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P | P | P – our chat with Tumelo

We caught up with Benjamin King the Tech Founder at Tumelo, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Tumelo enables investment platforms and pension providers to engage investors by giving a transparent view of the companies they own and a shareholder voice on issues they care about.

The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Adam @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself, what your business does, what stage you are at currently and what makes your business and offering unique?

Benjamin King: My name is Ben and I’m one of the Co-founders of Tumelo. I’m the technical one. I started in tech and am still very much in the thick of it. Although my title now says ‘Technical Lead’ which means I am responsible for a few other pieces, software engineering, coding and the delivery of the product is still where I get the most joy.

Our vision at Tumelo is to connect investors to their investments. By using technology, we want to ensure that each and every investor has a voice that matters. A voice we believe is rightfully due by virtue of the fact that they directly, or indirectly, own the shares. We think that by putting a lot of small voices together, we can make one big, powerful voice that can push companies to do better.

Adam @ ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of your business and Service / Product?

Benjamin King: The business originated with Will, Georgia and I at University. Georgia was heavily involved in campaigning to move the university’s endowment towards sustainable and ethical purposes, whilst ensuring the student body had transparency on where the funds were actually going.

The view was very much that it would be hypocritical for someone like a university that’s teaching about climate change to have the majority of its investments in contradicting places. Georgia, Will and I worked on that endowment and other climate change initiatives back then. Georgia and Will also worked for Fund Managers who were in the ESG space, delivering investment products to big institutions.

They noticed that part of the idea behind Tumelo already exists for institutions, but we wanted to make it possible for every investor to have that same level of access and control over their investments. With technology, we’re bringing something that’s been exclusive to these big institutions back to retail investors.

A lot of us are spending more and more of our time thinking about where we spend our money. People have changed their eating habits, their buying habits and their travel habits to align with their beliefs. Why not do the same thing with your money? Bringing that level of transparency and power to the investor is part of our core mission.

Adam @ ADLIB: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips you could share with those businesses faced with the same issues?

Benjamin King: I think that the people side is the hardest. Company culture, work and hiring is incredibly challenging but the value of it should not be underestimated.

The people you surround yourself with will make or break your business. I’m technically minded, I deal with computers and they are fairly straightforward. They behave in fairly predictable ways, but fortunately, we are all so much more complex than that. It’s very hard to get the right culture and people to join you in a start-up with ever-changing ideas and developments, but when you do it is so rewarding, both for the company and for the people working towards the same vision. Seeing people grow and shine that’s truly great.

I think most start-ups face challenges with hiring in their early stages as the company has little credibility at that stage. You’re fairly new and small and you have to find people that believe in both the business idea, but also you as the founders and the ability of the company to stay afloat. They need to trust that money is not going to dry up, but that the business will grow and that they can grow with it. In the early days, there’s also a huge amount of responsibility. If you’re a 5-person team, one person is 20% of that team, that’s a lot of pressure. 20% is huge! So, it’s very important to get it right and so we do spend a lot of time thinking about all these aspects.

It’s also hard because start-ups have a reputation for being a bit mad. You have to be willing to compromise, you can’t have a single focus. You need to jump into many different places and need to be willing to contribute to your best ability. I think that’s something you have to be very honest about in interviews.

The culture is crucial as is making sure you convey that culture to the person that you’re trying to hire. Big brands have defined cultures that as a potential employee you may be familiar with. We don’t have that. People come to us based on a website and a job description, so we need to make up for that gap.

All of this, you have to put time and effort into. We’ve got a culture and values that we try and stick by. We try to include parts of it in our job descriptions and we make it clear that these are the values that we’re going to live and grow by. In the interviews, we encourage people to ask us questions about the way we work.

All of these different parts are crucial for the business and we keep revisiting them too because we change. We came up with our first set when there were six of us and now there are 15 of us. It’s never-ending, but so worth it.

Adam @ ADLIB: Moving to Product, what has been your approach to understanding and implementing product market fit or sales cycles?

Benjamin King: We wanted to create something that we’d want ourselves as end retail customers. That’s where it started.

Then we’ve done the start-up-y thing of testing, iterating and finding product market fit. We’ve turned that into a continuous cycle. We’ve hired brilliant people who test new features every 2 weeks and we continue iterating on them based on feedback. It’s never-ending.

I think we’re also very willing to change the direction. We started off building something quite different. We had the same vision of bringing investors closer to their investments, but in the beginning we were an investment platform and we’ve readjusted because we didn’t see that as being the best way to achieve that vision. We’re willing to change, and our investors were willing to support us wholeheartedly, which is something we are incredibly grateful for.

Adam @ ADLIB: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Service offering with potential?

Benjamin King: In terms of potential and challenges, we were three graduates fresh out of university with the start of an idea and a silly amount of ambition, but no real experience. That’s worked itself into Tumelo’s DNA and culture.

We’ve done some really challenging things. In our first years, we got an FCA license to become financial advisors. We’ve always had belief, and over time, we’ve surrounded ourselves with the right people who guide and propel us. I think that that sheer drive is what got us started and part of what keeps us going.

We’re also doing something that people enjoy, haven’t seen before and is something people care about as well. It’s not just a product that you have to use, it’s something people want to use and are passionate about. That is true of us as Founders. That’s true of our team members and that’s true of our partners and end users as well. That all helps.

Adam @ ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?

Benjamin King: I’m not quite the best person for advice on investment. Georgia & Will have worked that side much more than I have. From what I’ve seen though, having a passionate team and being able to convey that passion is important. Georgia is a great avatar for what we’re trying to do, so having someone like that is a big plus. At the end of the day, I think we also have a product that people can get behind. It’s a lot easier selling something that even the investor can get passionate about and see the good in. When we pitch to investors it’s about making them see that this is not just a money-making opportunity, but also a step in the right direction.

Thank You for sharing!