----------------------- ----------------------

Jack Brandwood

Welcome back to Tact Talks. I'm your host, Jack Brandwood, and this is the podcast where I speak to some of the brightest and most influential people in the tech industry in the UK. This week, I'm sitting down with the founder of Summize, Tom Dunlop. Our conversation ranges from their purpose, the positive starting with an angel investor, and having an entrepreneurial mindset.

Tom Dunlop

There's no such thing as an entrepreneur, I think I'm going to say, yeah. I was going deliberately provocative, yeah. I think people can have an entrepreneurial mindset, and then whether they go on to become a founder is probably a slightly different conversation. You can be an entrepreneurial mindset, but still be an employee.

Jack Brandwood

For more information on this episode and Tact Talks, head over to tact-it.co.uk. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the episode. Hi, Tom. Thanks for coming on.

Tom Dunlop

No problem. Thanks for having me.

Jack Brandwood

Absolutely, absolutely. Another amazing day in Manchester. Not too sunny, we're not used to-

Tom Dunlop

Grey skies, threat of rain, standard Manchester day.

Jack Brandwood

It really is. It really is. So, look, for anyone who doesn't know who Tom, although I don't know who wouldn't, doesn't know who Tom Dunlop is, could you run us through who you are?

Tom Dunlop

Of course. I'm the founder and CEO at Summize. There you are.

Jack Brandwood

Yeah. Great.

Tom Dunlop

That's who I am.

Jack Brandwood

Perfect. Straight to the point. I guess we'll go into Summize in a little while, but firstly I always like to ask this question. Where did you grow up?

Tom Dunlop

The fine town of Bury, which is a beautiful suburb of Manchester. So, I'm Manchester born and bred, and very much live in Manchester now.

Jack Brandwood

Still near Bury, right?

Tom Dunlop

Still near Bury, yeah. A place called Sumerseat.

Jack Brandwood

Lovely. Yeah. We'll have lots of fan mail now, from everyone there.

Tom Dunlop

The Sumerseat Community Group is going strong.

Jack Brandwood

It is. Obviously, you're a successful business owner now, and we'll go into that in a second. But again, when you were growing up in the peaceful town of Bury, which I know all too well, what were you like as a kid?

Tom Dunlop

Extremely disobedient. No. My childhood was mainly around sport, if I'm honest. I'd say I was quite disciplined, because from an early age, probably from nine, 10, I was really pushing on badminton as, I guess, a career choice, so that was my sport. I played a number of sports, played football, played tennis, but badminton I played for England from about the age of 11. So, it was pretty full on, traveling to different countries from 11, 12, and then consistently throughout my childhood. So, it was good because it meant that I didn't get involved in the darker side of Bury. It was good because it kept me quite disciplined throughout school. It meant that outside of school, I just trained basically, every night.

As well as my life was all being planned around going to the Olympics, that was the plan. To the point where when I got to university age and going through college, I was the European champion. But at that stage, it was, well, which university I go to which would allow me to go to the Olympics, and can I continue to go and do my degree at the same time as be, essentially, a full-time player? I actually applied for a lot of sport and exercise science courses, just because I felt like, I must have to go into sport because that's my life really, as a kid. I just applied for one law and psychology course, on a whim really, because I did it at college and I thought I actually quite enjoy it.

It was only really towards when I was getting my results that I actually decided, last minute, to switch to law as, I guess, a backup to the badminton career.I quite liked the mental challenge. I think when you're an athlete, all you can think about is sport. Your time is all about physical demand, and I think law allowed me to have that mental way, I guess outlet, where I could actually challenge myself mentally. I really enjoyed that, solving problems, thinking about the legal side, its application to business, to consumers, whatever it might be. That's what led me to apply for the role and ultimately got on that route in university. It was a good, happy childhood, but very sport focused. So, very disciplined, I think, as a kid, if I'm honest.

Jack Brandwood

Then when did the badminton dream go?

Tom Dunlop

Oh, it's still there.

Jack Brandwood

Still there.

Tom Dunlop

I'm still hoping. No. I'd say when I finished university, I basically had to make a choice as well. Do I commit to law, or do I commit to going down the badminton route? So, the GB program was, I had to move to Milton Keynes, be at the National Badminton Center. You go from being a junior, where you fly around the world as Team England, which was amazing as a kid, to actually, this would be your salary essentially, which is non-existent as you can imagine in badminton. You're on your own, you're representing yourself, you fly on your own. That team feel goes a bit. I had to make that life choice, and I think at the time I'd fell out a love a little bit. I was a full-time professional alongside doing my law degree.

