David Jones: Only the paranoid survive.

April 4, 2024

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How did you end up as a CEO? What was your route to this position?

I’ve previously founded two other successful startups, The first one was acquired by UK Based SurfControl PLC returning 8 x to investors, and the second one was ThreatMetrix a “Card not present fraud detection system” used by major eCommerce providers and financial institutions and credit card providers. ThreatMetrix was acquired by Relx / Lexis Nexus in 2018 for £500M in cash returning 11 x to investors. As the original founder and bootstrap investor in Contextual CEO is a cross that I will have to bare until we raise our first seed round

Why are you the right person to be the CEO of your company?

I’m the right person to be CEO now. As mentioned earlier. I’ve got the most “skin in the game” right now. As we grow our business I will be actively looking for my replacement so I can focus on what I do best which is innovating.

What gets you up in the morning?

Andy Grove [founder of Intel] for the benefit of your younger readers is credited for the quote “Only the paranoid survive”. I think this holds true for me, Great ideas have a way of germinating in many minds at once. The question is how many are motivated [or crazy] enough to execute against the idea and how many of those are in a position to do it better/faster/cheaper than you? There is an article I’ve written in my company blog called ““Slow” is a dangerous place for products” It provides a couple of examples on how slow product teams are out-completed by fast product teams. We might complain about how Figma and Slack don’t feel native, but why are most of us using Figma and Slack? We’re using them because they outbuilt and outcompeted their native competitors. I would say that its less about what gets me up in the morning and more about paranoia about being outcompeted that keeps me up working late.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

There is a long, long list of people I’ve collaborated with and who have invested in me over my career but if I had to name one it would be my customers. Customers at the end of the day are your ultimate investors, champions, critics, and cheer squad and they put their reputations on the line every time they spend either their or someone else’s money on your product.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

Best advice: Understand the downside risk. Understand what you and your family can handle. Worst: Build a shopping cart to allow sell-serve purchase of a minimum $20K product that was very technical.

If you could go back in time to when you were a teenager, what life advice would you give yourself?

1. Make the extra effort to understand the current challenge from first principles. Not gloss over it.

2. Laugh more. Keep it light, leading a Start-up can get serious pretty fast.

What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?

1. Run a meritocracy (with veto!). great ideas can come from anywhere including from sub-par ideas 2. Respect for everyone in the team that is acting in good faith.

How can a leader fail?

Failing is a key part of the journey. if you aren’t failing, you’re probably not innovating and you’re not learning. You only truly fail if you give up or stop listening

What does the next five years hold for you?

“Chop Wood, Carry Water”. Focus on being the best product and company in our sector – and that is always about the team you are lucky enough to attract.

Mentorship is a big business in the west, do you have any experience with it?

As an angel investor and a serial founder mentorship comes with the territory. A key part of your job is to enable others to be successful. If you’re not doing that you’re not going to achieve potential

If people want to reach out to your or your business, what is the best way for them to go about doing that?

All the usual places contextu.al, Linkedin and some of the developer meetups like Sydney Mobile Apps and Android Australia Users Group and fishburners.org

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