Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network. This time, we're chatting to George Hintzen, founder of TOAD. Get to know him better below...
How would you sum up the concept behind your business?
TOAD.ai – The Outdoor Advertising Directory – is a hybrid self-serve platform and agency that helps businesses quickly and effectively book outdoor advertising campaigns.
We’ve consolidated the UK’s advertising signage and layered it with audience data to effectively reach audiences on the go.
What were you doing before you set it up?
I’m a qualified architect and was working on major development sites in London, such as the Battersea Power Station refurb and the Gas Holder Triplets in King’s Cross, with top UK firms Zaha Hadid Architects, Heatherwick Studio, and Wilkinson Eyre.
Before that I worked as a facade specialist, resolving complex geometries, unconventional construction systems and integrated lighting with firms like Newtecnic and realities:united. All really pushed the boundaries of engineering and building technology.
When did you realise that you wanted to run your own business, and what led to you achieving it?
I've always been interested in business, and the idea of bringing exciting new concepts and ways of working to life. It's certainly a risky decision to start a venture and to stick your head out. Employment has a lot of benefits, like steady income, accountability, processes, team and resources that make things a lot easier than starting from scratch, and having to build up a team, reputation and clients all over again.
How did you find the process of launching the business?
Looking back, we'd be able to quickly line up a good range of suppliers, but at the time we pieced things together step by step. We found a free co-work space in the center of London, incorporated the company, found an accountant, lawyer, insurance broker and put some basic business administration in place. These were mainly recommendations from the people around us.
What's the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
Dealing with a lot of things at once, and always being unprepared as you progress to the next level.
How can small businesses promote themselves effectively?
Social media can be free, but you need to pay if you want serious reach.
Some channels throttle your posts to only 2% of your followers – e.g. if you have 100 followers, only 2 of them will receive your post on their feed – unless you pay to boost it.
Focus on the audiences that are exposed to channels – for example, business audiences use Linkedin; so if you’re B2B, post on there and get your followers up.
If you have an interesting story, write it up and send it to relevant journalists at online channels for Metro, City A.M. etc. You’ll get much bigger audiences on these platforms.
And outdoor advertising is obviously great, and much cheaper than a lot of people initially think!
What’s the most important piece of legal advice you’ve ever needed?
Aspects of corporate law can get fairly overwhelming. Things like founder agreements, shareholder resolutions, term sheets, articles etc. all fit together, but very few people or resources tell you how or when they are relevant, and that took some time.
What’s the one legal document you wish you’d had when you were starting out?
No single document, but simply a diagram demonstrating the various documents and how they all fit together.
What’s the next piece of legal advice you predict you’ll need?
Fundraising documentation, e.g. term sheets and shareholder agreements, etc.
Finally, what's your top tip for first-time founders and budding entrepreneurs?
Understand your strengths and skills, and only start a venture in a market that you understand intimately well. This is both because investors will demand it, and you don’t have time to figure things out. You need to hit the ground running.
Also make sure the market is sufficiently massive, and observe investor paradigms, e.g. these days Autonomous Vehicles, Renewables, AI, Space etc. seem to be very interesting to investors, and you need these people on board.
And if you found this startup story inspiring, check out the rest of the Farillio blog to discover more!