Who are you?
I am Marc Crouch, a 37-year-old Englishman from London. Founder of Firedrop.ai, former founder of two digital agencies, one recruitment startup, and an online music platform that I started in 1999 aged 19.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
Firedrop started in 2015 as a product for my former digital agency, initially a drag-and-drop website builder that our smaller clients could use to build and manage their own websites. We launched that initial product in 2015 and got some customers signed up, however they all struggled with time, regardless of how intuitive the tool was. So we started looking into automating various parts of the website builder tool and eventually came to the conclusion that pretty much all of it could be automated.
Firedrop became its own business when we trialled an early version of our A.I.-driven iteration of the product to an angel investor in December 2015. He loved it and wanted to put money in to make it a standalone product, so we raised a seed round from a small group of individual investors and split off from the agency in February 2016. By July 2016 the founding team of Firedrop was in place and we spent the rest of the year building out the first full A.I. release of Firedrop, which was eventually launched in February 2017.
We now have thousands of customers and have started to work with large enterprise businesses as well. Exciting times for us!
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
In general business life, my biggest failure was walking away from my first business too early. It had just started gathering some serious momentum and then hit some difficult challenges. I burned out and just kind of decided to call it quits. I know from my experience with other businesses since then that such difficulties are semi-regular occurrences and often the overcoming of them leads to a positive leap forward for the business. I have never quit a business since then.
In the current business, our biggest struggle is trying to release quickly enough to meet the business’s cash and customer needs, with a relatively small team in place. It’s a tough chicken-and-egg situation where a certain feature needs to exist in order for us to grow, but we need the growth to raise the money to help us expand our infrastructure to help us build the feature more quickly. Such is the perennial challenge of the startup though!
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
With Firedrop, our biggest achievement was landing our first Fortune 500 customer, a very large business who had also approached two of our much much larger rivals as well. That showed that there is no need to be intimidated by competition, as long as you have confidence in your product and are prepared to go the extra mile for a customer.
What’s your must read business book?
I’m a huge believer in the importance of psychology in business, as fundamentally you are working with people at every step of the chain. Understanding how the mind works is valuable for customer experience, sales, and even managing investors. I have personally read many psychology books and even done a psychology diploma, but the most influential book for me was “Thinking, Fast And Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
In specifically business terms, Harvard Business Review’s “HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy” is a wonderful and essential book for any business owner. It especially highlights the importance in stepping back from your business and looking at the bigger picture, which is often hard to do when you’re in the thick of it.
Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?
Not hugely original, but Steve Jobs. He had some well-documented character flaws that I do not admire, but his vision, negotiation abilities, relentless confidence, charisma and obsession with the customer experience are traits that I admire hugely. His track record speaks for itself: he changed several industries and created the most valuable company in the world. What more could you want to aspire to as a business owner?
Can you tell us something weird or interesting about yourself?
Many years ago a song I wrote was performed on a little-known MTV show called “Rising Stars of the Internet” (or something like that). It was an experimental show during MTV’s early days of exploring the internet’s capabilities, and unfortunately there is no footage of it online that I can find so most people don’t believe me. I don’t care though, I know it happened and it makes me feel pretty cool to remember it.