Greenpixie founder: We were ambushed by a ‘gruelling’ VC pitch – Fi5

Greenpixie founder John Ridd Image credits: UKTN / Greenpixie

John Ridd is the co-founder and CEO of Greenpixie, a platform that measures cloud computing carbon emissions.

Greenpixie has created a dashboard to analyse and track CO2 emissions, integrating with cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure to calculate emissions based on usage data. The platform also provides data for businesses looking to reduce their cloud emissions.

Founded by Ridd and William Tinney in 2021, Greenpixie has raised £250,000 in pre-seed funding.

Ridd is a London-based entrepreneur, who has previously helped over 100 companies with their marketing strategies.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Ridd recalls a surprise VC pitch, explains why ChatGPT will be more of a “bicycle than a teleporter”, and how ignoring Google Maps led to an encounter with wild street dogs.

1. Who was the most important early hire you made?

John Ridd: My most crucial hire was probably before Greenpixie was formed! While working on my digital marketing business, I was working with James, now head of revenue operations, on constructing a new lead generation system. I quickly felt I had found someone, in him, whose skills nearly perfectly complemented mine.

It was probably more by luck than judgement, but it really introduced me to circles of competence – a model that identifies what lies within your circle of competence, allowing you to make decisions and take action from within that circle only. This showed me how important it is for small teams and led to the creation of the MVP for Greenpixie.

2. What’s your worst pitching experience?

JR: Coffees in hand, my CTO, Will, and I hopped onto what I thought would be a light intro conversation with a VC – an opportunity to find out more about a promising connection.

After a quick hello, a few extra people popped into the call. Then a couple more. And some more. Most were sat in the same office, suited and booted, looking at us expectantly.

Will and I tried not to act surprised as the 15-minute catch-up turned into a full-blown pitch in front of seven investors. We had to think on our feet! We were not even in a seed raise at this time and we weren’t actively pitching… but, when in Rome!

Will brought up some slides and we ran through the opportunity as best we could, before a gruelling 40 minutes of questions.

The call, in the end, was actually pretty good. The experience was not.

3. What’s a common mistake you see founders making?

JR: Focusing too much on process/optimisation before you’ve been through the key first stage: exploration.

Inevitably, the company will be in a constant state of flux before you find your place in the market. I think it’s tempting for a lot of founders to focus too much on creating the perfect company, straight out of the handbook.

But, in the early stages, adaptability is the name of the game – and that can be messy. Embrace the change, embrace the mess. This takes a bit of courage, but I think it’s essential to having longevity as a start-up.

4. Tell us about a time you screwed up?

JR: How long do you have?! Okay – this is a personal one.

I was on holiday in Mexico when, after a long night, I found myself blindly following Google Maps on the walk home. My lazy I-can-do-better-than-that brain kicked in when I saw the suggested route was 20 minutes longer than the obviously quickest route… which was just down a convenient side road.

As I took the shortcut, though, I realised why Google Maps didn’t suggest it. It was not a public road.

It was in fact an alleyway run by wild street dogs. Growling, barking, and foaming-at-the-mouth hounds chased me and my buddies (who hadn’t wanted to take this route) down the road until we vaulted a fence and collapsed on the other side.

5. Which hyped-up technology do you think is doomed to fail?

JR: ChatGPT (the software giving experienced writers a run for their money). I’ve been interested in these technologies for a few years and was even in the beta for the beta release of GPT3. I joked with my copywriters about earlier tools that were threatening content creation, email outreach and – I teased – their jobs! We used them and they do have a really interesting place for routine content, but the more I’m seeing the buzz around ChatGPT, the less it’s exciting me. It’ll be more of a bicycle than a teleporter, to get to the destination of high-impact content.

I think good copy is often about emotion, psychology and trust. ChatGPT mimics the emotions and psychological moves of real human communication, so surely it’s doomed to always be one step behind.

While this technology WILL have its place… innovators in marketing, content writing and creativity will always be there.

Like everything in business, there will always be someone who will do that little bit more to produce more value, and in this case, this will be people writing to people.

But, perhaps utilising ChatGPT will get writers to their destination faster.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative tech startups, scaleups and unicorns – is published every Friday.