It was that conversation with GB that was like, actually no. I want to go to law school. Almost took a backseat for badminton and sacrificed my Olympic dream. I think I was a realist as well. I wasn't going to win Olympic gold. I was not as good as the best, certainly from China and the Koreans, people like that. They were just streets ahead, if I'm honest. I think when I realized that, it was probably very unrealistic, I needed to shift focus and go into law. It was the end of university, law school time.

Jack Brandwood

Fair play. That must have been quite a dark time almost. But again, it doesn't sound like it because you were like, this is...

Tom Dunlop

Yeah. I always think as a kid I used each one of them as an excuse. So, if I had a really bad tournament or I didn't win, I'd be like, yeah. But I've got my law degree, or I'm doing law so I'll be a lawyer. But then if I wasn't enjoying that, I'd be like, yeah. But I'm going to be an Olympian. I think when I stopped badminton, at that time in law school, I actually started up my first online business in a way. Or I needed something else, it felt like. I couldn't just do the law school, that didn't feel like enough weirdly. So, at the time I started up a comparison site, First Listers, whilst I was in law school, and that transitioned me from worrying about not competing, worrying about not having that side hustle almost, to actually having something else to interest me, which was a business, an online tech business really. It failed, but it was the distraction that was the key to allow me to really focus on, I guess, law and legal as a route.

Jack Brandwood

I mean, up until Summize, I assume, has that been a pattern throughout your career? You've always been looking for something else to keep-

Tom Dunlop

I think so.

Jack Brandwood

Yeah.

Tom Dunlop

I think I've always tried to get the balance right between, and that's where it became harder because my side hustle essentially were both... My day job was mentally demanding, and then my side hustle was also mentally demanding. So, I think I found that that balance can be quite hard. I think before, it was always good because I had the mental demands, but then I could have my outlet of physical training, and I think they complimented each other very well. I've got to admit, when I went into working as a lawyer, working in a law firm, I lost that... Not motivation to do something outside, but I got busy with work. I think I just stopped personally developing myself.

I think I was just, I need to do this. I'm a trainee lawyer and then I'm a newly qualified lawyer. I didn't really think about, what do I actually want to do? I just was on the track. I think that's very easy for so many people in law to just get stuck on the track and not necessarily, same with most professions, without really thinking about yourself. What do you actually want? Can you do anything that will help you get to that end goal quicker? I think I probably went through a period of losing that for a few years, where I just got busy before I then got back on track.

Jack Brandwood

I've heard this before from when we had Richard obviously on the podcast, it was fantastic. From your perspective, what was the journey to Summize going from just an idea perhaps to an actual business?

Tom Dunlop

I think there's a number of things that contributed to it. So, first was, where I reignited my own personal interest. I talk a lot about having an entrepreneurial mindset. You don't necessarily have to be a founder of a business, but I think you can have a mindset that lends itself to thinking these ideas. Because everyone says, "I could never think of ideas." I think when I went to AppSense, which is where I met Rich, was at that point you are working in a really entrepreneurial environment. The founder, Charlie, who's now our chairman as well, he had this infectious entrepreneurial spirit, and that eccentric entrepreneurial mind that would always think of the next big thing. I think it rubs off on you, when you're working in that environment, and I felt like everyone that worked there embraced that about their own professions.

They're always looking to do their own job better, or how can we automate something, or how can we make us more efficient? So, I got the spirit back, we were all listening to podcasts together, like this. We're all reading the same books and we all started to get quite inspired by doing something else, or starting our own business or whatever it might be. So, I think because I was in that mindset, I was a lot more open to ideas. I was thinking of ideas more. Whereas I was probably a bit shut off from that before. That's when I was going through the DD process, as it were. We were in acquired and I was reviewing the contracts, I immediately thought, this is crazy. There's got to be a better way of doing it. Every other department had some form of system, legal didn't. So, it was an obvious idea, if I'm honest.

