Jon Reynolds is CEO and Co-Founder of SwiftKey, an Android app that replaces your device’s on-screen keyboard.
My physics teacher at school defined a genius as someone who could see both the big-picture and the detail at the same time. (Whilst most leaders are certainly not geniuses!) I think a leader needs to always see the longer-term context / strategy / goals whilst making decisions around the day-to-day. Instilling that vision / perspective throughout the company is a hard challenge but enables decisions to be made by the leaders and team members throughout the company who are the ones who will successfully build that vision.
When we started SwiftKey, we went straight to device manufacturers, looking to build our software right into their devices. We quickly learned that phone makers wanted evidence to show that users liked our technology. In 2010 we decided to go direct to consumers through the Android Market to gain adoption and feedback. SwiftKey became the top-selling paid app on Android’s Google Play store in 2012 and remains the global bestseller.
There are several I can think of but one thing we focused on from the beginning was to actively reach out to bloggers – the influencers – and get them on board. We contacted those people we thought would be interested and tried to get the word out through them. Slowly the message started to trickle through. They were also incredibly helpful in the feedback and advice they gave us as a company just starting out in this sector.
Only hire the very best. We have a thorough interview process, with members interviewed by their peers. This ensures new hires have the right calibre and also right culture fit.
Yammer is a great tool for a company based in 3 continents, with flexible working patterns. It’s great to see updates and feel part of the team.
Our team also builds lots of internal tools – meeting room coordinator, a bot to coordinate the tea round – together the creativity of the team helps improve our productivity.
Word of mouth was key. We have an extremely tenacious CMO who proactively built relationships with bloggers, journalists and prospective clients. We started building up advocates, which in time turned into our hugely successful and active VIP community.
There’s no turning back. It started as an idea and before we knew it, it had become a company! Every week there will be several new problems you will have to face. Every week you’ve got to be prepared to keep finding a way through and solving whatever issues come up. This doesn’t mean you’re doing things wrong, that’s just what it takes to build a company.
Building direct relationships with people. It’s very rare not to learn something from every new person you meet.
Printing 1,000 times too many business cards / flyers for our first visit to the big industry show Mobile World Congress – filled a suitcase and then used less than 5% of them!