Cronofy's Adam and Garry at this year's Hack24
Adam Bird, founder and CEO of Cronofy, tells us how the innovative tech start-up is helping businesses and their customers synchronise calendars across the globe...
What does Cronofy do?
Cronofy allows application developers to connect to their user’s calendars. Interview scheduling apps use us to get access to real-time availability for anyone with an organisation. Online booking marketplaces use us to understand what slots they can offer.
What inspired you to launch the business? Can you remember the lightbulb moment which sparked the idea?
I have always been frustrated by the work involved in keeping my calendar up to date. It’s the only way I can keep track of everything I’ve committed to do. Being a developer I started investigating ways to streamline the process and discovered how hard it was for apps to connect with our calendars. At that moment Cronofy was born.
How did you go about getting the business off the ground – did you finance it yourself or did you raise funding? How easy was raising the capital needed?
I was lucky to have already exited a previous business (Esendex) so that gave us start-up capital. This and a bit of money from friends saw us through to raising a £1.1m seed round in 2016.
Did you encounter any challenges when starting up? How did you overcome them if so?
Whenever you’re creating something new there is no definitive script so in effect everything is a challenge. You must approach every challenge with a fresh set of eyes and a desire to learn. Consider, experiment, reflect, repeat is the answer to pretty much any challenge.
What makes Cronofy different from your competitors?
Our singular focus on calendaring. We’ve immersed ourselves deeply in the problem and have approached it from a very different perspective from other companies. This allows our customers to unlock new interactions and dramatic improvements for their customers.
How has the company grown since its launch?
We’re now at 10 people, have over a hundred customers and process many millions of calendar events. We’re only just getting started.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Building a high growth tech business is a relentless series of milestones that, frankly, never really feel like achievements. They’re just milestones on a long journey. We’ve achieved a lot but there’s still so much more to do.
And what has been most challenging?
It’s been really challenging to choose which products and industries to focus on. That's the real challenge when you have finite resources (such as time and people) but a product that any business can benefit from.
Which has been your biggest client win and what work did you do with them?
Clients like Skyscanner and MHR represent important credibility when a company is at early stage. It gives other clients the confidence in your service and is valuable way beyond the immediate deal size. With Skyscanner we’re enabling fully synced travel itineraries. With MHR we’re allowing them to connect calendars in to every aspect of an employee’s time with a company.
You’ve since expanded your operations from Nottingham to open offices in London and New York, why those two locations? What attracted you to them?
Talent and customers really. London is a globally important tech hub and thus it’s important for us to be represented. As we grow, we want to be able access talented people in more places so having presence in both Nottingham and London dramatically increases our addressable pool.
With regard to New York, already 50% of our business is in the US. We already run as a semi-distributed team so by setting up an office on the east-coast of the US we have an easily manageable time zone overlap. Like London, it’s a major tech hub and gives us access to both customers and talent.
What benefits does being an innovative tech firm in Nottingham bring?
The lifeblood of any high growth business is engaged people who have an exploratory outlook and a hunger for self-improvement. Nottingham has a vibrant tech scene that is a breeding ground for such people. The energy and vitality of companies and people involved is something the city is, and should be, proud of.
Looking forward, what are your plans for the future?
Cronofy’s mission is to connect the world’s calendars to save everyone time. We’re at the very start of a journey that will see us solve the scheduling issues businesses and end-users experience every day. We believe that calendars are incredibly powerful communication interfaces and we will continue to strive to make that vision a reality.
And finally, if you could give three nuggets of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would they be?
Entrepreneurship requires 50% dogmatic self-belief and 50% crushing humility. The rollercoaster of emotions that results from this is punishing. I’ve found that identifying the optimal cadence for reviewing is important for keeping your own sanity. Having a bad day, review it in the context of the last two weeks and see whether you’re ahead. Likewise for good days. It never hurts to be a little grounded when things are going well.
It’s become a bit of cliché rolled out by successful people, but don’t do it for the money. Exceptional, life changing exits are rare. If you’re a talented and ambitious then working somewhere like Google will be more likely to net you a significant salary, amazing projects to immerse yourself in and enviable benefits.
If you can’t help yourself then find peers who are on a similar journey and mentors that have already done it. People you can trust with whom you can confidentially share experiences, challenges and help each other navigate this most perilous of business adventures.