Chris Kennedy, co-founder of Trustev on the importance of focus, his hatred of meetings and the joy of winning a customer.
Chris Kennedy is CTO and co-founder of Trustev, one of Ireland’s great digital success stories. In a few short years, Trustev has built itself into a global powerhouse in the field of identity verification and fraud management. It was acquired in December 2015 by Chicago-based Transunion for a reported $43 million dollars.
What’s in a name?
One of the fundamental philosophies my co-founder Pat Phelan and I wanted to run throughout our company was trust. For years, fraud prevention providers treated everyone as guilty until proven innocent. We wanted to change this and take a new approach – by putting trust to the forefront of our business we knew we were going to drastically change how companies viewed fraud. Our primary aim was not to block fraud, but to make it easier for the ‘good’ customers to transact – a quick search of available domains with the word trust in it, and Trustev was born.
“Meetings are a black hole for productivity unless managed correctly.”
Learn to stay focused
Do one thing, and do it exceptionally well. As a startup, it is too easy to try and be all things to all men in the hunt for revenue, and lose sight of your vision. We learned to stay focused on our core offering and deliver an exceptional product rather try to meet the needs of everyone who came knocking on our door.
“You have to know when to say goodbye to a bad customer.”
I hate meetings
Meetings. They are a black hole for productivity unless managed correctly. We try to operate as lean as possible, and that means meetings are kept to a minimum, and when they do need to happen, they must have a clear agenda and a clear objective.
When breakups are good
You have to know when to say goodbye to a bad customer – and yes, there is such a thing. Unreasonable customers eat away at your finite resources, and you need to know it is ok to ‘break up’ with a bad customer. As a startup, it sounds counterproductive to want to lose revenue in this manner, but often the bandwidth you free up by saying goodbye to the wrong customer allows you to spend more time and effort acquiring new customers or growing other accounts.
I’ll always remember …
Our first customer – you always remember that. It’s the moment when you move from being a concept, vision or a dream, to a business with real customers and real revenue. Of course, we have had many significant achievements since, but signing that first customer is when you officially announce yourself to the world.
“Aside from the cash injection, the most important things we got from our investors were introductions.”
What’s an average day?
Nearly five years on and I still have never had an average day. While we were getting Trustev established as a major player in fraud prevention, I could find myself coding new features one day, on ten conference calls the next, meeting investors the following day, and then travelling to meet customers for the next week. That’s the great thing about a startup, the variety – and while I might have more routine now than I did a few years ago, I still find that variety in my daily life.
Most of our marketing is focused around targeted online ads – we know who our competitors are, we know our target market, and that makes it very easy for us to concentrate our efforts.
“Another thing we did very well was to get feet on the ground in the U.S. Investors gained confidence from our commitment to move where our customers were.”
We were very lucky to get support locally at the start, and also at an early stage from Enterprise Ireland. When looking for funding, we took a look at our target market and tried to identify investors who could not just invest money in us, but also time and resources. Aside from the cash injection, one of the most important things we got from our investors were introductions – there is nothing like a warm introduction to help establish a great relationship with a potential client. Another thing we did very well was to get feet on the ground in the U.S. Investors gained confidence from our commitment to move where our customers were, which helped them look past the fact that our headquarters was on another continent.
If I wasn’t doing this?
I’m an avid golfer – if you can call golfing a job, then I would be doing that.