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"I didn't seek to be CEO, I just grew the business"
Ian's Story, Part 4/4
(4/4) “I bootstrapped Exapik with $10,000 on my credit card. I tapped everyone I knew: who has data, who wants data, what problems are they trying to solve? I did the Tim Ferriss thing and hired a team all over the world, in the Philippines and Eastern Europe. Our first server was $2.33/month, paid quarterly, and we ran a billion data points a month on it.
Back then, there was a focus on footfall data. Knowing how many people walked into a certain restaurant, store, or point of interest could be predictive of its popularity. For instance, we could observe whether a negative news item impacted traffic to a retailer. Everyone valued this insight: the merchant, the distributors, the suppliers, and the industry analysts.
I started out consulting, helping companies unlock the value of their data. That’s how I met the science team of Plurilock. They had a biometric behavioural data algorithm – a way of identifying a computer user by their typing style - and they were seeking applications. I looked at e-commerce fraud prevention and internal security and compliance. Ultimately, the most promising one was using the algorithm as a method of authentication.
We had to overcome a ton of hurdles in taking academic research and turning it into a product, which didn’t work the first time. No product survives first contact with the customer. We took those learnings, put them back into the product, and kept going.
As I kept pointing out what had to happen to grow the business, I was rewarded with more responsibility. I went from consultant to Director of Business Development to Chief Executive Officer. I wasn’t looking for the CEO gig. I just saw tremendous opportunity for the company, and I didn’t want to squander it, so I kept making suggestions.
The day Plurilock went public, nothing fundamentally changed. I woke up and still felt the same. I would roll into meetings in a hoodie. It drove the investment bankers crazy! That’s the difference between a tech startup and Bay Street*. But my identity isn’t wrapped up in it - I try not to let the change in role impact me personally.”
*Bay Street is Canada’s Wall Street
In the same way that he got his original role at Terapeak - by demonstrating what he could do - Ian got the CEO role at Plurilock by articulating a vision for where the company should go. He has grown it from startup to $65 million in revenue in 2022.
What do you think comes first - the title or the role? Do you need to get the title to do the work, or do you do the work to get the title?