Title: CEO & Founder
TruRating was born in early 2013 when Georgina Nelson began to notice how influential online review sites were becoming and the make or break role they were playing for many businesses.
Nelson was concerned that despite best intentions, feedback sites often just didn’t represent the general public’s opinion. If you were looking for horror stories or five-star reviews, there were plenty to pick from, but it was harder to get a sense of what a more typical customer experience might be like.
As Nelson talked to businesses it became clear that they were desperate for a way to get reliable feedback representing how the majority of their customers really felt. From the other side, whenever she asked people they said they’d be more than happy to give their views, they simply wanted a quick and easy way to do so.
Taking all of this into account, she set out to build a point-of-sale ratings system that would be fit for all requirements. Intuitive, fast and capable of delivering real insight for any kind of business, TruRating also allows the customer to have their voice heard with a simple tap from 0-9.
Walk us through your journey from starting out with your career, to coming up with the concept for TruRating and ultimately starting the company.
Georgina Nelson: I started out as a lawyer doing leveraged finance, but that wasn’t exactly a love affair; so I left and I went to Which?, the UK equivalent of Consumer Reports. There I led on advising the EU and our UK government on their tech and digital strategies.
I remember going to a ‘lunch and learn’ with one of the women who had set up a recommendations website for Which?. She outlined the problems they were having: there’s this rule with user-generated content online which is called the 90:9:1% rule. Basically, 90% of people who visit these websites will never write a review: we just read them. Then there’s a small percentage of people – the 9% – who only return to leave feedback when they’re either really happy or really sad about something, which is why you get such a binary selection of reviews. And then there’s the 1% of users who provide 99% of the content – so there’s a real problem of representation.
The other key issue was around validation. How can you make sure that the person leaving the review actually received the service? Is it the merchant themselves? Is it a competitor who’s just moved in down the road? A disgruntled ex-employee? You can never really tell. And not only was there a big problem with consumer trust in these websites, there was also the issue that businesses relied on them to try to find out how they were doing as a business. Businesses on average only hear from 1 in a 1000 of their customers, and mostly it’s complaints that come back days or weeks after the event, so merchants don’t know whether to trust it, and don’t know whether to make any changes in their business off the back of it.
I thought that if we could take away the barriers surrounding feeding back to businesses and make it super quick, simple and easy to do – and then if we paired it with a transaction – we’d be able to ensure that everyone was a validated customer. I also knew that if you ask people about their experience right at the point of payment, it’s 40% more accurate than any data collected after the event. So I had this idea: why don’t we put a question about someone’s experience actually on the payment terminal? Just one question, rotated from a set, before they pay. And that’s what I set out to do.
You raised $12.6 million in Series A funding, how were you sure that you were on the same pages as your investors? What kind of questions did you ask to determine that? What kind of conversations do you have?
Georgina Nelson: : It’s incredibly important to have investors who are aligned with your vision, your approach and your management team. We have always looked for statements like: “Listen, we’re with you for the journey. We buy into your management team. We’ll support you. We are here for you.” I can pick up the phone to any of my investors any time of the day or night and ask for their advice, and they’re really supportive. I think a lot of VCs have the pressure that they’re managing many portfolio companies, and it becomes very formulaic. How much they invest, the valuation and your performance as a company is all managed according to a set formula, and that didn’t really work for us at the stage we were at in the journey. We need people who are pretty chilled out, because of the nature of what we do: providing our technology to payment partners to roll out means we often face delays in getting our product to market.
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
Georgina Nelson: I love the energy and the sense of achievement that we have as a team. What we’re doing is really hard. Our complex technology has to work on so many different platforms and we have to partner with the world’s biggest payment companies to get them to take our technology and provide it to their merchants. But every day we make progress, bash down those barriers – and everyone within TruRating feels we’re on a mission. We know that merchants want the ratings data and we know consumers want a recommendations website they can trust. It’s just a matter of how quickly we can get it to them.
How do you turn off at the end of the day and just relax and re-energize and re-inspire yourself?
Georgina Nelson: If I’m in the country, I’m always back to put my daughter to bed. I get in the door, have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, play with her for a couple of hours, and then the end of the day is always spent working – so the laptop flicks back up and I get a good two or three hours in before bed. Now that we’ve chosen to launch in foreign markets, it means that round the clock there’s always someone working on TruRating, so it usually means late night calls with the US if you’re in the UK, and Australia, etc.