I worked [inaudible 00:09:26] business, went to see Dave, who's my co-founder, and just basically said, "Look. This is what I'm thinking," he was the tech guy. "Can you make it work?" He was like, "Yeah. Yeah, I can." So, we traded ideas for a while. It's probably another year or two really before we actually started to develop a prototype. I'd moved on to a couple of different in-house roles. But in terms of the risk, I never felt it was a risk. If anything, I was sat there in a role that I really enjoyed and it was great, but I knew that I could go back and do that at any point if I really wanted to. So, there wasn't any risk, it was just the case of, at what point do I take the plunge, as it were, and go full-time, or at what point do we go for funding? Which was always going to be the plan.

That ended up being about May 19-ish, about three years ago, that we got Pre-Seed funding, to ask to develop the concepts. That allowed me to go full-time, and at that point it was like, well, if it doesn't work, I'm not going without a wage. I think that's where a lot of people think you have to sacrifice everything. Moonlight as long as you, if you can do it on the side, do it on the side. I think certainly for a tech business, you can set up tech businesses now with the infrastructure from Microsoft and AWS quite quickly and easily. If you have the right people involved, you can get to the stage where you have a prototype pretty quickly. At that point, you can prove the concept. Then it was at that point we went to get investment. So, it never felt like a massively risky decision, and it felt quite natural just because of how, I guess I was always thinking about new ideas.

There was always the next big thing that I tried to think of. The weird thing about this one was, I probably didn't put as much emphasis on it because it only affected me. It was my problem. You always hear that that's the best ideas, are when you're solving your own problem. But I think when you are in your own world, it feels quite unremarkable. You start to think, well, contracts. No one else cares about contracts only me, but really double down on those type of ideas, and you'll probably find there's a load of stuff that you might think of, in terms of new ideas that you can create a prototype from. So, it never felt risky really.

Jack Brandwood

I think a lot of serial entrepreneurs, listeners to this going, "What does he mean? He's doing it all wrong." But that's a really interesting way to look at it, rather than the really dramatic, I'm quitting everything, this is it now, it's all or nothing.

Tom Dunlop

Yeah.

Jack Brandwood

You actually can do it in a very much less risky way.

Tom Dunlop

Yeah. I mean, I think that a lot of people think as well, they put so much emphasis on that first prototype. When you listen to anyone who's actually been through the scale of journey exited, everyone talks about they pivoted about three times. What they started with as an idea was not what they ended up with. It's never that linear, it's never the, this is what... I mean, you even think of the massive ones like Facebook. The first thing that came out was he wanted a dating app essentially for himself and his university. What you end up with is very rarely even close to what you start with. So, if you can accept that, then I think then you don't put as much emphasis on that initial decision. You don't go, well, I have to make this thing work. You know it's iterative and that what you start with is probably not what you're going to end up with.

So, it's all about, at what point on that journey do you jump and go full-time? I think I made the choice that I wanted to get to a prototype of my version one of what I thought was the product. Get some pre-seed, then jump, and then we'll work it out. At the end of the day, if we get the right people on the table, we'll make something happen. I think that was the attitude that I always had, compared to jump, take no salary, this is it, I've found it and this is going to be the idea.

Jack Brandwood

Wow. Okay. On that, I mean, you actually a while back wrote an article, is it called an article? I think it is, isn't it?

Tom Dunlop

Yeah. I think it's called an article.

Jack Brandwood

Yeah, why not? A novel. You wrote this on LinkedIn and it was a really, really good read. I mean, the title is quite provocative. I mean, could you tell us what the title was.

Tom Dunlop

There's No Such Thing As An Entrepreneur. I think it was the.... Yeah. I was going deliberately provocative.

Jack Brandwood

Yeah. It worked, because I read it and-

Tom Dunlop

Nice.

Jack Brandwood

But it was a great read.

Tom Dunlop

Yeah.

Jack Brandwood

So, when you say there's no such thing as an entrepreneur, what were you actually getting at?

Tom Dunlop

So, I think what you hear a lot of is people are describing themselves as an entrepreneur. I think what I found when I worked in very entrepreneurial environments, was I worked with people who had all the traits of an entrepreneur, in that they were always thinking of new ideas. A friend of mine who I worked with had a black book of ideas. He must have had about 50 ideas for business ideas. Is he an entrepreneur or is he not? I think that was where I was struggling, was there's very different personalities with someone who can come up with an idea, and then someone who actually founds a business. Actually when you separate those two things, the skillsets are massively different. So, for me to become a founder, I had to have an entrepreneurial mindset, which is very different than the skills it took to actually start a business up.

