In this interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Chris Hart, the co-founder of Zerofy.io, alongside Ben Peacock. Chris shares the remarkable journey that led to the creation of Zerofy.io in 2022, from his beginnings in the UK to his pivotal roles at Tidal and beyond. He provides insights into the challenges they faced as first-time founders, the unique value Zerofy.io offers in the sustainability space, and invaluable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Join us in exploring this insightful conversation with Chris as he discusses their journey and the exciting milestones achieved by Zerofy.io in the past year.
1. Could you share a bit about your personal journey and how it led you to launch Zerofy.io?
Originally, I am from the UK, but I moved out to Norway ten years ago having lived and worked in London after finishing university. Life has been a bit of an unexpected adventure when it comes to my career and the journey that led to starting Zerofy in 2022.
I will take you back to 2015 and I would say my career and life were progressing well with a bit more work-life balance than you find in London. I had gotten my first big career breakthrough and was CFO for a Norwegian music streaming service, Tidal. We were competing in a small way against Spotify and growing nicely. Then we got a call that Jay-Z was interested in buying the company. Several months of due diligence and negotiations later I was sat with a couple of colleagues in New York, in a very surreal moment watching our new owners Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Chris Martin, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kanye West and Madonna, all on stage declaring how they were going to change the music industry with the company we had built. An amazing journey to go on as a company and personally, but it was time for me to move on and leave the celebrities to their work.
After Tidal I spent several years working in a B to B software company and got another great break in my career, leading the product and operational teams in the company. I think it was really within this time of looking at problems faced by our clients and solving them with software solutions that I really decided I wanted to do something on my own.
Together with my other co-founders, we had seen big challenges for SME companies within the area of sustainability and environmental issues. From first-hand experience, I found it difficult to know what you should be doing as a company, who to trust to help you, and how to get value from investing time and money in this area. This was really the start of our work in developing the Zerofy platform to solve these specific challenges and working with several leading UK SMEs to make sure we solved the real problems faced by companies.
2. What challenges did you face when setting up and creating Zerofy.io?
As first-time founders and entrepreneurs, you do meet a lot of new challenges that even as an experienced executive you haven’t come across before. At the very start, you really don´t have many resources to help you and rely a lot on your own professional network, any sources of finance you can get, especially grants, and most importantly you must rely on and trust your co-founders and yourself.
I think the biggest challenge has been that from 2022 until now the investor sentiment has been a lot more risk-averse compared to say 3 to 5 years back. What that means for a new company like Zerofy.io is you must prove a lot more than you would have done to get investment at that it takes longer than probably we had initially anticipated to get the resources you need. What we have had though is great collaboration with our first clients in building out the platform and getting something in place that really adds value to their business.
3. What sets Zerofy.io apart from competitors in the same space?
We did a lot of work looking at competitors as part of how we scoped out what value the Zerofy.io product should bring to our clients. What you see in our space is a lot of consultants who charge large amounts for ad-hoc analysis and strategic plans around sustainability and then software solutions typically built to support companies produce Carbon Accounting, a way to quantify the impact your business has on the environment.
What we did at Zerofy.io is really look at how to make a platform for SMEs that gives them a good profile of their business environmental footprint, and provides tailored action plans, local partners and tools to implement and track actions they put in place. Very importantly make sure that all staff are on the journey and value is created towards staff, clients and other stakeholders against actions taken.
I think in essence what sets Zerofy apart, we are a platform built only for SMEs and are all about taking corrective action, getting value from your investing, and improving your environmental credentials.
- Stay ahead of regulation
- Attract talent and keep happy, proud staff
- Increase company reputation and brand.
- Investors are increasingly demanding this
4. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering starting their own businesses?
Looking back on all of the experiences we have gained after our first 12 months, I am sure there are things we would do differently but also some steps that we deliberately took to try and make sure we had the best chance of success.
If you are thinking of a new product like we did with Zerofy you have to be very pragmatic and analytical about concluding on if it is really solving a problem that exists and are you capable of solving it. I would really advise to spend a lot of time considering the following and doing a lot of research:
- You must do your best to understand the product-market fit for your product. Is there really a demand for the product you are looking to produce? How big is that demand? How do you reach your potential customers? Who are the buyers and Users of your product?
- Always check out the competition. I think besides speaking to potential customers then competition is the best source of information about what demands there are for your product and how you are different in a way that your value proposition stands out to clients.
- It is vitally important to get some pilot clients who have the problem you identified to work with you on developing your solution. They will be a crucial sounding board and the most likely first paying clients to give you that first springboard.
5. Describe a particularly memorable moment or milestone in Zerofy.io’s journey so far.
We have had some great milestones over the last 12 months, and this really accumulated into the product launch of the Zerofy platform in July and following that we got some great PR with one of our first Commercial clients, Bristol based-based, Creative UK.