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Zally CEO: Founders should seek a ‘brutally honest mentor’

Zally founder Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith is the founder and CEO of Zally, a cybersecurity startup aiming to make passwords obsolete.

Founded in 2022, Zally replaces traditional text-based passwords with “advanced behavioural biometrics and AI”.

Passwords are often a weak point in cybersecurity, accounting for 90% of data leaks. The pre-revenue startup says its technology can authenticate users with one line of code and no hardware.

The Manchester-based startup has secured £1m in funding from angel investors and has 11 full-time employees.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Smith explains why startups should define their mission early, seek a “brutally honest mentor”, and shares how he founded his first business at age 10.

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

Patrick Smith: Define your mission and vision early on, ensuring they address real problems. Seek a brutally honest mentor, distinct from friends or family. When hiring, prioritise skills that complement yours, aiming for individuals who surpass your abilities.

Forge a robust team foundation; consider them your “starting 11.” This initial team shapes your company’s core values and beliefs. Though challenging, it profoundly impacts innovation, resilience, and goal pursuit. Lastly, embrace failure as a learning opportunity. Bounce back repeatedly. Entrepreneurship demands adaptability, a strong team, and an unwavering commitment to learning from mistakes, propelling your startup toward success.

2. How do you motivate your team?

PS: Motivating a team involves a delicate interplay of internal and external factors. While various methods exist, intrinsic team motivation is pivotal to success. Leading by example, articulating a compelling vision, and weaving a compelling narrative are my go-to strategies.

At Zally, we collectively champion the mission to disrupt authentication and make traditional passwords obsolete. This shared objective fosters cohesion, reinforcing our sense of purpose. Our collaborative ethos not only strengthens our team but also ignites the passion that propels our daily endeavours. Ultimately, a motivated team, bound by a common goal, fuels innovation and resilience, vital ingredients for sustained success.

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

PS: In addition to my own sector, health tech is ripe for disruption with transformative developments. AI and machine learning, particularly in diagnostics and personalised treatment plans, are reshaping healthcare norms, propelled by innovative startups.

Digital therapeutics, embodied in software-based treatments, have revolutionized chronic disease management, offering personalised and accessible solutions. Genetic engineering and biotechnology, which are advancing rapidly, hold disruptive potential, notably in personalized medicine and gene therapies.

These breakthroughs redefine healthcare paradigms, and the evolving HealthTech landscape promises exciting developments in the years ahead. I eagerly anticipate the transformations that will continue to unfold in the health tech sector.

4. What’s a common mistake that you see founders make?

PS: A common mistake among founders is assuming numerous roles out of fear that their vision might not be executed precisely. This often leads them to overlook the smaller, yet meaningful moments by being engrossed in tasks that could be delegated.

Central to a functional workplace is trust; without it, founders risk an exponential increase in workload. Cultivating a trust-based team is paramount. Identify individuals who align with your vision, delegate effectively, and allow yourself the freedom to step back. An entrepreneurial journey becomes more enjoyable with the right support, and collective effort propels the venture forward.

5. What’s a fact about yourself that people might find surprising?

PS: My entrepreneurial journey started at 10 when I founded two businesses, and by 16, a bustling work schedule compelled me to leave school. The early start not only shaped my business acumen but also underlined my commitment to unconventional paths.

Despite an unorthodox beginning, my journey reflects a passion for entrepreneurship and determination to overcome challenges. This illustrates that success does not always follow a conventional academic trajectory, and a commitment to embracing the unpredictable highlights that one’s journey can be as unique and vibrant as the entrepreneurial spirit that drives it forward.

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.