So, the whole point of the article was to think, I've got many friends who have an entrepreneurial mindset but are gainfully employed, they're a very good employee and I think they made the best employees actually. A lot of the staff at Summize I would argue, have very entrepreneurial mindsets. They're always thinking about ways to do things. I bet if you asked every single employee, they have a business idea that they probably thought someone, one of the guys wants to create solar shoes and things like that, random ideas. But I think everyone has that mindset of thinking of better ways to do things, and that's just their personality type. Whether they go on to become a founder is completely different. That takes risk, it takes massive amounts of determination, it takes a huge amount of grit just to get over the number of rejections that you're likely to have.

That's different than the creative thinking of new ways of doing things. Maybe a little bit tech savvy if you want to get into tech, they're very different skillsets. Actually when you get to a bigger company, you'll find that the people they bring in in these senior positions are not entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurial mindsets. They might be more akin to a founder personality, compared to the original entrepreneur founder. So, I think they're separate things, and that was the point of the article. I don't think there's such thing as just an entrepreneur. I think people can have an entrepreneurial mindset, and then whether they go on to become a founder is probably a slightly different conversation. You can be an entrepreneurial mindset but still be an employee.

Jack Brandwood

Do you feel like the best companies are a mix of the two? You get one person who's perhaps entrepreneurial and the other person who's got that founder mindset?

Tom Dunlop

Yeah. I think you have to have someone with that founder mindset. Ideally all the founding team have that sort of grit and determination. Because it's hard, it's a tough slog. I mean, anyone who's started a business, it's not easy. It feels like everything's burning down all the time. It's just constantly understanding what the biggest risks are, prioritizing and really, really not giving up and quitting, and just carrying on with it. You've got to have that mentality in an early stage company. You had Rich on, having someone who has that mind to think of the future and think of how we can do things differently, you don't necessarily want to try and confuse those two skillsets because you want to leave those very creative people to think of the way forward.

But you need the operators and the founders, that grit determination to really make it happen. So, it's quite an interesting mix. I mean, you read books that say that building a business is 10% the idea and 90% the execution. I think that's the same concept. You've got to detach the two, and don't think that an entrepreneur is a natural thing. You've got to have both. I think recognize which one is stronger.

Jack Brandwood

That's interesting. So, say you've got three people, one's a real creative, one's an entrepreneur mindset, one's got the founder mindset. Rather than making that perhaps entrepreneur mindset bleed into that founder mindset. No, just double down on what they're really good at, and that's being an entrepreneur. Hire someone else to do the founding sort of thing. Then if you've got a creative, don't make them try and be all businessy and foundery. Just let them be creative. Just let them...

Tom Dunlop

Most people say, do you need a founder, a co-founder? I think that when you look at the most successful businesses, most had at least two people, and someone plus a co-founder, maybe three or four. I think you'll find that that dynamic works well because there's usually a balance between personalities there. I just think that, rather than always thinking that I am the entrepreneur. When you speak about entrepreneurs, you think of one person, and that one person being a catalyst that makes it all happen. I think you've got to think of it more of a rounded, more balanced view, and that's where those different personalities really play off against each other.

Jack Brandwood

So, talking about Summize then, you mentioned there that you pivoted a couple of times when you started the business. So, what was the original idea and what is Summize now?

Tom Dunlop

We do socks. No, we don't. So, the original idea, I mean it was from the use case. We're going to summarize contracts, hence the name. So, we started off with signed contracts, PDFs, that weren't searchable, how could we create a usable summary? So, it's quite interesting about the way the idea came from, was there's a company called Summly, which was summarized news articles, and I was really fascinated by the story. It's a 17 year old boy, man, I don't know. Who came up with this concept to summarize news articles, had these really high profile investors and he sold it to Yahoo, and it was this... Within about a year of coming up with the idea, hadn't really monetized it. Sold it for 30 million, and I was just enthralled by this story, and I had this, when I heard about this story, I then started to do the DD, and I'm like, somebody needs to do that, what about summaries of contracts?

So, it's sort of taking that concept a little bit and running with it. But I think when you find that... That was my use case at that time, and I think when I started to go to market, started to sell it, some people had the same use case, but you soon realized, well that's for one-off projects, it's for very specific set of circumstances. So, what we started to do was, how can we make this more relevant to everyone day-to-day? Because for a SaaS product you need to make sure that people are using it every day, you're getting that engagement, its become part of the everyday process. To do that we needed to move, pre-signature. So, we then started to look at how we can do the same reviews in Microsoft Word, so we could help you do the, I guess, pre-signature review.

