital. Due diligence, founders hide away from it. They get scared and they don’t want to show people the books. DD is this big scary thing, but you should welcome it. You should welcome these things, because if an investor looks at DD and says this doesn’t make sense, that doesn’t make sense and then they can tell you that so you can fix those things.”

“It’s the same if you get into one of these programs, you need to be a bit more vulnerable as well. You need to say like ‘Hey guys, this is on fire and we don’t know how to put it out. Can you help us?’ and with showing them that, they say ‘oh yeah. why don’t you do this’ or ‘I’ve got a connection over here that can help you. But if they don’t know about that and you’re not open with them as well, that can be a huge mistake.”

32:34 – On maintaining an honest and open Co-Founder relationship and the value of vest agreements.

“It’s the same with relationships with co-founders. When you feel like someone is taking more than they’re giving, if you don’t acknowledge that, then it will just grow to the point that you resent them.

“Vest agreements have saved me a lot. We’ve had co-founders leave, we’ve had founding members leave and vest agreements have come into play and they’ve saved a lot of our company.

“The way a vest agreement works is you both sign on for a fixed amount of equity, but you earn it. Because a lot of people say ‘look I can do this, I can give you twenty hours a week, I can give you forty hours a week,’ but things happen right. Life happens and the worst thing you can do is sign that equity to someone and then not be able to get it back.”

34:24 – How to manage a relationship with large competitors like Woolworths, Coles and Aldi.

“Right now we’re kind of like don’t poke the bear.”

“The relationships not there, we’re just doing our own thing we’re not hurting them and they’re not hurting us at the moment but as we start to grow and scale there will probably be more friendly relationships with how we can work together. But right now we offer price transparency, so we give you prices across the board and we don’t want to partner with someone because then that might cloud that. They might want us to push their product in front of other people’s products.”

39:32 – Why Google, Facebook and now Amazon are the three most powerful advertisers in the world and what is specific to each platform.

“Feed me has something in common with what makes Amazon essentially the only company in the world that could topple Facebook and Google as the world’s premiere advertisers. Google has been at the top for so long because of the level of intent consumers have when they’re being targeted through SEM. It’s like if you’re searching ‘best hair dressers Perth’, you’re interested in getting a hair cut. Right?” 

“Demographically what Facebook can do is they can say ‘oh he likes this, this, and this, then he might be interested in this hair dresser. But they don’t have intent. The way Facebook gets around that is with things like the Facebook Pixel, things like bringing a database that they can then wash against their database to say ‘okay these are the most relevant people.” 

“But the thing that Amazon has that’s on top of both of those things is that they know what you actually buy.” – Mike Drysdale

“And that’s huge because it’s more than intent, it’s action.” – Tyler Spooner

41:30 – Are there any apps, tools or pieces of software that you use personally or as a business that help keep you guys on track in terms of productivity, well being etc.

InVision – Great for product design, we use it to create mock ups, play with them, figure out if they work, check user flow, UI and UX. It’s great for developers as well, because it gives them all the padding and backing code too.

Intercom – By far the best piece of soft ware we’ve installed in our products in the last year. A live chat service that means if anyone needs help they can talk to you and it automatically goes through to our slack.

44:08 – What are some of the most common pitfalls or myths about business that you disagree with or find contrary to your experience?

“Build it and they will come.”

“People have this fascination with apps, where they think that ‘if I build it, I’m going to be rich.”

“What I say is how about you do a smoke screen MVP?”

“And if you’ve got such a big pain point and you can’t get 10,000 signed up users ready to go, it’s not a big pain point.”

“Facebook’s a pig but you need to use it. It’s going to cost you to get to these consumers, but it’s something that you have to do.”

“Instead of asking somebody ‘is this good?’, ‘would you use this?’, ‘does this make sense?’ ask instead: What about this doesn’t make sense?” – Mike Drysdale

Quick Fire Round

50:25 – Which books have you gifted to people most often and why?

Twelve Pillars by Jim Rohn and other Jim Rohn audiobooks

Hooked – How to build habit forming products by Nir Eyal 

Monetising Innovation by Madhavan Ramanujam and Georg Tacke 

Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Alibaba The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

53:09 – Is there a brand that you are irrationally to or are there any products that you use that you feel are tied to your identity as a person in terms of I buy this because people like me buy things like this?

55:43 – Is there a product that you’ve bought for under $100 in the last 12 months that has made a significantly positive impact on your life?

“I know it’s cheating but, Intercom’s a software right? So, it’s a service, so probably that. It’s more the software providers that I get a lot of value from.”

“Can you tell that Tyler is 100% dedicated to his business?” Mike Drysdale

56:40 – If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

“Steve Jobs, Jack Marr and probably I’d like to say Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos as well.”

57:22 – If you were met by your future self 20 years from now and he came back to talk to you, what do you think the one piece of advice he would give you would be?

“Be more healthy.”

“When do you think that will become a priority for you?” – Mike Drysdale

“When I can have enough good people around me, that can take care of certain things that I trust. So when I can find enough people that are smarter than me to hire.”

58:10 – If you could put a message on a billboard that would be seen by millions of people every single day what would it be and why?

“We have the power” A message to consumers on how they put their money to work.

Get in touch with Tyler and Feedmee:

Via their website: www.feedmeenow.com

Via Twitter: @Feedmee_au

Via Instagram: @Feedmee_au

Via Facebook: www.facebook.com/FeedmeAU 

We’re always on the lookout for inspiring leaders, change makers and entrepreneurs having an impact on our communities here in Perth and beyond, so if that sounds like you or someone you know: Introduce yourself! Email us at americanised.tv@gmail.com and we’ll reply on how we can best collaborate. Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

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