A Slice on Dave Carruthers, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Voxpopme
Didn’t attend university? No problem. Dave Carruthers left school at the age of 16 and began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 21 in the United Kingdom. Going through quite a rollercoaster of ups and downs along the way, Carruthers has started multiple companies since then and now calls Utah home. His most recent venture is Voxpopme, which he started in the UK and has since expanded into the U.S. To date, the company has 70 employees split between the UK and U.S. and has raised $23 million, with expectations to raise a series B round in early 2022.
After leaving school as a teenager, Carruthers taught himself all kinds of skills, he latched onto programming and started his own business building websites for people (pre-WordPress). The largest project he was tasked with was a business directory (think Yelp) for WFH mothers managing children while also earning an income. The business took off, becoming the “fastest-growing franchise in UK history”. After a few years with that business, Carruthers had an opportunity with a friend in the online real estate market, creating a website with a portfolio of properties for people to invest in. Then the economic crash of 2007 and 2008 hit and his business partner dipped and fled to Dubai, leaving Carruthers with nothing.
While this may have discouraged someone else, Carruthers continued to think about what he could do next. He knew he was good at helping early-stage companies go to market, develop their tech and fundraise. From this, he started a digital agency that also acted as an incubator. While he really enjoyed the entrepreneurial side of the business, Carruthers knew he wanted to do something else with his time. The idea for Voxpopme came while he was attending an event in which someone was talking about a social impact startup they were creating. People could record and post videos critiquing socially irresponsible things brands were doing. A light bulb went off in Carruthers’ head. He saw a huge business opportunity in brands being able to hear directly from consumers in a video format.
Calling upon the CTO of his agency, Andy Barraclough, the two created Voxpopme, a platform allowing brands to gain insights from their customers through video surveys. “The key problem we solve is that so many companies are disconnected from their customers and don’t really understand what they want or what they need.” Carruthers notes that adding the video element gives the consumer more of a voice, beyond being just a data point from a typical survey. At this point, many people are accustomed to recording videos, whether it be through Zoom, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. so market adoption hasn’t been a big hurdle for Voxpopme. “There’s something about video that brings out the natural storyteller in people.” Behind the scenes, Voxpopme is able to generate valuable insights from these video surveys for brands.
Looking to expand, Carruthers had always been interested in traveling across the pond to the U.S. They were able to sign a partnership with a Utah-based company, so Carruthers decided to pack up and see what Utah was about. He noticed quickly that the U.S. was more startup-friendly, with greater access to capital and bigger funding rounds. So, despite pushback from existing investors in the UK, Carruthers planted roots in Utah and began expanding on the company’s U.S. operations. Within almost six months, the U.S. became 70% of Voxpopme’s revenue.
Over the course of his whirlwind of a journey, Carruthers has gained many insights about entrepreneurship. While mentoring other startups during his agency years, Carruthers noticed that “too many people expect overnight success, they haven’t got that grit, that determination, that ability to constantly adapt and overcome, pivot and try new things.” He also noted how founders decide to split up the company can be very critical, especially when some aren’t as committed in the long run as others. On a similar note, he recommends founders to stay away from paid fundraising opportunities, as it may send the wrong signal to potential investors.
Business aside, Carruthers recognizes that it’s all a journey. “There are days where everything feels like it’s falling apart and days where you feel on top of the world. Don’t get too high on the highs and don’t get too low on the lows, consistency of execution is critical. So, whilst it can sometimes be a lonely journey, surround yourself with good mentors and other founders. There are plenty of people who’ve been through what you’re going through at every stage. There’s always someone who’s been there before, you are not the first, and you won’t be the last.”
He also recommends not being too hard on yourself as a founder and acknowledging the milestones you’ve hit. “You only ever hear about the top 1%, the absolute rocket ships, and you kind of judge yourself based on that. Whereas, when you actually take a step back, and you’re going up a mountain and you look back and you’re like ‘Oh look how far we’ve actually come.’ You don’t really realize when you’re on the journey. I’d say take a step back sometimes.”
Carruthers has lofty goals for the future of Voxpopme and for himself. He sees the business continuing to grow and reach higher ARR metrics, while also helping his employees grow with the company. Carruthers describes himself as a very competitive person and takes every challenge as motivation.
Dave Carruthers is a seriel entrepreneur from the UK, with ventures including One Result and StaySafe. Currently, Carruthers is the Founder and CEO of Voxpopme and now resides in Utah. Connect with Carruthers on LinkedIn.