Matt Fairhurst has built a powerful business on deskless workforce technology. One which has proven global demand, and has attracted tens of millions of dollars in capital. The venture, Skedulo has acquired funding from top-tier investors like Costanoa Ventures, Blackbird, Softbank, and Microsoft’s venture firm M12.
In this episode, you will learn:
How investor expectations change by round
How to think about hiring and building out your team
Matt Fairhurst’s top advice when launching a business
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About Matt Fairhurst:
Matt Fairhurst is the co-founder and CEO of Skedulo, a leading mobile workforce management platform. Matt’s background is in user experience and user interface design, and, from this, he has a passion for building great products. He spends his time working between the global headquarters in San Francisco and the engineering/product development headquarters in Brisbane, Australia.
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Alejandro: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So super exciting the guest that we have today. We’re gonna be talking about building scaling financing. You know, figuring out your way through the venture world without having any clue of what’s going on in the space. But you know definitely he’s built something really meaningful. So I think that. Let’s welcome our guests today I think you’re gonna really be inspired with his journey. So without Fartherdo Matt Fairhurst: Fairhurst welcome to the dealmaker show.
Matt Fairhurst: Alejandro thanks for having me I really appreciate it. Nice to be here.
Alejandro: So give us a little of a walkthrough memory lane I was growing up in a rural town there in in Australia.
Matt Fairhurst: I loved it. You know it was a great childhood I was very lucky. My dad worked in the mining industry in Australia and I grew up in a town called Kingaroy which is about 3 hours northwest of Brisbane which is where I spend part of my time. Ah, now and but it was ah it was a great place to grow up lots of experiences on farms and and and growing up with many of the friends that I still have today. Um, you know moving to Brisbane in ah, 2002 or 2003 to study a university. Um, you know, many of my friends and family moved there with me so it was a great experience. A great time and I loved it.
Alejandro: And how did you get into the whole music thing because music has been a really big part of your life, especially growing up.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah, it has I you know I’ve never been particularly academic or applied academically and a lot of my friends when I was at high school played music much better than I did but. You know I really wanted to fit in and be part of that. So I learned to play the drums and a couple of other instruments in high school and ah fell in love with playing music and playing in bands and getting together with my friends and other people just to ah, learn and play music. Um. In fact, after I graduated from high school that’s all I wanted to do a lot of my friends and and the the band that we’d started together moved to with me to Brisbane that grew into a band that was touring around Australia and playing lots of live shows and you know I think when I look back actually. Being in a band and starting a band that starts to do anything beyond just kind of rehearsing and playing in ah in a bedroom or a garage actually feels and looks similar to starting as a tech startup. You know you’re. You’re often very close personally and you’re being very creative together trying to build something that ultimately people will like ah you know I think after ah, you know None or seven years of working and and playing in bands and and struggling my way through university trying to ah. Pour all of my money and attention into playing music. You know is a wonderful experience. But it definitely I think set me up emotionally for the you know ups and downs of of starting a tech company but all the joy of the early years kind of building something together with your friends you know is very powerful.
Alejandro: And what what were what was your role in in the band. What what were you? typically you know doing there.
Matt Fairhurst: Ah, for me. I was I was a drummer in the band. But also I’d say probably the most technology focused on how we recorded the websites that we had to build ah I taught myself design through that period as well. You know when you’re. I was in a band in the early two thousand s I still think of it as like 1 of the worst times to be in a band where ah, you know, not many people were buying music. A lot of people were downloading it but there was no spotify at the time. So the only real way at the time sort of online to get yourself out there as a band was. Myspace which probably ages me a little bit but I’m sure we remember that together but to have a good myspace presence meant you had to have a great design and that’s why I really fell in love with graphic design visual design and everything that surrounded that and that was you know a big role that I played playing in the band. I think in you know I probably took on a little bit of the management. Um ah needs as well trying to book shows and work with management work with clubs or any anything any sort of other commercial relationship. We had I was very interested and excited by that so it was probably the early stages of entrepreneurship and. Enthusiasm for business as well. That came about from playing in bands.
Alejandro: And then after this obviously you enter the the job market. You did a little of um of employment there in manufacturing companies in music. But then you know basically you started your kind of like what got you into the into the path that you’re in now was the None job doing marketing at a. And a company that was doing marketing consulting but you were not a big fan of that. Why was that the case.