Then it was only a matter of time before customers were coming to us and saying, "Well, you're basically a contract management system, but you just need these features, these features, these features." So, we really resisted calling ourselves a CLM or a contract management system for quite a while, until we built out this functionality that meant we could allow you to create contracts, review them, and then store and manage them. So, it was that full end-to-end CLM, and that's what we are today, is very much end-to-end digital contract solution that helps you create, review and then just manage your contracts as well. It's that full end-to-end, but we started off at the post-signature bit.

Jack Brandwood

When you first started you mentioned seed funding there, and I know a lot of people listen to this probably want to know about how'd you go about getting seed funding? How does that work?

Tom Dunlop

It's very hard, don't me wrong. I'd say that it is still very network based. It's a who you know, will maybe provide a warm intro and that can get you into places. So, for me, I was a legal director at tech businesses, so I had an unfair advantage because we dealt with a lot of the investment side of those businesses. So, I knew quite a few of the investment community, and it was an introduction from someone in the investment community to Maven. So, Maven runs something called the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, which is a government backed initiative. But basically, they've got a load of funds from the government to deploy in the north, particularly in the northwest, to stimulate jobs, if I'm honest. So, it's not necessarily the same as going to a big VC that's going to get X return and you've got these institutional investors, a very different type of fund.

We approached them, the person who is on our board, Jeremy, he was a lawyer before going into working for Maven. So, he got the product straightaway. I also had the help with the fact that Charlie, who was the founder of the company I previously worked at, and quite a known entrepreneur in the area was an angel investor. So, if you've got certain people involved with your business that have been there and done it before, it massively helps. Where everyone says, "Get an angel investor first," I definitely recommend it. A lot of people say friends and family, if you can get it, great. But if you can really find someone who has a voice, has connections as well as the money, at that really, really early stage, it really, really does open up doors to then follow on and make sure that you're planning, not just that first bit of money.

I think everyone thinks if someone just gave me a hundred grand, I'd turn this into a billion dollar business. It never works like that. You're always going to need more. So, I think it's really understanding that from day one, and planning who your investors are, what their network is before you even... It's really tempting not to do this, by the way. We really nearly fell into that trap. But I think for us, we had Maven and Charlie from day one. They still support us today and have been consistent in terms of our raises. So, it's really set us up well from day one to get that Pre-Seed funding. There's a lot of these, Angel Trust, there's a Manchester Angels Network, just opened up quite recently. You can just Google it and find a lot of the angel investors or angel funds in the area and reach out. I think there's money to invest.

Jack Brandwood

Before going to that stage, I guess you need a real strong concept of what your business is. You need a prototype obviously if it's a tech business.

Tom Dunlop

Yeah.

Jack Brandwood

Is there any other levers that you need to pull to make sure that you're in a position that you can actually really get a strong opportunity of getting the money in?

Tom Dunlop

I think a lot rests on people. I mean, you hear it a lot from VCs, they back the people, and I think that becomes... Certainly Pre-Seed need a little bit series A as well. A lot of it is about the people and the story. So, for me it was, I'm a commercial corporate lawyer. I've worked in-house teams, I'm solving my problem. I've also worked in scale and tech businesses. My co-founder was an experienced software developer. Together we can solve this problem. We had an angel investor who'd grown two and exited two big software businesses. You go to a VC with that and you talk about contracts, you understand the market, into the minutia detail where exactly how people do it today. Plus you've got a prototype, plus you've shown that you can sell it. So, we did a POC for 200 pounds or something like that.

We got someone to pay us 200 pounds to do a POC basically. That validated that someone would pay money for your product. So, I knew that if I went to an angel fund or whatever, that had someone who was in my network that was a strong mike pad chairman, so a strong person who's an angel, the product that we'd shown we could sell and people who knew the market like the back of their hand, and the story that goes around, that I stood a good chance of getting investment. I think you've got to try and tick all those three boxes really, when you go to these angels. The story in particular. I never realized how important, not only just sales but that ability to tell the story is, at that early stage it's a lot about that and making sure they understand where you're at now, but ultimately where you want to go to. You've got to really think about that.

Jack Brandwood

On the story side of things as well, and we talked about an article you wrote a bit ago, but you also wrote another one more recent, which was, Culture Is Key. A part of that, was around having a strong purpose and a strong... Something we're all aiming towards. How do you come up with a purpose, and what is your purpose, for instance? What is Summize's purpose?

