A: Alex Rose
S: Sam Browne
Cotswold’s. We’ve known each other since Alex was about 10 and Sam was an infant.
Co-Founders of Let’s Do This
Let’s Do This
Was it a clear-cut path in terms of what you would do after university?
S: No! Everyone else went into real jobs like banking or law which seemed to probably be sensible but a little dull. I got lucky and had the chance to go and set up IGO Adventures after a random meeting in a bar in Moscow, which was much more fun (if a little less well paid).
A: Not really. I did my time as a management consultant (Oliver Wyman) before leaving to start Let’s Do This. Consulting is definitely something that most people do when they have no idea what they actually want to do. I soon realized when I was there that I really wanted to work at a tech start-up (and definitely didn’t want to be a consultant!), but didn’t really know where to start. So I was pretty delighted when Sam and my foray into the endurance sports market led to us founding one of our own!
What is Lets Do This?
S: It’s a search and discovery platform for endurance sports events. Think booking.com but rather than hotels we have everything from 5ks to the Marathon de Sables and everything in between.
How did the idea for Lets Do This come about?
A: We wanted to try and build the next Tough Mudder or Ironman and run a highly scalable event series. The most logical thing for us to do was quit our jobs and move back home to Gloucestershire to save money and hone the idea. However, we spent the first 3 of those 4 months banging our heads against a wall as we kept coming up with an assortment of random ideas and kept finding that they were either a) being done hundreds of times elsewhere already or b) just rubbish ideas. Sam’s been mental about the industry for about 10 years and even he was finding loads of events every week he had never heard of and was adding them to his bucket list. So one day we decided that the problem was not that there aren’t enough awesome things to go and do in the world, it’s that it’s bloody hard to find them! We decided the answer was Let’s Do This. (Sandy Reid, a pal from Cambridge and a highly distinguished athlete, should be mentioned here, as this revelation was actually his and not ours).
What were the first steps you took to get the ball rolling for LDT?
A: We suddenly found ourselves as two non-tech co-founders setting up a tech company. I was like “Mate, how hard can coding be, I can totally learn, give me a fortnight” and then after a fortnight, we decided to find someone who actually knew what he was doing.
S: The Gods delivered us Neil Lock (who was previously head of tech at money saving expert and marathon running mad) and he joined as the third co-founder towards the end of 2016. We then built on an MVP that Sandy had built in his evenings and weekends and tried to set about proving the concept, whilst also building the full site in the background. We then raised a 150k SEIS round in about October ’16 which carried us through to a £1m seed round which we’ve literally just closed in the last few days.
What were the challenges in initially setting up LDT?
A: Tech. It’s a nightmare. If anyone’s reading this while at uni cancel all your plans to go clubbing this weekend in some lame, and in Sam’s case frequently unsuccessful conquest to get laid. Instead go down to the computer schools and try and make some friends. The weekend will be much MUCH better spent. We were so lucky to find Neil so the tech headaches we’ve had are a lot less bad than some other guys we know, but good tech talent is still the single hardest thing to find and hire, even when you’re in the industry, let alone if you’re a total newbie.
Did you try to keep your idea under wraps?
S: I think when you’re young and you have an idea there is this inclination to wrap up your ideas in cotton wool and not tell anyone but I think that’s the wrong way to go. We tried to tell everyone what we were trying to do.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
A: We both had some mates who had gone through the early stages of a startup before who were really helpful in just advising us on both the strategic decisions but also everyday headaches like how should we be handling the investment docs, what do we need to do lawyer wise, what pot holes can we avoid in early tech development etc.
Dom Collingwood (Matchpint) and Paddy Stobbs (Jukedeck) were awesome for Alex, whilst James McAuley (Encore) and Nick Dart (Dojo) were awesome for Sam.
Then there were the more senior advisors and investors who were pretty amazing when we were kicking off. Sam especially leant on Jack Woodhouse and Neil Counihan whilst Alex had a lot of help from Paddy Dear in particular
What pressures do you think many twenty-something’s are faced with?
S: There are obviously always pressures to conform – that’s never going to go away. However, to be totally honest I think this is one of the, relatively speaking, easiest times to make the jump into startup land and follow your passions.
There are so many awesome tech advancements, I think startups within our generation are respected much more than they ever used to be and investment isn’t as hard to find as it once was – it still isn’t easy but if you’ve got a good idea and a good team you’ll find the money.
A: Finding and sticking with boring jobs. If you really hate the job you’re doing, then leave and do something you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be your own thing, that’s definitely not the right decision for a lot of / most people, but life is too short to spend your twenties doing something you hate. It’s much harder to quit once you get older, especially if you’ve become accustomed to a higher salary. (Just ask Neil, our CTO and co-founder!)
Did you ever doubt yourselves that you could do it?
