Interview with Phil Thomson — Auror
This interview was originally posted here.
Today I interview Phil Thomson, co-founder of Auror— a retail crime intelligence platform that helps retailers stop crime in their stores. We’re on a mission to provide retailers and police with the best way to report, solve, and prevent crime, and keep our communities safe.
Emily: Tell us the origin story of Auror? How did you start?
Phil Thomson, Co-Founder Auror
Phil: It started with a news article that NZ retailers were losing $2M a day to shoplifting ($15M in Australia) and we didn’t believe that could be possible. We quickly realised that by applying technology to such an age old problem, you could have a marked improvement on reporting, solving, and preventing crime. So we created a retail crime intelligence platform that started with digitising the crime reporting process and creating a network between retail stores and with police. Now with better and more structured data, the platform helps to connect the dots on organised retail crime groups and provides the right intelligence to the right people at the right time, which all helps save millions of dollars by preventing crime.
E: Pretend you’re a baby startup again. You’re learning to crawl, still in your early stages of growth..Name the biggest challenge you faced that others can learn from?
P: I think it all comes down to people. For us:
- We didn’t quite have the founding team right to start which ended up causing some headaches as we scaled. Although everyone starts out with the right intentions, I think all companies need to ensure founder vesting is in place to reduce the impacts any issues may have down the track.
- We hired a lot of junior staff early and didn’t truly appreciate what an A-player looks like. Certain roles require the right experience and people that have gone through similar stages at other businesses. So the learning for us was sometimes you need to spend more on the right people, rather than on more people (quality over headcount).
E: When did you know the typical 9–5 type job wasn’t for you?
P: I spent 4 years as an IP and Commercial lawyer so it was more like 9–8 and without any end in sight. But I had always wanted the opportunity to build a company alongside amazing people, and once we realised the size of the problem globally and the massive impact we could have on crime in our community, it became a no-brainer to leave a safe career path and jump in to startup life.
E: Run us through your calendar for tomorrow?
8am — 10am: Phil Time. This is time blocked out in my calendar every day to give me a chance to work on something important/urgent before getting lost in the day.
10am: Team all hands meeting for a check-in and midway review of the quarter.
1130am: Offsite contract negotiation with a new potential customer.
1pm: Customer call
2pm: 3x 1:1:1 fortnightly meetings with Tom (co-CEO) and our direct reports.
3:30pm: Review and finalise our fortnightly team newsletter.
4:30pm: A “run meeting” with Tom to sync up on what’s going on across the business.
6pm: Put on a suit and head to the HiTech Awards Gala with the team as we’re a finalist in the Emerging Company category this year!
E: How do you balance life vs time in meetings vs time spent moving the needle? Any strategies you could share?
P: If you don’t look after yourself, how are you able to look after others? This is a realisation we came to recently while reflecting on how long the journey is to build a company. Therefore, your strategy should include:
- Take time for yourself every day to do something that you want to do. Be it a run, an important piece of work, or just to relax.
- Look after your body and mind. Exercise (even as a walk/run meeting), eat well, find your relaxation method (music, meditation, or even gaming), and get enough sleep.
- Make others successful. If you can get the best out of others, it is going to help move the needle on lots of things across the company not just one thing.
E: If you could start again, what would you do differently?
P: Everything and nothing! We’ve learnt so much on the journey so far that we would probably do just about everything differently in some way. But we are also firm believers that we are where we are because of what we’ve done — the good, bad, and ugly. So right now we wouldn’t change anything.
E: When you wake up, the first thing you check on your phone is…?
P: I’m now in the habit of leaving my phone outside of the bedroom at night which has been a great step and means I need to get up before looking at my phone. Once up, I generally clear my notifications first (mainly emails and Slack) and then check the calendar for what’s on today.
E: What are you streaming/reading/listening/playing right now?
P: Listening to a few podcasts that feature Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep doctor, on how important sleep is for the mind and body — did you know that after being awake for 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk?! Check out his chat with Joe Rogan — it’s a life changing listen.
And I’m reading some pregnancy and baby books (The First 6 Weeks) as my wife is about to give birth!
E: Most used/favourite app and why?
P: Strava for tracking my exercise and keeping me motivated to run when I’m travelling overseas. Highly recommend running (or walking) every city you go to as you get a better feel for it and see things you wouldn’t often get the chance to see on a fleeting work visit.
Wild Card Question
E: 100 kittens or 3 baby sloths?
P: Sloths. Always.
This interview is by Emily Rich as part of the Scaling Startups Series.