Tom Dunlop

It's a good question in the sense of how do you come up with that? I think we didn't have one to start with as such. I think to start with it is more important that you get the group of people assembled together who believe in your story about where you want to go. We didn't necessarily have a specific purpose. Right now, it's that we want to make understanding and interacting with contracts better and simpler. Is anyone really passionate about that? I don't know whether people get that passionate about that. But I think it's more about what we did quite early on, which we still do now, is make sure that people understand their part in our journey. So, my view was, look. Contracts are extremely manual, make it relatable to that person.

So, for us, if you've ever ticked a box on booking a flight, and it says agree to the terms conditions. You go and try and cancel the flight and you have to pay the full price ticket, and you're left and think it's outrageous that you signed up to the terms and conditions. If you make it feel like, oh, well, I get that problem that you're trying to solve, if we could make that, surface that information and summarize it so you were informed before you did anything, then they start to understand, I guess, why we exist. Then you understand the scale of the market and you understand then, we've worked in these businesses that exit for hundreds of millions, if not a billion. You're sat there and you've linked together the purpose.

It's, why we're here, do you understand that, can you relate to it? But then more important than that is, you joining us at this stage can play a huge part in this journey. Ideally if you've done it before, that's incredible. A lot of our management team, the reason we got these people in was because they've been there and done it. You don't really need to give them the big sell on where we're going. They understand it, they've been there, done it, they understand the exciting journey they're about to go on. But I think that making it relatable why we're here, and then that person's role and feeling that they can contribute to the journey, is massively important in the early days.

Jack Brandwood

So, surround yourself with the right people as well, is going to be a massive part obviously of culture, but future as a business. When you're hiring people, I mean, is there anything in particular that you look for when hiring somebody?

Tom Dunlop

So, it's something I've thought a lot about recently, about who do I relate to the most? So, who do I have a bias for? Because you do when you're hiring, no matter how much you try not to. One thing I've learned, as a founder, there's no one more passionate than you about the products or about the vision or about where you're going. I think I've learned that anyone who tries to match that passion about what you're doing, I automatically gravitate towards. I think if they believe in it, they get passionate about the products, they really understand the use case. They're suggesting things that you maybe haven't thought about, or even if you have, they're validating that they're thinking about it as well. I'm just drawn to those type of people. I think at the start of the journey, having a load of people that have that passion and enthusiasm for what you're doing, it's massively essential. You almost want that generalist, who could turn their hand, you could probably put them in most positions in the business.

Just because they have that raw passion for what you're doing, they'll just do it and they'll do it to the best of their ability. I think you absolutely need to look out for those people at the start. Everyone says at different stages you need different people, and we found that as well. After we got a bit of traction and we got different functions, we actually hired an experienced management team quite early on, if I'm honest. So, we got a CRO very early on. We got VP marketing, we had two tech senior leaders. But the reason we did that at the right stages was, once you get traction and once you know you're thinking about scaling that up, it's so much easier if you've got someone who's been there and done it before. Because prior to that you're figuring out as you go along. I think a lot of startups do that for too long. The relief I had, that I didn't really need to think about sales, I mean I obviously was involved in them.

But someone just to come in and go, "Well, no. Here's the playbook, I've been there and done it before. This is the structure, this is how we do things day-to-day. This is our ICP, this is how we should do pricing, here's the commission plans, let's go." I mean, the relief from my side to not have to think about those things was huge, but it's got to be the right time. I think we would never have pulled that person in place from day one. We just needed a bunch of people who were really passionate and would really bind to the vision to drive, because it's almost like that. You've got to find people that have that entrepreneurial mindset, and probably maybe one day themselves will become founders. I think some people don't look for that because you think it might be a bit disruptive or they're going to leave soon or whatever else. But I was almost looking for a bunch of mini entrepreneurs that would come and work and help drive it to a point where we then get the specialists in.

Jack Brandwood

I mean it ties back what you were saying before about almost looking for these T-shaped people. Like you said, generalists, but then this one thing that we're really, really good at. I guess, like you said, if you've got your CRO in, your head of marketing, it allows you to be like, thank God. I can just focus on me and making this, and my entrepreneur mindset and just focusing on one thing, and going 100% on it. That's a really good bit of advice, because I think you're right. I think you do you see a lot of startups... Not a lot of startups have that really solid management team in at the beginning, right? It's never...

