Transforming the RFx Experience: An Interview With the Founder & CEO of DeepStream.
Discovering DeepStream's ambition to reduce friction in the procurement process via an elegant SaaS solution - and how the ClimateTech sector is a perfect fit.
Our Founder and CEO sat down with the Explorationists for an interview.
DeepStream is changing the way in which businesses communicate with one another from source to award in what they call the RFx process - one which today is often incredibly cumbersome and process driven. If you are not familiar with the term, RFx refers to the critical business to business communication that happens in procuring goods & services which are not “off the shelf” (i.e. business users need to communicate back and forth before being able to contract).
RFx literally stands for “Request For anything”, normally taking the form of an RFP (Request for Proposal), RFI (Request for Information), RFQ (Request for Quote) and RFB (Request for Bid). Currently, all RFx communication between businesses (buyers, suppliers, brokers, etc.) is done via a huge number of email exchanges (with lots of attachments).
This leads to operating inefficiencies (just think of all the admin dealing with thousands of emails between all users in the RFx process), compliance risks, poor governance standards, a lack of transparency and miscommunication. DeepStream resolves this market problem by completely migrating all this RFx communication from emails & attachments by making its agile software (self proclaimed as the fastest and most user-friendly RFx platform ever made) available to every user in the supply chain - bringing auditability, transparency, flexibility and incredibly high user adoption in digitising communication in the supply chain. Over the past 12 months they have seen an impressive user growth of 700% over $2.5 bn (a year over year growth of 257%) worth of transactions have been agreed on the platform - a testament to how well their vision is resonating with real market needs.
So please explore with us how Jack and DeepStream are empowering procurement managers with a powerful yet extremely user friendly (they aim to make it easier to use than emails) SaaS solution.
Explorationists (Es): Jack, thank you for continuing our discussion offline. We wanted to explore a bit further your own motivation, your inspiration, and the mental models that are driving you and your team to beat the incumbents at their own game. We wanted to know:
On Motivations, Success & Failure
(Es): What keeps you awake?
Jack (JA): Fighting the status quo with a smile on my face. I absolutely hate conventional wisdom and the assumption that the way that things are done in the market have some kind of value because that is how they have been done, and even worse - that they cannot be changed. Going toe to toe with incumbents with much higher resources at their disposal and beating them at their own game by being smarter, more creative and more aggressive is something that I find incredibly rewarding. Everyone should be on this planet to deliver value to the market, and be rewarded for it, so when I see static dynamics where inferior value is being delivered and succeeding just because of apathy or resistance to change, I stay awake and try and change it, leaving the business world in a better place than how I found it.
“Perfection is a construct of the imagination that does not exist, so to think that you can achieve it on a day to day basis is lunacy.”
(Es): What’s the meaning of failure to you? Do you love failing?
(JA): I absolutely do not love failing! I hate failing! I like winning! That being said, things not going your way or how you meant them to go (aka failing, I guess) because you have tried different tacks and tried to pave a different path is super important and something we should not be afraid of. Let it happen as much as possible, as long as you learn from it and it is just a bi-product of wanting to win as fast as possible. Perfection is a construct of the imagination that does not exist, so to think that you can achieve it on a day to day basis is lunacy.
(Es): So what’s the meaning of success then? Do you see yourself as successful right now?
(JA): Success is being able to execute on a vision which uses available technology to change the way in which society works in getting business done in a way that effects positive change. In my world right now, that is aiming to reduce transaction costs between businesses driving the majority of global commerce to as close to zero as possible by giving people technology which changes their commercial behaviour. And no, not particularly - whilst we have made very strong progress towards success I am still at the start of the journey.
(Es): What drains you?
(JA): Negativity and when people around me do not believe. Belief in everything, and if you do not believe you are nothing. Change is good, and should be cherished, but a lot of people are risk-averse and see the path of least resistance as the way forward - and consequently when confronted with an idea to do things differently, instead of embracing it, they trash it and hide behind what has been done before. When I am surrounded by too much of this negativity and lack of belief, being a social animal I feel the energy being sucked out of me.
(Es): What are your main obstacles to getting new clients?
(JA): Slow thinking and a big corporate approach to adopting new technology and innovative ways of working. Plus paperwork. I hate paperwork getting in the way of rational business decisions.