S: I think doubt is a pretty important part of anything. Brian Chesky always tells the story of the period during Airbnb when he would wake up every morning with this horrible feeling of doom that it was never going to work, which would gently ease over the day as they made progress and then start the next morning afresh.
We haven’t had anything that bad (yet) but of course, there’s always doubt about whether it’ll work or not – after all 90% of them don’t. However, I think we as a team have always had a genuine confidence and belief that we’re the best team to be doing this and that it’s a real problem we can solve. So yes be confident but don’t worry if there is the odd doubt – I think it would be mental if there wasn’t.
A: I’m actually pretty confident now that we can do this. But it’s taken a while for the stars to align. I had huge doubts about what Sam and I were doing at the beginning – although that probably was because “what we were doing” seemed to change almost daily for the first four months!
How do you market LDT?
A: We’re an online marketplace, so our marketing is largely online (Facebook / Google Adwords) – nothing particularly sexy! Those two sources alone are part of the reason there’s never been a better time to start a company – it’s so easy to market yourselves to the right audience.
S: Other than that, it’s all about inspiration! The reason we get up in the morning is because we want more people to do awesome things. So to that end, we’ve got a big push over the race season to shoot some awesome videos, and to use influencers in the space to help spread the message and to get people signing up for amazing challenges.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
A: That wasn’t actually that long ago, but we’ve definitely learned a lot! Do what you’re good at, and get people are good at the other stuff to do what they are best at.
S: Yeah I agree. Definitely get tech talent in house, we’d have made some pretty expensive mistakes without Neil. Also, try to enjoy it – it’s hectic and pretty stressful sometimes but you do have to stop and think sometimes that you’re actually doing something fairly cool.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourselves along the way?
A: I’d always considered myself quite an optimistic person! But having worked with Sam for a year now, I’ve realized I have a long way to go.
S: Haha now there’s a back handed compliment. I’ve definitely found I’m better at handling stress than I thought I was originally but that’s probably just practice.
Any utter disasters along the way?
A: No utter disasters, but the time I gave the wrong bank details to an investor trying to wire us a significant 6 figure sum wasn’t my finest moment. Oh, and when I got all the share certificates wrong for our initial investors so that they owned 10x less than they should have done wasn’t great either….and I’m meant to be the details guy.
S: Hilariously to anyone who knows us both I don’t think I’ve had a total car crash yet. It’s definitely coming though…
What are the various stages your friendship has gone through in setting up LDT?
S: Its quite funny seeing how a friendship goes during a startup as well, because at the start we were like ‘this is beaut we’re going to take over the world’ then you’re like ‘sh*t what the f*ck are we doing? this is actually a disaster! He’s left a high paying job and I had sold out of a company that I had put 18 months of my life into building’ in order to pursue this. So we had both taken quite a big punt onto this working and I think we got massively over buzzed by the whole thing before we really thought about what we were doing. Eventually we had this very epiphanic weekend (which led to LDT)…
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up LDT?
A: That’s so tough, it keeps getting better and better! I would love to say my Adonis like physique that’s resulted from starting a sports business – but sadly everything’s still a bit flabby.
S: The personal stuff is the cool stuff. The photo at the top of this article was taken just after we’d closed our seed round and was a pretty cool moment. We’ve gone through a fair amount already together and will go through a lot more. I’m massively fortunate to be doing it with the guys that I am!
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
A: Depends if you mean the tech industry or the endurance sports industry? Tech: Do it now. It’s the future, there are so many awesome companies doing so many awesome things, and there are roles for everyone within it. I wish I’d known more about it sooner.
Endurance sports: mmm, that depends. It’s an amazing space, but highly competitive, and you need to have something new to bring to the table.
S: I agree. Tech’s a must full stop. I’m pretty horrified that it isn’t a bigger part of the curriculum in schools now given it’s centrality to every high growth company. The sports industry is awesome if it’s your passion. I absolutely love talking about anything to do with endurance sport whether it’s cycling or SUPing or anything in between. If you’re going to be on the sales side and it isn’t (your bag) though I think you’re in trouble. People who are really passionate about the industry can smell a fake and so if you want to go into it because you absolutely love it then do it but if it’s more about the industry growth you might want to reconsider.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year and what should we look out for this year?
A: We need to become as much as a presence in the UK market as we can and prove it can make money, so that we can take Let’s Do This globally.
S: Having just closed the round, it’s now all about growth. Expect huge leaps forward in the product (it’s undergoing a major facelift at the moment), some mega marketing campaigns, and all of the best events in the country getting on board.
And if you’re into these sort of events, hopefully, we’ll see you at a few of them.
What’s the dream?
A: More people doing life-changing events all over the world (brought to them by Let’s Do This!).
S: We want to be booking.com but for endurance!
Finish the end of these sentences
- In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are S: startups, friends and bicycles.
- When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…A: shed a little tear
- The Twenty Mile Club…. : is epic! Make the most of the opportunity you have to write your own story.
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