Matt Fairhurst: No, you know I think I from this self-taught path of design and graphic design and my degree in marketing a university um, you know I was building websites and a lot of visual marketing for companies sort of. Or or related to the music industry which I really loved but I was offered this job in None of the None salesforce consulting companies in Australia to do marketing for that company and I I said yes and it was it was a brand new opportunity for me I think comparing it to what I’d just been doing which was an industry I really was passionate about which was a. You know space that I’m obviously very passionate about to you know, ah consulting and salesforce consulting ah wasn’t ah the the best most motivating and most enthusiastic chapter of my career and. You know I probably questioned whether technology and tech was right for me based on on that initial move fortunately though the founder of that company wanted to build product as well as you know building a great consulting practice and you know I sort of stuck my hand up along with one of the engineers there and we built a product that. He had in mind and I applied so much of that design. Ah capability and and design skill that I developed over the kind of decade before that to product in the enterprise and and you know business applications user experience. Design user interaction design and. I really fell in love with product management at that stage and that was definitely ah what I’d say saved me in that period not to not to move on but to really stick it out and and better understand enterprise technology and and product management.
Alejandro: And in this case that company the the one that was doing the marketing and consulting. They ended up getting acquired and you didn’t want to go there so the founder actually financed. Your guys is an initiative and that ended up really transitioning into what we know now you know as scheduler. So. So give us a walkthrough. How did that happen. What was that pivot thing. You know that that needed to happen along the way to really you know see the company that we know today.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah I mean it was a great journey. Yeah, that company did get acquired about a year in and for the next eighteen months to None ars James and I after sort of saying we weren’t going to be part of the acquisition. Um. And and the the founder of that None company investing in James and myself to continue on with the product that we built. Um, you know it wasn’t a product that was terribly successful but that two-year period helped us kind of build a company of about 20 people around it. But most importantly, we. You know I personally and with James got to talk to so many different companies in Australia here in the United States at the time and if you cast your mind back that was sort of between 20112013 this was a time when. Ah, mobile devices like the Iphone had been around for six or seven years but were really only starting to reach their potential in business. So many employees had them in the palm of their hands. Some companies were buying them to provide to their employees. Um, but. Basically everyone had one and these phones and mobile devices were reaching a point where they were highly capable. You could build really compelling powerful applications on top of them some of which were starting to really solve pretty challenging needs within the enterprise and within companies and that was the thing that. So many people that I talked to in that chapter wanted to talk about. They weren’t particularly interested in the product that we’re building and the problems we were solving in that first company or the none iteration of their company and they all wanted to talk about this problem. Part of the reason was that when you look at the challenges of organizing and scheduling work and managing people and time and place and so many of the problems fundamentally that scheduler now addresses there really wasn’t a platform at the time that focused on those needs they had platforms for. In the cloud for for Crm for finance for ah hr and hr systems. Yeah, Erp like you name it. There was almost every pillar within their organization was being addressed fundamentally by. New platforms in the cloud or emerging platforms in the cloud except this big area of their business which turns out to be huge. You know for a lot of these companies where they don’t have a workforce that sits in an office or behind a desk. This is a fundamental part of how they deliver services how they make money and their value proposition and business model.
Matt Fairhurst: And you know, incredibly antiquated at the time if not paper and whiteboards and spreadsheets then you know pretty clunky very industrialized technology that you know I’ve got excited about ah helping them solve and I I remember. Ah, creating ah a photoshop mock-up of what scheduler would ultimately you know start to look like as a product and putting that in front of 4 very different companies. One was a traffic management company with none people managing traffic controllers in the field another one ah was an in-home. Ah, nursing or care company. Ah, another one was a hot water installation company and the last one was a solar installation and sales company. So all very different but all shared these same fundamental challenges and all 4 of them agreed to become a customer if we could build it and that was our None Hundred thousand dollars of recurring revenue that we booked and 2 of those companies are still customers with us today but it was really that ah recognition and that moment that I think told both James and I that this was a problem worth solving. You know if there were 4 companies that were prepared to. Back us and trust trust us as as founders and builders of product to go and solve this problem just offer design then you know we we knew that we had something truly special and if we built it. We could build a great company around it and it was a hell of a lot more exciting than what we’re being doing so we we pivoted the company back down to 3 people. In a garage and the rest is history to a certain extent.
