Locale founder: I wish we focused more on marketing at launch – Fi5

Locale founder Image credit: Locale / UKTN.

Guy Windsor-Lewis is the CEO and founder of Locale, a real estate technology platform that provides software services to manage buildings.

Windsor-Lewis founded Locale in 2005. Today, the tech platform is used across 80 million sq ft of UK real estate, including in major landmark buildings such as The Shard.

The Oxford-headquartered company has relied on growth instead of turning to external funding. It currently has 35 employees.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Windsor-Lewis reveals what he wished he’d done differently when launching Locale, the best and worst parts of his job, and why the construction industry is ripe for disruption.

1. What one thing do you wish you’d done differently when launching your company?

Guy Windsor-Lewis: More marketing. We have always had a great product, great people, market knowledge and lots of energy – all the right ingredients you need to start a business plus some open ears at the right level in key potential clients.

We started very well and were recognised early on as a disruptor and a force in what was then a very niche marketplace – but the one thing I didn’t do well was market the business, the product or the people. We relied too heavily on word of mouth and referrals, which are great, but we would have benefitted hugely from better –any! – marketing in the longer term.

2. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

GWL: The best parts of the job are numerous: delighting in seeing colleagues grow and fulfil their potential; seeing an idea grow and become implemented by some of the largest real estate operators in the market and in some of the most iconic buildings and schemes in the UK; managing the growth and evolution, with the help of colleagues, of a business that started out in life as an idea on the kitchen table and grew into a thriving business today.

The worst parts have been watching colleagues struggle with the challenges of the pandemic, especially when it comes to mental health. I also definitely feel the frustration when clients are not willing to spend the time to listen.

3. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

GWL: In business: launch the business as a recently divorced, recently redundant father of four children under five!

In life: shark diving off the southern coast of Africa with my eldest son or paragliding off the 2km vertical drop to Olu Deniz in Turkey. All were adrenalin rushes – the business still is! – but the scariest moment was when a juvenile shark came up from below to bite on a buoy stuffed with dead fish heads a metre away from where we were in the cage and turning to see nothing but teeth and the foam from the water as he thrashed around!

4. Excluding your own, what’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption?

GWL: Construction. It strikes me that this industry uses the same methods that have been engaged for literally centuries with barely a nod to carbon emissions, the green agenda or best practices.

I read that cement is amongst the highest producer of carbon and yet we carry on using it. I also think that public transport needs to get its act together as does politics – but that’s for another day!

5. What was the most important early hire you made?

GWL: It’s hard to choose between two hires. I was never technical and although I wanted a technician to manage the evolution of the product, I needed that person to be bilingual: to speak my language but also understand tech. I found Dan O’Gorman, our chief product officer, and he’s been my right-hand person for nearly 13 years.My other right-hand person is COO Toni Delli-Compagni – a killer multitasker with a healthy serving of honesty. A South African ex-hotelier who could juggle 10 plates in her sleep, understand my impromptu mad hatter ideas and yet still come back to work the next day with a smile on her face 12 years later!

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.