Jon Darbyshire

Jon Darbyshire

Founder and CEO SmartSuite

Ever since Eric Ries published The Lean Startup in 2011, conventional startup wisdom has been to adopt the MVP (minimum viable product) approach in building a new company. Our guest today, Jon Darbyshire, founder and CEO of SmartSuite, decided to take a different approach, and build the whole product before launching. In this episode, he explains why he chose that path, and how founders can figure out when the MVP approach works for their companies and when it doesn’t.
Jon is a seasoned entrepreneur, as he had already successfully built Archer Technologies, a SaaS business he later sold to EMC (now Dell). Prior to founding Archer he also had a full career in technology consulting, becoming a partner EY. We discussed how starting later in life made him an effective entrepreneur, how his leadership and management style was informed by his previous experience. We also talked about how a disciplined sales strategy, holding out for the right customers upfront can be crucial in building a successful business.


[03:07] – Jon welcome, it’s great to have you here on the podcast. Why do we start and have you introduce yourself to our listeners, what you’re doing now, and your journey that took you here?

[05:55] – what was the logic behind your decision to not go down the MVP path?

[07:28] – If a founder starts a business, they have an idea, what are some of the questions they should ask themselves before deciding whether to go the MVP route or whether to build a little more?

[09:03] – Were you funded by the VCs in these three years or did you start with angel investors? What is the strategy to make sure you have the ability and the control to roll it out the way that you want it?

[10:08] – Assuming that you fall a little bit in-between, what are some of the things that a founder could do to manage that pressure and be able to get to the product that they want to launch?

[13:42] – What are some of the benefits of taking the entrepreneur leap, later in your career?

[14:54] – How did you start forming your vision of who you wanted to be as a leader and as a manager? What were some of the key moments? And then if you are comfortable, share what are your leadership principles?

[19:25] – What was the process of installing the discipline and creating the comfort in the sales team of saying no?

[22:11] – When you turn down a client, how is that conversation happening? And how are you keeping that salesperson motivated?

[23:31] – How has your perspective on being the leader shifted across this role and how are you living the role of the CEO now versus earlier on in your career?

[25:18] – How has your definition of success changed over the years and what is success to you now versus what it was when you started Archer or even Ernst & Young?

[27:08] – What were some of the moments you realized this is great but it is not what I am looking for right now?

[25:03] – When did you realize that was your passion and was there a specific moment? What was the journey there?

[30:35] – Let’s talk about the problem you’re solving now with SmartSuite. What is it and how did you go about solving it?

[33:20] – What were some of the main challenges that companies are facing, in that specific arena?

[36:26] – You have been working with some sample clients before the big launch?

[37:23] – In terms of who you are selling to, it is a little bit of the opposite than say Archer where you wanted the top 30 whereas here it is maybe smaller and medium size businesses?

[38:40] – What are some of the success stories and maybe some strategies that could be successful for anybody who is onboarding a team to a big new tool that requires a significant shift in the way that people are working that you have seen with some of your larger clients?

[41:07] – Do you have an interest outside of work or a passion that has had a meaningful impact on your work and what is it?

[42:42] – What is the business expression or jargon, that when you hear it, drives you crazy?

[43:45] – Food for the body or food for the soul?

[47:33] – Thank you and closing remarks.


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