First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jay Singh: Great way to kick things off. COVID has been a tricky time for everyone, and I’m lucky enough to have experienced the first lockdown working from home with a housemate, so we built our own office “culture” from home. We even had beers after work like we would in normal times. I haven’t managed to see my parents as much as I would like as they are in the “Most at risk bracket,” but we have been in regular contact over the phone and video calls.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GrowthStep.
Jay Singh: My career really started when I joined Red Sift as their first commercial hire. It was here that I caught the startup bug and learnt from two of the brightest founders I have ever worked with, Rahul Powar and Randal Pinto. At Red Sift, they gave me the freedom to build out their marketing from scratch, and more importantly, I was able to watch and learn from them as they took the business from pre-seed to series A. I will forever be grateful for what I learnt at Red Sift and wish more people could have the same, encouraging work experience I had to jump-start my career.
From Red Sift I then joined ResponseiQ as their Head of Marketing & Growth at 25. I built up a great team and again learnt a lot from the founder Scott Lee, especially around the commercial side of the business. It was also here that I met my now Co-Founder Connor Tagg, who was initially hired as an intern but very quickly proved age to be just a number, as at just 21 years old was efficiently running my entire Design and UI/UX operation.
I then moved on to co-found ‘Check An Invoice’ where I was the interim CEO. Check An Invoice continues to thrive to this day but I am not longer involved with the running of the company. CAI was the first CEO role for me and gave me a fantastic opportunity to build out a team and define the vision.
This then brings us to my current and most exciting venture, GrowthStep. The business was launched right at the start of the COVID pandemic, which brought its challenges. But, equally, the success of the company throughout this period has in part been due to the impact the virus had on very talented people who were left without work while the startup market still had a demand for them.
My co-founder Connor and I saw that startups wanted the best talent but could not always afford it on a full-time basis. We decided to bridge this gap by finding the talent and the startups seeking expert talent and merging both. We also wanted to say ‘no’ to the traditional agency model of long retainers and the pay-per-hour model. We work with each client in a very flexible and bespoke manner that suits them. We also offer all the core services startups might need under one roof.
How does GrowthStep innovate?
Jay Singh: Well, I think what is truly different about our business is that we are taking on the traditional agency models while offering a very streamlined service. For example, a startup might initially come to us for marketing help and expand to also use our PR and design services. This means instead of trying to communicate with multiple agencies and then also trying to get them to communicate with each other you have everything in one place. We are also very excited to launch our marketplace which will offer our clients micro SaaS products. All these products are built based on what our clients ask for, and we strive to provide them with the most customized and convenient plan for multiple services, at the most affordable rate possible. We’ve seen firsthand the kind of budgets agencies usually work for and know that startups cannot possibly afford that before Series B or C stages, creating a gap in the market for those startups between seed and Series A that have no feasible options for quality services, which is exactly where we come in!
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jay Singh: Our business was born out of the COVID 19 pandemic so I like to think that we were fully prepared for it. We have always been a remote company since day one and in speaking to the team, we know they like it this way. While the flexibility of not being tied to an office has been great, one of the things I miss most about being in an office environment is being able to get together in a meeting room with a whiteboard and have sessions with the team. And the Friday beers, of course!
Unlike other businesses, we have seen a spike in demand for our services as more startups want a flexible solution with the uncertainty of the virus. Despite the virus, we have been growing at an exponential rate of 70-75% month on month.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Jay Singh: Stress is something that all founders deal with and managing stress and anxiety is a big part of leading a company. You not only have to make sure that you are ok but also your team. As a business, we take on pro bono projects from time to time. One of the charities we are working with now, The Salus Fatigue Foundation, has been doing a fantastic job of helping people during the pandemic. They provide a SaaS-like product that guides people on a journey of wellness and mental health and has helped loads of people cope with fatigue and anxiety throughout the pandemic.
How did you start working with them?
Jay Singh: We started working with them when I met Emily Jones, the daughter of the founder Linda Jones at a networking event (when we were allowed to still have them). We got to discussing what the Salus Fatigue Foundation did and very quickly I could see the value of their work and wanted to contribute as much as I possibly could! On hearing their founder, Linda Jones’ inspiring story my team was also fully behind their vision and have really enjoyed working with them.
How do you stay ahead of your competitors?
Jay Singh: I think the main way we stay ahead of competitors is the way we work with our customers. We see our team as part of our clients and work very closely with them to ensure both my team, and the clients all feel like one. The human touch is something we have seen disappear all too quickly with large agencies and therefore strive to offer high-quality services while keeping that connection very much alive. I also believe providing all the core services startups need under one roof is a big advantage. We often get asked if we are offering too much and to that I always say that it is not one person who claims they are the expert in everything, we have a director in each part of the business who is the expert in that area.
Your final thoughts?
Jay Singh: This is a very challenging time for all businesses and my advice to business leaders is to stay strong and optimistic, and avoid going into ‘shielding mode’. Find ways to adapt their business and fit the new demand, as this is exactly what running a business is all about. This is not always easy and can take a lot of time, but I strongly believe that businesses should stop thinking in terms of ‘returning to business as usual,’ and instead prepare confidently for the “new normal” because ‘getting back to normal’ really isn’t something we see happening anytime soon.
Thank you very much for speaking with me today and I hope that your readers can learn something from this interview.
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