Alejandro: And in this case I mean for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of schedule How how do you guys make money.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah I think like many enterprise business to Businesss Saas companies. This is a a per user per month. Ah licensing model the companies and the customers that we serve typically pay us an annual license fee on a recurring basis in you know. Usually a multi-year contract on Contract structure. There’s a a small portion of our revenue as Well. That’s ah driven from our professional services and implementation and support teams. These are often very complex very operational challenges that we’re helping companies solve so applying our software or our. Platform and technology to their business models and the vary propositions that they’re trying to expand and enhance usually takes an implementation implementation or professional services cycle that we or our partners will typically deliver so they’re they’re the two you know. Most dominant revenue streams for us as a company.
Alejandro: And for you guys obviously getting into the whole Vc you know venture venture world you know was not easy because you know it was kind of like the unknown and back then in Australia it was like very green. You know there was not like a lot of venture capital firms or stuff like that. So. We’re talking about 2013 for the people that are listening so how did you guys you know, really get educated. How did you navigate? you know that that process and how did you end up, you know raising you know the money because up until now how much capital have you guys raised to they that.
Matt Fairhurst: I think up until we raised our none round of venture capital. We probably raised about 250 maybe $300000 from what was largely family friends and and through the support of you know the original founder of the the company that James and I worked with. And incredibly grateful for those contributions you know people that had backed us with a lot of risk in the early days you know just so grateful for their support and financial support in those early years but I really had no idea what venture capital was how how it worked how it. Ah, could be structured and Australia as you mentioned I’d say back then was certainly in the early days of what is now a really thriving and growing rapidly ecosystem of of great venture capital partners and companies. Um. Had a friend actually who had just sold or a guy that I knew reasonably well in Sydney and he just sold his company and we went I had coffee with him in Sydney and said look if we don’t raise more money pretty quickly I think we’re going to run out of money I think I would probably had that conversation thinking that he’d be able to. Ah, invest given that he’d just had an exit of his own and wasn’t particularly interested in that which is fine but he introduced me to nikki skvak who was one of the founding partners of Blackbird along with ah Rick over there and that introduction was great. Nikki agreed to the meeting in the meantime I I sort of googled Blackbird and looked at their thesis which was very oriented around some of the um around some fundamentals that were perhaps not ultra aligned with what scheduler was doing I think they were ah very invested and focused on. Ah, high velocity sales motions and go-to-market motions it bottoms up growth model or product- led growth. Um, ah and and you know scheduler has always been and more of an enterprise human sale connected to. Ah, selling to the organizational buyer or leadership within a company and the technology is adopted then by you know the workforce at large and so that was a sales model and a go-to-market model I was very familiar with having partnered with salesforce for so long as an example and I emailed nikki and said look um. You know I don’t know that we’re truly matched with some of the elements of this thesis if you want your time back I’m happy to you know not have coffee and it was I nearly blew it I can’t believe that you know the future of the company really rested on this one moment and to nikki’s credit and to his Grace. Ah.
Matt Fairhurst: You know he said no still love to catch up’ love to hear his story and I had coffee with nikki and told him about some of our early customers and some of the customers that we were working with at that time and you know I think like I did nikki also fell in love with the potential of what we were building with these stories of very. Ah, you know ethereal and hard problems to solve within these organizations and just how ah much of an opportunity existed if we could really nail this and I’m I’m very grateful for the fact that he he took that meeting despite my attempt at not having it. So. That was my very early introduction to venture capital and and I’d say a steep learning curve at that point and again very grateful for nikki and the and the team at blackbird to sort of educate James and I very quickly on on what it meant and ah, how to then. Build a great sort of venture backed company. We’ve raised just over a hundred and forty million of capital um us over over time.
Alejandro: And how much capital have you guys raised today. Matt Fairhurst:.
Alejandro: And how would you say that the financing cycles have changed you know from going from C to series a you know and and so forth how how has the expectations shifted and and how have you guys you know encounter that journey.
Matt Fairhurst: Of if. Yeah I think there was probably None big themes that have happened over time as we’ve raised money for the company through venture capital I’d say at the start like like many seed rounds and very early stage rounds so much of those investment decisions were made. Um. You know, very speculatively on on the ability of James and myself and the idea the vision of what we could build if we were appropriately capitalized and the very early milestones of None customers or hitting $1000000 in revenue. For example, you know these were. I think I think yeah so many of those early investments were made primarily on on the basis of trusting that James and I could do what we said we could do and and and that the idea was worth investing in. Um I think as time got on certainly perhaps passed our. Series a into more series b and definitely in series c the ah conversations are far more quantitative and analytical. You know how are we performing as a business What’s the efficiency and the level of of yield from investment that you know an investor can expect. I think still investing largely on the opportunity of the category that we’re creating. You know this? Ah, you know fairly disruptive category of deskless workforce technology and productivity technology ah is incredibly compelling. Ah, but I think you know as time goes on and you have more runs on the board more revenue and more predictability behind the business model that becomes a fundamental part of your story as well. You know the the efficiency and and yield of the organization complements. What is still. Today and and will always be and an amazing opportunity and amazing story behind deciless productivity in desus work.
