Interview with Richard Kimber - Daisee
Today I interview Richard Kimber, CEO and co-founder of Daisee, an Australian headquartered global AI software company whose mission is to lead the world in using AI to uncover true insight in spoken language. Daisee specialises in automated quality management for customer interactions, powered by artificial intelligence, speech, and text analytics.
Emily: Tell us the origin story of Daisee? How did you start?
Richard: Daisee originally started as a result of me realising a dream to build my own company. I am a big believer in the power of AI to dramatically change the way business is done and firmly believe we are at the beginning of a huge structural shift. Having run a bank in the UK called FirstDirect, I knew the challenge that companies face in dealing with a vast amount of customer calls and the huge opportunity this presents. Companies all around the world struggle to digest the vast amount of customer interaction data and are often operating in the dark. We can solve this issue.
E: Pretend you’re a baby startup again. You’re learning to crawl, still in your early stages of growth. What was the biggest challenge you faced that others can learn from?
R: When we first started, we spent time with a fairly large customer working on a paid, but lengthy, POC. In hindsight they were the wrong kind of customer. They were after a fairly unique set of requirements. We should have limited our investment (and time spent) and focused on a customer where we could sell our ‘standard’ product and focus on getting to product/market fit.
Once we won our first subscription customer, we knew what to look for. The lesson learned was to be very picky in choosing your first customers, as we were almost too keen to please the wrong kind of customer. They were too big, had too many legacy systems to integrate with and weren’t focused in the area we needed.
Even if the initial commercial return isn’t huge; try to find the right fit for your first customers. We ended up with three early customers that worked with us to iterate quickly to a market leading product.
E: When did you know the typical 9-to-5 type job wasn't for you?
R: I have had many turnaround roles where I was changing and adapting an existing business. Whilst I relished the challenge; I always wanted to design my own company. I liken it to Grand Designs, where I am building my own company from the ground up. This isn’t a renovation, but a new build, and it’s the culmination of decades of seeing how others have designed their businesses. I have a vision for the culture, innovation and the way I like to build technology at scale that I am very passionate to bring to Daisee.
E: Run us through your calendar for a typical day?
R: I selected a day from last week, which is a representative day from recent times.
8:00 – emails, slack messages and preparation for the day ahead
8:30 – video call with my EA, plan day, action review, end of quarter planning, shareholder update
9:00 – video call with Gartner Analyst in USA – discuss investor deck and messaging
10:00 – leadership weekly meeting – OKRs – next Product Sprint – POCs
11:45 – dial into Macquarie Uni – for briefing
12:00 – present one-hour webinar – Macquarie alumni and innovation group - presentation on ‘The future of AI’
1.30 – round table – webinar with Prospa – (client and VP product) contact center live
2.30 – update with Australian VC – potential lead on next round
3.30 – fortnighty marketing update and plan – LinkedIn campaigns – webinars
4.30 – Blackpeak Capital – investor strategy and raise plans
5.30 – video meeting with system integrator in UK – working on a large enterprise deal with Microsoft team out of Singapore
E: How do you balance life vs time in meetings vs time spent moving the needle? Any strategies you could share?
R: I like having concrete plans and rolling quarterly OKRs to keep us focused. We set an annual budget and then reforecast quarterly. I try to limit the number of internal meetings each week – and so now have a good rhythm on customer success, sales, leadership, data science and product meetings. I have regular 1-to-1s with our leadership team and we are always available on Slack. I meet with board members every fortnight and check in with them weekly. I block out two one-hour sessions a week for going to the gym and make sure I walk or ride my bike every day.
I personally lead a lot of our initial client, investor and partner activities and believe that the founder has to generate the first few million in ARR. There is nothing like leading from the front!
E: If you could start again, what would you do differently?
R: Build a working demo more quickly. It took us a while to be able to show how the system would work. In hindsight, it is much easier to sell AI software when you can see it in action.
Not talk to any ASX200 companies for the first three years. I would spend all that energy on small- and medium-sized customers that are up for change and have the right mindset and leadership.
I would sequence my hiring in a slightly different order. I think there is a real knack to knowing who your ‘next best hire’ is. Getting the best people at every stage is so important.
E: When you wake up, the first thing you check on your phone is… ?
R: Twitter for the latest news. Then my work email to check for messages from international clients, investors and partners.
E: What are you streaming/reading/listening/playing right now?
R: I like VC podcasts: A16z, Reid Hoffman, Saastr, etc., mostly listening to other founders and their insights into the growth journey.
Lots of music – I like Triple J and some of my current favourite artists are Tame Impala, Tash Sultana, Rihanna, Rufus Del Sol and Avicii. I have been reading Robin Williams biography; I really enjoyed his humour and was quite sad when he died. Reading his life story has been very interesting and good cause for reflection.
E: Most used/favourite app and why?
R: My favourite App is Strava. I use it to keep track of my rides and hikes and see what my friends are up to. A close second is Spotify – where I listen to Triple J hitlists and VC podcasts
WILD CARD QUESTION
E: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
R: I would like to have a place in Monaco as I am a die-hard Formula 1 fan. I would like to go to several European Grands Prix, ride my bike up all the hills and it would be great to have a nice boat in the harbour.