I don’t think I really wind down, and I guess maybe it’s the curse of being an entrepreneur that it never leaves you. My sister-in-law keeps telling me to try meditation and yoga, and I just think, “The only thing that will make me not stressed is working through the list of what is stressing me out.”
What do you feel like the biggest challenge is as far as being an entrepreneur and being a parent? A lot of women don’t feel that they can do both, that they have to choose.
Georgina Nelson: I think a lot of women start their own business when they have a baby as I did because you know ultimately, then you’re your own boss. I didn’t want to have to have a conversation with management about going to see my kid in an assembly or getting home for bath time. I wanted to be in control.
The biggest challenge I think is around adjusting your standards and realizing you can’t be super mum. Dinner parties, home-baked goods, a beautiful clean house – those things have to be deprioritized. You’ve just got to maximize the time you have as quality time with your children and with me, everything else has fallen by the wayside – and it’s realizing that that’s ok. It’s a chapter of your life that is about your children and starting a company, and not much else.
What did you look for when you were initially building your team? What kind of traits were you looking for in your employees?
Georgina Nelson: My husband calls it TruRating insomnia. If you have a second interview with someone and they don’t say, “I’ve been so excited, I haven’t been able to sleep,” they probably won’t get through. It’s not really a 9 to 5 job. It’s more like a calling, because you are going to be emailing in the middle of the night because something is really gnawing at you, and you are going to be talking about your job in the pub. I want that level of passion in everyone who works for us.
They have to believe in what we’re doing, because that’s what will take everybody so far. Everyone owns a part of the business, and you can see that the drive is different from any company I’ve ever worked in, because everyone’s on this journey to make it succeed.
If you had to pick just three pieces of advice to offer another female looking to start her own business, what three pieces of advice do you give her?
Georgina Nelson: Test the market first, as soon as you can. Just speak to the people who are going to put their hands in their pocket for your product and be reassured that they will. Speak to a lot of them, understand what they’re looking for, what problem you are going to solve for them, how badly do they want it and how much would they be willing to pay for it.
Try not to approach things with previous businesses processes in mind. There’s a reason why startups can quickly scale to become to be the biggest and most successful companies in the world – that’s because they approach things differently, not shackled with how things have been done previously.
And you’ve got to have confidence and faith in what you’re doing. As women, we can often come across as quite humble – but confidence inspires confidence in others. So believe in what you are doing and what you’re building, and then that confidence is infectious and will pass on to others.
Georgina Nelson’s Recommendations
Did you have any reservations about putting this idea out there and anyone taking it? A lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to publicize their ideas before they’re ready to bring them to market.
Georgina Nelson: I absolutely did – I think it’s really normal to have worries and reservations about putting something that you feel so passionately about out there. But if you don’t go for it, then it will definitely never happen – and you can’t build a company alone. You need a great team, you need investors, you need advisors – you have to take that risk to get other people involved and make your dream a reality. My investor said to me a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about something which has quite a high risk, “George, you’re not going to make an omelette without breaking eggs.” It has to be a case of biting the bullet and making that leap – just doing it and seeing what happens.
I think you’ve got to make that leap. Give up your job for it. Put your finances on the line for it. Go through a huge amount of stress for it.
Fun Fact: What Movie Best Describes TruRating?
“Cool Runnings. Being told its impossible but jumping in the sled with your crazy colleagues anyway and hurtling down the mountain at full speed to prove them all wrong. A few bumps along the way but a lot of laughs and fun times as well,” Nelson says.
Today, Georgina Nelson‘s company, TruRating, has 60 employees and offices in 4 different countries (United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia). The next big challenge that they will face is selling to businesses. Before they could sell to a business, they have had to sell to their payment partners and not only be brought in, but tested, contracts signed, and then deployed. After two and half years of working on developing partnerships, the fruits of their labor are finally coming. With between 80% to 100% of payment companies building or testing TrueRating, it means their sales team can finally start enabling merchants – which is where their consumer websites can begin to take off.
Want to learn more about TruRating? Follow Nelson and her company at the links below.
Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.
Emily has also written for CNN, Autotrader, The Guardian, and is also the Editor-In-Chief for the geek lifestyle site FanBolt.com