Alejandro: Now in your guys’ case the um, you know as they say you gotta always adjust yourself to the market and you guys did a slight pivot in Covid during the Covid time. So what was that.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah I mean it’s certainly ah, an interesting chapter over the last two years for so many reasons as as many companies have gone through. Um you know scheduler has something we call schedule o heart and it really defines our culture as a company and that goes beyond just values that we. Publish on our website or or you know write internally and and talk about from time to time and and it goes far broader than that and far deeper. Not not just how we exemplify those values but how we think about our impact as a company and impact on it as a team on each other and all of our stakeholders. Communities that we work in the partners that we work with and ultimately over time how we contribute to the sustainability of the planet as a company I believe companies are truly opportunities to create platforms for change and impact. And you know that’s a big part of how we think about our culture here at scheduler you know when when the pandemic started I think our culture forced us to think about our values and our impact and say who are the customers or the organizations we’re talking to that are really at the frontline of this right now. Who ah, who are going through the most significant challenges in this chapter and there was an organization called bioreference labs in New York that had been contracted by a number of really significant governments and government bodies in the United States to to stand up testing locations. In those early days of covid and here in the us I’m sure you would remember it was fairly chaotic trying to organize to get tested. They were testing in in fire departments and gas stations and hospitals. You know all the way up to stadiums and some of the largest infrastructure. In cities just to try and get as many people tests as they could and of course without kind of scheduling and logistics and and organization this was becoming pretty challenging. You know I picked up the phone and talked to the leadership there and they said look we’re solving an incredibly important problem but there’s traffic jams all up. Ah, you know in in the street and this is actually creating quite an unsafe working environment despite the problem we’re trying to solve now and so we said look I think so many of the fundamentals of this problem scheduling and organizing people and the capacity of their productivity in ah in a testing location. The inventory of tests and ultimately the the booking experience or the appointment experience for members of the public. These are all problems. We’ve solved before we know our platform can scale and so give me two weeks I’ll go and work with my team and come back with a proof of concept and if that works you can use it for free because it’s important for us to just help right now.
Matt Fairhurst: And we did that and they did use it and a few months later I think it reached a scale where we couldn’t proceed ah without losing a lot of money and you know I think they also wanted to make sure that it was contractually stable and the partnership that we built very very rapidly together. I think it was a great example of how our platform can be applied to so many different problems but also how the culture of a company can be applied to a problem. We help that organization and others facilitate tests for you know six or nine months and inevitably saw the opportunity that was looming with vaccine administration at scale. Um, so we sort of morphed what we built there on our platform to also accommodate vaccine administration and since then over the last eighteen months we’ve worked with you know, federal and and national governments like New Zealand ah for example, state governments like Ontario California Ohio ah, and and many others. Yeah throughout the United States and at home in Australia and parts of Asia Pacific and and have helped those governments schedule and organize about None vaccine appointments. So an incredible. Example of the power of kind of platform and product. But also I think such a wonderful example of how a team can really pivot into problems very quickly when you’re you’re well aligned and you really think about the impact that you have as a company.
Alejandro: And in terms of scope and size for the folks that are listening to get on a good understanding here. How big is scheduled today I mean anything that you can share around maybe like numbers of employees or or anything else that you’re comfortable.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah, no, certainly ah public information. So scheduler I think just just tipped over None employees all over the world. We have about 150 here in the United States ah quite a big team in Vietnam in ho chi min city about None people there. Ah, 3040 in Australia and the rest in the united kingdom so highly distributed globally but team overall of just none people.
Alejandro: And at what point do you guys leave Australia and and also how do you guys go about expansion and going into other geographies geographies.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah I mean we’ve never left Australia as a company. It’s still the center of a lot of our product development and and research as well as a really impactful. Go-to-market team as we service that region and that market. Um. I split my time between here and Australia roughly but ah selling outside of the us I was sorry outside of Australia and and focusing a lot of our attention on the us started really from day one I would say we’ve always been kind of global from day None in our mentality and our. A go-to-market approach. This is a global problem that we’re solving not None that’s limited to any None particular geo or another and so you know some of our earliest customers I’d say in the first ten customers at least None or 3 of those were companies here in the United States um I personally relocated at least half of my time here to the united to the us around none early 2016 and it’s where I spend about half my time personally today.
