14 Minutes of SaaS

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14 Minutes of SaaS

Listen to 14 Minutes of SaaS  Spotify Apple podcasts / Google Podcasts / TuneIn Stitcher

E80 – Sean Percival, CMO at Whereby, Ex 500 Startups. 5 of 5. Build your Rocket’s Red Button first!

Episode 80 of 14 Minutes is the final one of a 5-part mini-series. Stephen Cummins chats with Sean Percival, CMO at Whereby, formerly of 500 Startups and Myspace. He expresses a love for writing. He admits to being an introvert and that, even after being on 500 stages, his hands can shake on stage. Why 500 stages? Because Sean loves to embrace things that are difficult for him. He loves a challenge. There’s a lot of jazzy, crazy, ‘look-at-me’ CMOs with groovy shoes out there. Sean is entirely atypical in this regard. He’s very approachable … and doesn’t want to be that person that only surrounds himself with celebrity business people.
Stephen Cummins
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Tip: Sean removed all the apps from his phone and resolved never to look at emails outside of normal work hours in order to regain more personal freedom and improve the quality if his life.
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Transcript

Sean Percival

Do not build around a trend. Just because everyone’s doing blockchain for what … like you don’t need to do that. So I think it’s much better to start with your passion. It doesn’t have to be 100 milion dollars. If your passion is fish tanks go be the best at selling fish tanks or  innovating in the fish tank space. So it’s like there’s nothing wrong with that too. I talked a little bit about this … why Myspace lost. We were not narrow. We were in every vertical you ever could be in. So, in the early stage, you have to be ruthless about doing one thing great and not many things kind of okay. And you just have to be super hyper-focused before you can start to build out everything. I think this is where a lot of founders struggle, because they’re smart people … they have so many ideas … they see like way down the field of what this is going to be …  or what they want it to be.

Yeah. We do.

Stephen Cummins

I’m Stephen Cummins and this is episode 80 of 14 minutes assess. And the final one of a five-part mini-series with Sean Percival, CMO at Whereby. He admits to being an introvert. After being on 500 stages his hands shake just before going up on stage. Why 500 stages? Because Sean loves to embrace things that are difficult for him. He loves a challenge. I find this refreshing because there’s a lot of jazzy, crazy ‘look at me’ CMOs approve out there. Sean is entirely atypical in this regard. He’s very approachable, and doesn’t want to be that person that only surrounds himself with celebrity business people.

Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS, the show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS ScaleUps.

Sean Percival

 

I guess I like I’ve never been happier, and lower stress … because of moving to a different country. And another funny thing is I’ve talked a little bit about reducing distractions. There’s nothing better than if you don’t speak the language. All of a sudden you realize you have so much more brain capacity and overhead. I don’t watch the local news. I don’t read the local newspaper. I’m not overhearing conversations, because I don’t really know what they’re saying, yeah. So it’s like this year is just been about … after being in la and so many ups and downs of startup life … It’s been about like generating focus for me. So, yeah, no work at night. And if I’m working on the weekend, it’s passion projects, you know. It’s like passions stuff.

Stephen Cummins

It’s very interesting to hear because I’m a language vulture. I can’t stand not to be able to speak the language. So when I went places I focused massively on the language …  but it’s a very interesting perspective that it actually frees you up from so many things. And it’d actually be very hard to learn Norwegian …  because they speak such good English. So they want to hear your English. They want to speak English.

Sean Percival

They like to speak English. Like if you speak English, they’ll just switch to English because it’s uncomfortable for them.

Stephen Cummins

If you were to walk away tomorrow from the sorts of things you’ve been doing in appear.in [Whereby] …  all that tech stuff … and you just walked away. Is there anything you could imagine that you would do away from that world?

Sean Percival

Yeah. Trust me, I’ve thought about it. Especially like some stressful times as too. But I think what I would do is … and this keeps coming back to me … which tells me that there might be something there. And now I have written a few books. I would love to just do nothing but that. If I had a vision of where I would be … I would be sitting in a beautiful cabin for a month for some reason. Yeah, yeah, just enjoying the seasons change. And I don’t know what I’d be writing about, but different stories and all these stories I’ve had bubbling in my head too.

I would just love to write books. And I don’t even care everyone reads them. So it’s like, yeah, I would love to just like write and create. And very startup like … where it’s like, yeah, maybe I’ll write 10 books and maybe one of them someone cares about. And I’m fine with that too. So, yeah, I don’t know … for some reason I always come back to that. And for some reason I always see Vermont in my head. I don’t know why.

Stephen Cummins

You’re a marketer. You’re very comfortable in your own skin. You’re used to interacting with people and being on stage … and all of that … but actually you strike me as an introvert at heart.

Sean Percival

It’s absolutely accurate. I’m a very intuitive person. But people are surprised because I do get on stage a lot. Yeah. But this is how I challenge myself where it’s like, ‘Yeah, I still get nervous. I probably been on 500 stages … who knows?’ But it’s like I still get nervous. And actually sometimes when I’m going out if I have my phone or a piece of paper in my hands actually … my hands are actually shaking.

Stephen Cummins

So I wouldn’t have guessed that, but one of the things that struck me when I spoke to you almost immediately … actually … was that you’re at heart an introvert. And that’s just instinct.

Sean Percival

Absolutely. It’s 100%. And people are always surprised … so you’ve very good instincts. If I go talk … if I do a big speech … or if I’m in a very social environment, I sometimes need to escape really quick. So if I’m on stage and do a lot, I typically cannot go to the after-mixer thing – because I’ve exhausted my social capital .. I dunno … my social currency.

Stephen Cummins

There’s only so much of that battery you’ve got for a day right.

Sean Percival

I like to leave and… and be in a quiet space as well. But this is how I’ve been like pushing myself my whole life. I’m scared to death of heights … so I went skydiving. So I just like … I just like always trying to find these ways to like .. ‘How can I like break this?’ And if it can’t break that ,it’s not meant to be broken. But like I said, I like to push it a lot too. And it does give me energy, and it really drives me to be on stage and be social.

Stephen Cummins

But it probably helps you work more effectively too … in those quiet moments – because some people in the marketing space would be very much on the brash … I suppose, extroverted side of life. And for them it probably takes them a little while to switch into it when they step away from that. Whereas for you, it’s probably like you embrace it and straightaway you’re into whatever you’re doing. So there’s probably power in that as well.

Sean Percival

I’m a marketer, but I don’t really go and like bash you with ‘Oh I do all this … and look at all my numbers’. The guy before me .. it was nothing but a commercial for his company. And I was like ‘Oh, you’re killing the mood of the room. You have this audience like … inspire them! Make them laugh. Like have a good time.’ It’s like if I’m marketing and myself, it’s like or what I’m doing … it’s usually a footnote. I want to inspire them. Get you excited to the point where  yeah … maybe you go look up Appear.in [Whereby] .. and think ‘Oh, Appear.in …  great.’ So it’s more of this halo effect in marketing. Yeah, not me trying to force it down your throat. And that’s more so happened as I’ve been in the Nordics, because it’s a bad thing to be a marketer, it’s a bad thing to be too much ego- driven.

[***end of transcript to be done]

In the next episode we move from the Dublin Tech Summit to RISE in Hong Kong where I interviewed Dr. Wan Ling, better known outside of Asia as Winnie Lee, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Appier. Appier, founded in Tapei in Taiwan, is a provider of an AI powered platform to brands and retailers to make better marketing decisions and increase customer engagement.

Stephen Cummins

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills and to Ketsu for the music. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoy the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.

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