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Trumpet founder: Teams are more productive when being their authentic self

Nick Telson is the co-founder of Trumpet, a London-based B2B digital sales platform.

Sales teams can use the Trumpet platform to create customised microsites for prospects, without requiring coding knowledge. These virtual ‘pods’ include tools for sales demos and document signing.

Founded in 2021, the company has secured a total of $3.1m in funding, with £1.6m of that coming from a pre-seed round led by Lightbird Ventures last year.

It has grown to a team of 17 people and lists Sky Media, Amex, Sifted and Jimminy among its customers.

Trumpet is the latest venture for Telson and Andrew Webster, who previously founded the nightlife comparison site DesignMyNight. The pair exited the business through a sale to The Access Group in 2018 and launched Trumpet with former Hotjar sales lead Rory Sadler.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Telson shares why the first 10 hires are pivotal, explains why teams won’t perform well if they can’t be their authentic self, and reveals how a previous venture blew 70% of its finances on a dud idea.

1. Which role was the most important early hire you made?

Nick Telson: Interestingly, I suppose our first hire was actually our co-founder, Rory. Andrew (my previous co-founder of DesignMyNight) and I decided that we wanted to bring in a third founder for Trumpet with exceptional sales experience to bolster our strategy in this space.

We’d known Rory for years and when we pitched Trumpet to him he was immediately on board and left his role as head of sales EMEA at Hotjar and joined the Trumpet band.

One area that’s not often talked about when forming the team is a kind of quasi-hire that makes up a customer advisory board. These are experts in your field who can help you shape the product and go-to-market.

We are so fortunate to have senior executives from the likes of Hubspot, Asana, Ramp and Intercom all join our CAB and have been instrumental in how we shape our product and how we should speak to our potential customers.

2. What advice would you give to a first-time founder?

NT: Having previously founded DesignMyNight, there are a lot of learnings that we’ve taken along with us as to how we approach Trumpet. The three most pivotal areas for a first-time founder to focus on are the team, emotional well-being and go-to-market. Firstly, the first 10 hires are pivotal. These should be your “iron ring” around you as a founder to not only wholly believe in your vision but also to support you and represent the company outwardly and inwardly as you grow.

Secondly, trying to keep yourself on an even keel is also crucial. It’s lonely and a hard game without support so I always tell founders to keep perspective. While celebrating the highs when things are going well is part of what makes it all worth it, don’t get too wrapped up in any one success.

Equally, be conscious of the lows when obstacles hit but don’t let it overwhelm you. This will help balance the emotional rollercoaster of being a founder. Finally, a lot of founders are so head down on the product or idea that they forget about how they are going to sell it – if you think you’ll just launch a product and customers will come rushing, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

3. What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?

NT: As an LGBT+ founder myself, this is incredibly important to me. The best way to promote diversity is to take positive action and not just talk the talk. This starts with hiring a diverse team and then making it overt and clear as founders that you want your team to comfortably be themselves; don’t just put it on your site, actually tell your team!

If your team can’t be their authentic selves they won’t perform as well as they could and this will chip away at the company culture. Putting pronouns on your email signature, supporting diverse causes and encouraging your team to talk about diversity and why it’s important can also be really effective ways of celebrating diversity at work.

4. Tell us about a time you screwed up?

NT: The biggest screw-up we had was when I was back at DesignMyNight. We’d only recently launched and had minimal funding but saw the likes of Groupon really thriving. We lost focus on our core proposition and blew 70% of our finances on building a whole new deal platform called DesignMyNight Deals, which activated when a certain number of users bought them (like Groupon).

Of course, we had nowhere near the reach of Groupon at the time so the deals fell flat and we scrapped the idea after four months having wasted so much time and effort on it. However, this lesson taught us to a) keep a sharp focus on the core business and b) test light first – if you have an idea, speak to customers, scope it out properly and test it with an MVP before throwing everything at it.

5. Is there a technology that the world would be better without?

NT: In the main, I am mega-pro technology as you’d expect. I think technology and startups are going to move society forward and ultimately save the planet – something we can’t always rely on with governments. However, while I see many of the positive impacts social media can have on our society, I also see it has a significant negative influence. We have become doom-scrolling robots who don’t even engage our brains and look at people curating their own fake lives which makes us feel terrible about our own!

This is clearly terrible for mental health and for young people who are trying to find their own way in life and understand their own bodies. There needs to be some controls and limits on what can be shown and how long we spend on it – we’re all wasting SO much time on, frankly, rubbish.

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.