Harvey Hodd is the CEO and Co-Founder of Blueprint and is based out of London. Blueprint links to a brand’s eCommerce store and enables their customers to purchase inside SMS and WhatsApp. Harvey is also an ex-professional footballer and loves skateboarding and Japanese culture.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Harvey Hodd says:
I’ve started multiple companies already (I’m 24) and have made every mistake in the book. Although, if I was to distill this down, I would say a lack of focus and compounded work on that single focus. You can’t do everything, and shiny object syndrome will creep up on you faster than you think. Stick to one thing, do it well, and work at it day after day until you’re a master of that one thing.
— Harvey Hodd (@harveyhodd) August 5, 2020
Read on to know more about Harvey Hodd and his journey:
Please tell me about your personal background, and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Harvey Hodd: I’ve always been interested in brands and businesses – and simply “making things.” I often get obsessed with the process of building something, and this filtered into starting a business. My youth was dominated by football, training to be a professional since I was about eight years old. I eventually left school at 16 to turn professional for the next five years. While I was leaving my first club at 18 years old, I started my first business with my best mate from school, and it kind of snowballed from there. We ended up exiting that business fairly quickly, immediately started another, and then pivoted into building Blueprint. We now feel we have an opportunity to really change the fabric of eCommerce and really be a part of the innovation in the space.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Harvey Hodd: With Blueprint, we’re enabling seamless transactions inside conversational channels (like SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook). This enables customers of brands to purchase, pay, book, review, refer, chat 1:1, and much more with their favorite brands using a channel they use every day.
A clear pivot is that we built this product for ourselves when we were building a CPG brand in the UK. We needed a better way to chat to our audience and an easier way for them to purchase products. We built an MVP that worked incredibly well, quickly realizing there were hundreds of thousands of merchants that would benefit from this. We then shut down our initial brand and started building Blueprint as a SaaS.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Harvey Hodd: We’ve raised multiple rounds, across both angels and funds. Our most recent raise was a £1m seed round, led by Mahr Projects. This investment enabled us to scale the team and build the foundations of Blueprint, launching in beta next month.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Harvey Hodd: We focus a lot of time and attention to our content. Blueprint is a really compelling proposition for an eCommerce business, so it’s really a case of telling that story in a way that’s useful for Merchants. We build this content through our brand podcast, webinars, case studies, a private slack group, and video tutorials. We’ve managed to build a 500+ brand waitlist through well written and useful content. £0 of marketing spend.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Harvey Hodd: We use SEMrush to understand SEO and search terms that filter into our content and Mailchimp for our mailer. We’ve also taken a lot of learning from marketing resource banks like marketingexamples.com and emailmastery.org – these have been great. Other than that, we mostly build things in-house and don’t use a great deal of external software while we’re still so nascent.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Harvey Hodd: I think there is often a lot of focus on grow grow grow without an understanding of the drivers behind it or whether it’s repeatable. We’ve deliberately not run a single paid ad as we continue to understand our organic reach and the foundational reasons our product is working for customers.
We also try and lead with value with every piece of marketing/content we share. If we can continually give value to a merchant and build trust, sooner or later, they’ll see our software and maybe give it a try. I think there is too much focus on trying to sell instantly to the customer that regularly comes across as desperate or cheap.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Harvey Hodd: We don’t think of the fundraising process as “start now,” but more that its a continual job for (myself) as CEO to make sure the business is well-capitalized at all instances. We place a good deal of time every single week to continually build relationships, understanding, and targets for our next raise.
Although Blueprint is incredibly small and new, we’ve had a great deal of organic interest from investors worldwide – across angels, funds, and strategics. We’re heads down working and focused on our product but have seen interest from over 200+ investors who could be great partners for Blueprint.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Harvey Hodd: It’s difficult to point to any one thing that has been the main obstacle or challenge within our fundraising efforts as there is so much nuance. I think the real focus for us is being able to tell a compelling narrative and really back it up from a point of credibility and metrics, and not getting caught in the narrative that profit and revenue don’t matter – because they really do. Because we show up, day after day after day, we are confident in what we’re building and the team we have – which means we’re very well armed when we’re speaking to investors.
What are your milestones for the next round? and what are your goals for the future?
Harvey Hodd: We are focused on the PMF of Blueprint as the initial target and have multiple strategies to get there. For us, this looks like brands all over the world using Blueprint every day and struggling to work without it. This would represent a substantial revenue rate across a niche consumer set, which we can then double down on and replicate across other niches.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Harvey Hodd: Because we’re a SaaS with global ambitions, we’ve been global since day 1. Our customers are mostly fielded across the UK, the US, and Europe. We’ve been very conscious of this and now have team members in the US, Europe, and Asia. It’s naturally a push and pull between focus of execution and scale of territories when we’re at an early stage of the business.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Harvey Hodd: It’s difficult for me to speak to that as we’re very much in that early stage and will no doubt make a tonne of mistakes. However, I alluded to it in my last point that there has to be an intense focus, and that can’t be diluted with international expansion. We’re global in our customer base but still remain extremely focused on 1 or 2 key use cases and will not diverge from that.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Harvey Hodd: Although COVID-19 naturally came as a shock to everyone, Blueprint was fairly well equipped to deal with the chaos. We’re a well funded distributed team that’s building a software, which in turn means that our team can work from anywhere and keep plugging away. Additionally to this, the accelerated movement to eCommerce has naturally been a real boost for us as an enabling technology.
However, the key points for us have been to be malleable to any change, and almost be in a constant state of flux. With that, we can adjust to change faster than anyone else and take a stance because of that.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Harvey Hodd: I’ve started multiple companies already (I’m 24) and have made every mistake in the book. Although, if I was to distill this down, I would say a lack of focus and compounded work on that single focus. You can’t do everything, and shiny object syndrome will creep up on you faster than you think. Stick to one thing, do it well, and work at it day after day until you’re a master of that one thing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Harvey Hodd: I’ve had so many pieces of great advice from so many mentors and friends I look up to. However, reflecting my above response, I would say focus. We’ve been pulled up when others can see we’ve lost our focus and are drifting away from our initial goal, which can be both deadly if not stopped and life-saving if you take the advice.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Harvey Hodd: I really loved “Bounce – Matthew Syed” when I was a professional footballer. I loved the idea that it’s more often than not just the hours you’re prepared to put in that determines everything. I also really enjoyed “The Innovators Dilemma – Clay Christian” (Who sadly passed away recently). He is incredibly knowledgable on business leadership and innovation and speaks to how to break through and take on the legacy players in each industry. In terms of films, I’ve always loved The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufrane (the main character) is a highly educated banker who was wrongly accused of murder and spends the next 20 years in prison.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Harvey Hodd: I have a deep intrinsic motivation to work every day – this was the same throughout my years of training as a footballer, and through every business I’ve started. I take colossal self-worth from working hard day after day at my craft. I’m extremely motivated by both that innate desire to build something and also the fact that Blueprint is making a meaningful change to an industry really helps a continued desire.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Harvey Hodd: I don’t think I would change a thing. All of my mistakes and successes have got me to this place, and that’s really where I see we should be and have dreamed of. If we had jumped a few stages and landed here, we wouldn’t have the same thinking, desire, and experience.
However, if I had to pick one simple thing – I would have learned to code.
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