Tom Dunlop

No. It's very rare. I mean I think we found that in terms of the funding lifecycle, certainly we go towards the Series A side, a lot of the time that fund or the reason you're asking for funding is to then build out for the management team, and that's the stage the company are usually at. For us, because at the moment we are pre-Series A, but we've built that, so the money that will go out to look for investment, will purely be fuel to really drive the company and scale. We don't have to have a six month period where we go to market, find the right management team, because I think then burn through a lot of cash in the interim, don't quite hit the growth journey we wanted to. So, we made a deliberate choice to hire those positions early and get them in place, set up in this test and learn phase, you could argue, the product market fit to the point where we then go, now we're going to scale the company and really just double down. We don't have to then go and figure out how we settle these different areas.

Jack Brandwood

You're doing something right, because congratulations, you've been shortlisted for the... This isn't me telling you've been shortlisted by the way. You've been shortlisted for the Tech Northern... Can you help me out?

Tom Dunlop

No. It is good to watch you do it.

Jack Brandwood

It's a mouthful.

Tom Dunlop

It's Tech Entrepreneur of The Year. [inaudible 00:31:19] I mean, they're great to say. I think one thing having a software company in the north is you realize how few there is actually, in the north. I think we do think of ourselves as a bit of a tech hub, I think Manchester in particular. But I'd say there's a lot of companies at the earlier stage, and there's certainly a lot of tech enabled services, businesses. They're really services businesses, but they're tech enabled, which is good, they're great businesses. But I think when you start to get involved in these awards, and you see some of the other companies that are there and that you are sat amongst, I think it's obviously a massive compliment, it's great validation that you've reached a certain, I guess, milestone as a business as well. That you're getting recognized for getting over that really horrible startup phase, where everything breaks and you feel like you're on the right track.

It's great validation that you are, and there's external people saying, "Yeah. Well done. This is in recognition of it." So, the great moment is to stop, reflect a little bit, because I don't think people do that a lot when you're on the... You're all instantly, I am, always thinking about what's next. I very rarely sit there and go, "Isn't it great that we've grown to this people, or we've done whatever." I think it's more always about, well, it is, but I can now see the next 12 months and how exciting is that going to look? So, I think awards, some people don't like them. I think they're good for just having a pause and recognize that we have done something quite good so far.

Jack Brandwood

Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, you mentioned there stopping and reflecting, but I want to look into the next 12 months. What can people keep an out for with Summize, and what's going to be happening in the next 12 months? Anything that you can tell us?

Tom Dunlop

Yeah. I mean a lot is what I described, which is we've got the infrastructure, the management in place now, and I think we're on a quite exciting growth journey. So, we're going to continue to scale what we've got. We're definitely looking at the US, so we are looking at maybe opening up an office in the US on the East Coast, probably early next year. Then I guess as a fan you always feel like you are raising money one way or another, so that's also probably part of our plans as well, in terms of Series A. Just really continuing to scale.

What I feel really good about at the minute is, we've found our product market fit, we've done that scrappy phase, we've got a really, really good sweet spot in the market we know we can just double down on. We've sold it enough times to some great brands, that means that we know how to implement in it, we know where the product should go and we don't feel like there's any huge gaps. So, it's one of those where, if that's the case, we just need to double down and really scale what we've got. I think that's what I'm excited about, is just scaling what we've got. But there will be an eye on the US as well.

Jack Brandwood

Amazing. I've got three more questions and I'll let you go, I promise. The legal industry, you're obviously disrupting it, which is incredible. If there was one thing about the legal industry that you'd want to change, what would it be?

Tom Dunlop

Oh, that's a good question. I think the legal industry is set up to be a very occasional use reactive industry. So, it's a trillion dollar industry as it stands, the legal services market, which in some ways surprised me it is that big, based on how lawyers interact with clients, and based on the fact that if you put yourself in your own shoes thinking when would I go to a lawyer? It's got to be a pretty bad situation probably as to when you'd call your lawyer up. But the reality is that I think most SMEs globally, would really welcome more on demand help, be more accessible, more subscription based. The same ways you have an accountant that you might ring up for a query, or the HR advisory businesses that has grown in Manchester, that is on the end of a phone if you just need that bit of advice. Legal can do so much more to, I guess, monetize or make their knowledge.

