Can a database make the world a better place?
David and Chris – these names are always combined in a sentence because whether at Hubud or not, it is very likely you have seen them together. These two Hubudians manage to remain, good pals, while working with one another every day on their new business Beacon, a CRM built specifically for charities. While in Hubud they are trying to examine what could it be like to be location independent while making the world a better place with their talents.
Could you tell us what are you currently working on?
David: “We are building our database and our company called Beacon. So Chris is CEO and I am CTO because with a company this small you can get yourselves whichever job titles you fancy”.
Chris: “I started building the company a year and a half ago from Hubud actually and David joined this year. Now we are at a stage where we have a product that works but we need to find more customers”.
Could you tell me more about Beacon?
David: “Beacon is a CRM for nonprofits. It’s the latest bleeding-edge database that charities can use to automate and store all the data about the people that are important to them.
We started it because we do want to do something good in the world. I’ve asked myself “What can I do to have the most positive impact?” and sure, we could quit our jobs and go dig wells in Africa. However, I don’t know anything about digging wells, but there are loads of charities in the world that do and they really struggle with the things that we are really good at, which is organizing data, making it easy for them and managing their donors”.
Chris: “Beacon has a huge amount of financial impact and operational impact on how charities work day-to-day and we literally make them hundreds of thousands every year by storing their data in a better way. We wanted to create a valuable company, a long-term sustainable business. Because I think the Silicon Valley mindset is one where essentially you are trying to make as much money as quickly as you can and very often it means creating a short-term company that ends up dying and you are not creating anything long-lasting or valuable to the world. If you are in tech, you should not just feel mandated to go down that startup route, you can go down a more stable business route”.
David: “We’ve both worked at well-funded tech start-ups and came to the conclusion that they are often just growing very fast to make loads of money for venture capitalists. We would rather focus on the positive impact on the world”.
How did you find each other?
David: “What a beautiful romantic question! We met at a tech start-up in London and I was a software engineer there, one of the first employees. Chris joined a bit later with sales engineering. Afterward, I left the company, but our paths crossed again later, I found out that Chris started a business, which he wound down, so I messaged him and asked about what happened and offered to meet up. When we met he introduced me to the founders of the startup where he was working at the time. I quickly joined the team and became Head of Product, but then Chris left so he could go to Bali and start Beacon. I started to help out and then for a year Chris was hassling me: “Come on! Come and join Beacon! It is right up your alley” and I did like it, but I kind of liked having a job… Aaand a paycheck”.
Chris: “It is very easy to read blogs that say companies with co-founders tend to do better, but I also think the biggest mistake you can make is to try to get the wrong co-founder. So that is why I only tried to get David on board and nobody else.”
What did you become first: Friends or co-workers?
Chris: “I think we’ve always been a good mixture of friends and colleagues. And I think that’s important. It’s very easy to get into a mindset where it is all very work focussed, but if you are working with one person every day, you have to get on well”.
David: “We did do a trial period though before deciding whether I should quit my job and join Beacon. We rented an Airbnb in Budapest and agreed to work on Beacon as if we were actually doing this and it was just the greatest five days. I remember the last day we went for steak and I said “Let’s do this. I’m going to quit my job”. That weekend was quite transformative”.
Chris: “And it was very useful for the company as well, that was the weekend when we made a pricing page and had our first proper sales call where a decent size charity actually considered buying our product. And they did end up buying our product! This is the time when we were like ok, this is not a project, this is a business now”.
David: “And then, a week after I quit my job and the rest is history”.
How did you end up at Hubud?
Chris: “I read a blog post about a year and a half ago about Hubud and I told my girlfriend it would be fun to come there. She was not keen on that idea. Six months later, when I was not in a relationship, I flew to Bali”.
David: “And I was in one of the transitional life places because I lost my dad in July and I was thinking about what I should do differently and what positive things I could take from this. Also, one of the last things he said was “If this thing kills me – I’ve got no regrets”. I was thinking that I need to be absolutely sure that when my time is up – that is how I’ll look back on my life. This is how I started doing things out of my comfort zone. Just like being in Bali – it is definitely not a thing I would normally do”.
In the future would you like to be location independent?
Chris: “I love the idea of spending one-third of the year in one part of the world, then one-third in another, etc. As the company gets more global, the location thing matters a lot less, but now it is only an idea rather than a goal”.
David: “Yeah, absolutely! I have always worked in an office in London. I would go to my office every single day and I would be there forever until I would choose to leave or I would get fired. I am quite new to this whole ‘Digital Nomad’ lifestyle. I still have a healthy level of cynicism about swirling around, sipping lattes while working from my laptop, but then it’s also really cool. Like coming to a place like this, where you suddenly meet a whole bunch of people doing fascinating things. Just being surrounded by smart people, you get to learn so many things, because everybody is so different. You don’t get that in an office. So it is clearly a massive advantage to get a change of perspective. So to be location independent in the future? Yeah, I think so! At least while we are single and reckless!”.
Chris: “I think for me there are two types of people that are in that ‘Digital Nomad’ space: people that are running companies and realize that they can do it remotely and there are those doing companies so they could work remotely. I definitely think we are the first type. So if our company works out, there is no reason why we would not come back”.