On running the business and building a strong team
“It is not me that people need to be inspired by but we all need to be inspired by one another as a team”
(Es): How do you inspire people?
(JA): Get my hands dirty and lead by example (or try to!). Everyone has to know that we are in the same boat striving for the same goals - and importantly that there are no limits to what each of the team can step up and do/take responsibility over. The idea is that everyone feeds off each other and feels happy about contributing in getting things done - it is not me that people need to be inspired by but we all need to be inspired by one another as a team.
(Es): How would you describe your leadership style?
(JA): I am not really sure, I just like creating a fun journey and getting everyone around me to believe in the same journey so we can go on it together. To the extent possible I try and let everyone do whatever they want, as long as it makes sense, and empower all of the team to try and make my own role as redundant as possible.
(Es): How do you delegate then?
(JA): As much as possible. I do not think that anything I do is that hard, and it is all done from first principles rather than pretending that I have some kind of unobtainable knowledge which helps me do what I do (I have very limited knowledge of much!). My main rule of thumb around delegation is to just try and create as fertile ground as possible for each of the team to have the opportunity to deliver how they think best, and be accountable for this, so that over time I do not need to delegate much but everyone steps up themselves organically based on an aligned vision.
(Es): Setting priorities is crucial, how do you balance the needs of the right now vs the long term view with your team?
(JA): In the long run we are all dead, so you need to play what is in front of you and immerse yourself in the here and now… well, for maybe 80-90% of the time. It's good to step back and reflect once in a while and see if the path you have created is in line with the broader vision/trajectory you want. Ideally we do this in an ad hoc way iteratively between team members. Sometimes we do need a bit of structure, e.g. having things like strategic quarterly reviews for each part of the business. These can help force reflection and reassessment, before getting stuck into the here and now again.
(Es): What are your views on meetings? Do you keep them short? Do you schedule them?
(JA): Scheduling meetings seems inevitable - although to be minimised as much as possible. My view is that open, impromptu and iterative unplanned dialogue is the most productive kind. We are social animals and ideas evolve together through exchange of information between individuals, rather than a static absolute truth that we need to prepare for in advance and think a planned meeting will achieve. Plan less, schedule less, talk more, shoot from the hip and execute quickly.
Empowering the ClimateTech leaders
(Es): Now, let’s talk about net zero, decarbonisation and the role of DeepStream in that regard. You mentioned in the podcast that you are working closely with one of the main battery producers in Europe. Why are you chasing the ClimateTech space?
(JA): Having the opportunity to contribute - in however small a way I can - towards something I believe will genuinely make the world better for generations to come is one that I cannot pass up. And it is also good business, as in the gigafactory/ renewable battery/ electric vehicle industry verticals we found some fantastic businesses with analogous visions to ours - they are fast growing, want to change how things are done, look to a better future world and love fresh technology delivering clear results.
Furthermore, they have the luxury of starting from scratch in terms of what technology they adopt for their operations, so are not being held prisoners by legacy "death by a thousand clicks" type software that mature companies often are. And lastly they seem to put a very strong emphasis on a core pillar of our value proposition: that migrating all emails onto a digital RFx platform gives much higher governance (and consequently ESG) standards, because of the transparency and real time auditability of communication flows which it DeepStream provides.
“The demand to "go green" across the board will only accelerate - and the industrial business world has to- by necessity if nothing else - be at the epicentre of this acceleration.”
(Es): Do you see further growth into the Clean/Green/ClimateTech startup scene?
(JA): Absolutely. There is a huge amount of money being put into that sector, and for good reason. With government regulation and individual behavioural change borne from increased education/awareness, the demand to "go green" across the board will only accelerate and the industrial business world has to - by necessity if nothing else - be at the epicentre of this acceleration.
(Es): What are you doing to position DeepStream into that market?
(JA): We actively seek out agile businesses who see not only the value in more efficient automation of RFx communication but also in high governance and transparency standards within procurement. Using the DeepStream software tool our partners are embedding transparency by default in moving from an opaque way of working (i.e. sending high volumes of emails and attachments onto a transparent, auditable and collaborative communication medium. Our back-end technology stack was built specifically around this, using an “event driven” architecture that gives total traceability of every single user action in the RFx process going from source to award. We are also working on some R&D projects around gamifying and incentivising business transparency around GreenTech.
(Es): Thanks Jack (and the DeepStream team), good luck in building the next Unicorn!