Because ultimately that's what they are, is knowledge about the law, more available and accessible, rather than being standoffish, I'll bill you by the hour type model. So, I think that's for me, and we're trying to enable this with the product, is to make legal more accessible, more on demand, and just a general better service than what they're doing now. Because they see themselves as being the last resort in a lot of instances. I think the legal services market could 10X in terms of size over the next five, 10 years, if they do that.

Jack Brandwood

I didn't realize it was a trillion dollar market.

Tom Dunlop

Yeah.

Jack Brandwood

Wow. Okay. Lot of market share to go at. Second question. You've worked at some amazing businesses, you are where you are now and we've touched on that. Is there anybody that you've crossed paths with in your career that has really left a lasting impression on you, or anyone that you'd be like, props?

Tom Dunlop

I'd say there's a lot of people for different reasons, which is probably a very bad answer. But I think, and it is not just from, I guess, work as it were. So, one thing I'm quite surprised by is how much I took from sport into the workplace is huge. Actually, a big part of the culture at Summize has been from sport actually. I think when people think of other things other than just work, whether they've played sport, whether it was something more creative, lessons that you learn along the way from them can be massively important to how you work. I think that's one thing is, the sporting aspect has a huge impact and there's loads of people from the GB set up, other players in terms of their commitment to the sport. You learn from those.

I think in terms of the business side, I mean Charlie was someone... The reason why I wanted him as our investor as well was because every interaction with Charlie felt like you were being inspired of some description. He was talking about the next big thing, or you always felt like he's going to change the world, or he is going to do something. I think that opened my eyes up. It carried forward to Jim at Zuto, who is the CEO there, very similar in terms of always thinking about the next thing. I think it's so infectious being with these type of people that you can't help but let you rub off on your personality. One of the people that I say is really valuable, who I've met before, was the CEO of Skyscanner. So, he was called Mark Logan, but I had a couple of chats with him, and he was very big on personal brand. I think that's something about how everyone needs to think about their personal brand as they're going through the workplace.

What three words will other people describe you as in the business? That's a big focus of Summize as well, but I think what I learned from that was, a lot of people think about the business. A lot of people think about Summize as a vehicle, they don't really focus on the driver. I think that what we are trying to do is understand, how can we help each individual get to where they want to be, and what is their personal brand? What do they want to look like in the business? We've really doubled down on that from a culture perspective. But that was a huge impact on how I thought about things. Certainly thinking about being a leader in a business was, don't just preach about Summize and the story and the vision and just go on about how great Summize will be. Actually really put yourself into each employee's shoes and how are they going to be a better person as a result of Summize. I think that was a big impact on how I thought about things.

Jack Brandwood

Incredible. Great answers. I think last question. Now, if you knew this was your last day on Earth, and apart from spending time with family of course and being on this amazing podcast obviously, what would you be doing? What would you be spending your last day doing?

Tom Dunlop

That is a big question. That is a big question. I think the honest answer is, and I think you've already said it, is when... Because I've got two little girls. When I met my wife, and she always says to me, the only thing I was obsessed about was being rich, and was very shallow. I was so motivated and determined to just be... I didn't really think about... I was very self-centered. That's a bit critical, isn't it? But I'm very much focused on me and where I would be and I was driven to a goal. Certainly having my two girls, like you do, that mindset completely shifted to make sure that it's all about them. I think if I won... I would actually just not do... I'd step completely back from anything that was outside of the family, and just spend it with them. Go for a walk in the park. That's very wholesome, isn't it?

Jack Brandwood

Very wholesome answer. Yeah, very wholesome answer. Okay. Well, look. Thank you so much for coming on, Tom, really do appreciate it. Obviously, it's been a long time coming. I've been really looking forward to you coming on, you haven't disappointed. I think whoever's watching this, if they're setting up their own business, I think they'll take so much from it. Good luck with the awards, obviously. I hope you win, and excited to see Summize is in the next 12 months.

Tom Dunlop

No. Thank you very much for having me.

Jack Brandwood

That's it for this week's episode. Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoyed it. Anything we talked about, will be linked in the show notes. If you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast, and we'll catch you on the next one.

About the author

Tom Dunlop

As an accomplished commercial and technology lawyer, Tom's experience with reviewing contracts was the catalyst that led to Summize. Prior to this, he worked as a Global Legal Director for several fast-growth technology companies.
The LinkedIn icon in blueThe Law Society logo
Read more about the author