Alejandro: And now imagine Matt Fairhurst: that you were going to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of scheduler is fully realized what does that world look like.
Matt Fairhurst: Well I think I see this vision and this mission as endless and somewhat infinite but you know if if I was to think about success both personally and as a company you know we’re truly creating a a new category. Um, at at schedule o I spoke earlier about these kind of big pillars of cloud and enterprise saas that were already in place in so many of the companies that we’ve served but this huge gap in operational productivity and mobility for the dessis workforce. You know that is a category that is new. And one that we are still creating today. Um, you know? So if we can fast forward and ah, you know, look ahead in in the future I think success does look like our ability to have created that category for any. Individual within any business that’s thinking about the productivity and mobility and scheduling challenges of people that don’t sit in an office and don’t sit behind a desk that scheduler is the de facto and and default company that they would think of as we’ve created this category and really helped define. What wonderful productivity and engagement can look like for this segment of the workforce which is the biggest segment that exists it’s about 80% of the workforce today doesn’t sit in an office and doesn’t sit behind a desk and that’s ultimately you know this? Ah, this portion of the workforce that we think deeply about every day. For me as well. I’d say that’s only you know that that success of being recognized and you know quantitatively defining this category and serving as many customers as we possibly can is is only one side of the coin as I mentioned before you know we think deeply here about our culture and schedule at heart. And the impact that we can have and building a great company with a great culture is also part of that story. You know if if every employee in 10 years ‘ time at scheduler whether they’re still with us or not can look back and say this was the the best company and the best chapter of my career the most. Challenging but rewarding problems that we worked on together and the most amazing team that came together around that challenge. You know if if everybody that interacts and works with scheduler can say that 10 years from now then I would be. Most happy and I think ultimately that that serves so much of our vision our mission and our culture here at scheduler.
Alejandro: That’s amazing now. Imagine if I put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time and I gave you the opportunity Matt Fairhurst: of having a chat with your younger self. Maybe that younger Matt Fairhurst: that. You know we’ve seen that marketing and consulting business now venturing into doing you know his own thing. What would be what would be that one piece of advice that you would give to that younger so before launching a company and why given what you know now not.
Matt Fairhurst: Yeah.
Matt Fairhurst: I think maybe there’s None None big things that I would have benefited from telling myself right at the start and I think the first one is to um, you know unashamably think bigger and ah. Don’t be afraid of communicating the magnitude and the scale of the vision and the mission that we have as a company. Um I think that my own personality but but probably a lot of australians as well are a little a little more reserved and I think too reserved in the way that they think big about opportunities in business and um. I would definitely have encouraged myself to always push to think bigger and communicate bigger. Whether it’s through a fundraising cycle whether it’s through you know, hiring great people talking to customers thinking about the mission. The vision of the company. Um, you know I’d say it’s taken a long time to develop those. Muscles of communicating the level of ambition that you know I know we have as a company I know I have as a founder and Ceo so that’s one I would say the none is you know, move faster and accept that um you know, not everybody when they join a company is is. Going to be there at the end and I think I probably had this romantic idea that members of the team would join and and never leave the company. We’d all be on the ah, the same journey Fifteen twenty years later and I think accepting earlier that you know people. Ah, sometimes with businesses for a chapter of time others actually do commit and and and last ah, a long time and they can grow and are tremendously rewarded by staying with the company over a long time. But I think being more decisive and deliberate about hiring great people bringing great people into the company and helping people grow. And mature with their life at scheduler. Um, you know that that I think is ah is so important for the growth of companies as and advice I would have given myself for sure.
Alejandro: I Love it So mad for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Matt Fairhurst: I mean if you don’t have my email address then Linkedin Twitter is also fine I’d say I’m usually as responsive as I can be on those channels so reach out at any time and I do have a link on our website as well. If anyone wants to email me directly. They can on our contact us page I’m open to feedback and and and being connected with so if they want to get in touch. That’s probably they’re they’re probably the the 3 easiest channels.
Alejandro: So amazing. Well hey Matt Fairhurst: thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It has been an honor to have you with us today.
Matt Fairhurst: Ah, thanks Aleandra I Really appreciate it. Lovely meeting you and thanks for the challenging but great questions.
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