Founder spotlight: Jock Lawrence from Mobble
When Jock Lawrence tried to help his Dad digitise his farm records, he hit a snag…
Fast forward a few years and Mobble is in the pockets of hundreds of farmers in Australia and New Zealand. Jock, and his co-founder Jack Hurley, have taken it from a bootstrapped startup to a business that’s here to stay.
We love having Mobble as a client for many reasons, including being able to share Jock’s story with the startup community! Here goes.
In under 20 words, what is Mobble?
Farm and livestock record keeping, done simply. We’re a software-as-a-service business.
What was your light bulb moment?
I was working as an engineer when I spent some time back on the family farm, trying to help Dad digitise the farm records in one place. Everything we tried was too clunky, complicated or suited to a different type of farming.
My light bulb moment was that I could make it a lot simpler and easier for farmers.
What happened next?
It all went pretty fast. First, I tried to build it myself using spreadsheets but that didn’t solve it. Then I talked to a good friend, Jack Hurley, who was working in software development from Bali. He said: “If you’re that keen, fly over and we’ll sit down and nut out the problem.” So I did!
We built the prototype and got farmers to test it. We iterated it a few times with their feedback, and then doubled down on software and building a small team.
What stage are you at?
We’ve had a lot of growth in the last year or so. This is the year to really push that. We’ve completed a small seed round, been in accelerators (SproutX and Melbourne Accelerator Program) and had R&D grants.
We did something a bit different for our seed funding round, because we wanted to avoid the mistake of other agtechs doing big raises with outside investors, which farmers tend to dislike. They want to work with owner-operated businesses. So we opened our seed round up to farmers themselves, which meant some of our own customers invested in our company.
I’ve been full-time for a few years and we have a small team as well. Our focus now is on growing our customer base sustainably, in Australia and New Zealand, to become the preferred farm management software.
How have we helped?
We used to have my Dad’s old accountant and he didn’t really get startups. Then I met Remco through the SproutX accelerator, and he just had such a great understanding of startups and funding. Standard Ledger’s knowledge has been a big thing for us – how to raise money, and how to make startups make financial sense. It’s been awesome.
The other thing is bookkeeping. It seems minor but having Standard Ledger manage it has freed up a lot of time to focus on bigger moving pieces. It means I spend less time worrying about money and more time thinking about the bigger picture.
Biggest challenge so far?
Our seed funding round was a slog, which I think is often the case. It took a long time to close. We’ve also had technical challenges but now that we’re on the other side of that, it’s looking pretty green!
It was a while ago now, but I’d say hitting $100K in ARR (annual recurring revenue) was a big deal. It solidified in my mind that we’re here to stay. I got past that hurdle of failure, which is always there in the early stage of a startup.
Do you have any funding tips for other founders?
Don’t leave it too late. You can run out of cash very quickly and that makes it hard to grow. And when it’s hard to grow, it’s hard to raise money. Another trap is starting a funding round with very limited contacts.
Start looking for funding when you don’t need it, and always be looking to grow your investor network. One way to do that is through company updates to keep investors informed of your progress – the more you show up on an investor’s radar the more likely they’ll start paying attention. Also, timing is really important. If your growth has plateaued, it’s a hard time to talk to investors. But if you’re growing quite well and can prove it, that’s a great time.
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Meet John Nixon. Great at using the R&D Tax Incentive, grants and financial planning to help startups and SMEs. Not great at surviving on a desert island.