Today we are presenting our first interview with Taylor Ryan, an American startup junkie, who lives and works in Copenhagen. If you look at Taylor’s LinkedIn, it is hard not to feel inspired, but also intimidated. However, such levels of success came after years of hard work. Today Taylor is sharing his path on how he got to be where he is now. Additionally, he shared some insights and advice on founding or working in startups.
Hello Taylor! We are happy to have you here at Øresund Startup News. What is your background and main field of expertise?
I’ve been scaling start-ups, integrating marketing tech stacks, and increasing conversions for the past 12 years across more than a dozen sectors. I think the great part about spending so much time in the start-up scene is that you’re forced to learn how to do everything. Who else is going to do it?
Working your way through processes across different business models allows you build up some serious competencies. I’ve always said that if you look at marketing as a set of loosely connected systems, they all kind of build off of one another. If you can understand one system, you can apply the learnings and process to another. First learn how to write copy/content and then you can start to understand Social Media. A step further might be getting the basics down for SEO, then maybe it’s paid campaigns and SEM.
The first time I set up a dropship model, marketing automation, or a sales funnel I was overwhelmed. But when you start to unpack these things, you realize it’s all relative. For example, the steps needed to set up for a payment gateway integration is strangely similar to working your way through integration of an email automation tool like Active Campaign.
I think it’s a lot like the way that I used to look at chefs. They’re using ingredients that most of us have access to but they know when and how to add those ingredients to a dish in order for it come out perfect. It’s no different with figuring out which tools you need for scaling a business.
How did you get into the field?
I never really saw myself in a rigid hierarchy or a traditional work environment. I probably had a little too much of a rebellious mindset for my own good. I probably still do come to think of it.
To be fair, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I graduated at the height of economic recession in 2008, when more than 1 in 4 young men with a bachelor’s degree between the ages of 19 and 29 in the USA didn’t have a job, just like me.
So I tried starting my own things with some really interesting characters. Having professional experience in video production since the age of 16 helped me get a foot in the door. I did a few explainer videos and few product videos for next to nothing. Eventually I got into situations where I was a young co-founder with older mentors as business partners. I was still early and learning, but it was something.
Tell us more about the startups you have founded or used to work with in the past.
I was all over the map in the early years:
- I tried home remodeling sales: selling windows and siding door to door. That concept came from working with a guy that was little out there and teaming up with another guy to form a new company. The problem with starting a home remodeling company during the housing crisis is… well… do the math.
- Then we started a teeth whitening franchise operation by contacting cheap manufacturers out in China that assembled and shipped our products in bulk. Money went missing, so I left.
- I moved to the West Coast in 2010, where burned almost a year of my life while remotely working on a few freelance projects.
- I helped create a job search education e-learning platform with a new business partner. We learned the hard way not to subcontract web development work to a family friend, who tried to charge us for €110 000 for a non-functional 3-page website.
- A few months and a bankruptcy later, we won a €4M contract to help veterans and their families transition from the military world to civilian life.
- During that time I was active in the Washington, DC startup scene, and by hitting 2-3 events per week, I met some really clever guys that brought me in on a mobile development development firm. That did well and that led to us start an allergy-free marketplace for people with intolerances to 8 different types of foods. Yeah… That obviously didn’t pan out.
- Freelancing kept me sane for a long time. Picking up one off projects and getting paid on a project basis. I jumped in and out of companies and helped others start their own for a while. I was trying to figure out which direction I wanted to go and what seemed to have the most potential. I ended up working for the Washington Post for a year and eight months and realized I needed a more drastic change.
I hadn’t really hadn’t taken more than a few three or four day weekends of vacation throughout my 20s, but during the summer of 2015, I took my vacation for the year (a total of 10 days). I came to Denmark on a gorgeous summer day and found out that everyone was getting a minimum of 5 weeks of paid holiday…
I figured it was worth pursuing. I spent the next 4 months working full-time and searching for a job. Eventually offers came from startups in Copenhagen and Vienna. I leveraged two offers and ended up moving here.
What are the startups you are involved with at the moment?
I tend to lean into projects and startups that give me a visceral reaction, ArchitectureQuote.com is one of those projects. The first group of friends I made when I moved here just happened to be architects.
Over a few beers one night, I asked a couple of friends how architects go about finding new projects. Across the board, they all referenced “word of mouth” as pretty much the only “channel” for getting new contracts. No business works that way in 2020 and for those that want to grow, it definitely won’t continue to be case over the next 5 years.
So, I formed my team of co-founders and created a deal-flow platform for architects that captures government tenders, freelance listings, and organically generated projects. Architecture companies that want to scale can come to our platform to discover new projects, daily.
Interestingly, there’s a country-wide focus on SDGs (Sustainable Developement Goals). However, the industry I’m trying to disrupt – AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) – creates more waste than almost any other sector in the world. As much as 30% of building materials that make it to a construction site will end up in landfills, the reason? “Frequent Design Changes.”
We’ve built out a collaboration element within our platform that integrates with the existing communication tools used across contractors and stakeholders in AEC. Streamlining communication channels will result in a reduction of these late changes. The result is that our platform saves time, money, and lives.
Over the past year, I’ve continued to scale ArchitectureQuote on nights and weekends with my team of co-founders and a few extra people that came along for the ride.
I started getting more involved in keynote speeches, guest lectures, and running the occasional 2 day growth-hacking masterclass.
Every once in a while someone would come up to me afterwards and ask if I could help them with a project or sit with them to see if their process made sense. I didn’t think much of it until I got asked what my going “rate” was for my services. I genuinely thought it was cool to help people out.
I decided to build a different type of agency. I want to help companies build marketing tech stacks, run growth-hacking playbooks, and scale. I decided to start the best grow-hacking firm in Copenhagen – Klint Marketing.
Over the last 4 years I’ve worked hard to scale some of Denmark’s fastest and most successful startups. I named it “Klint,” the Danish work for “cliff”. The name insinuates that I’m geared into helping companies with growth. I want to build them up with enough automation and processes to provide a jumping off point.
I enjoy working with a variety of clients and it lets me hustle with larger companies that have ability to put resources behind ambitious projects.
Some of the most interesting techniques and processes I’ve developed over the years has come out of working at length in a bootstrapped environment. You have to be a lot more clever if you’re going to grow from zero with no money or resources. What would happen if someone gave me real resources to help them grow? Keep an eye on Klint Marketing to find out.
What do you like most about founding startups?
There’s a real difference in energy. It’s you against the world. You have a chip on your shoulder; something to prove. And your job is to force yourself into a market while people are telling you it’s not possible and you’re stupid for even attempting it. There’s nothing like it.
The satisfaction you get from knowing something you put together from zero actually worked – and things are gradually getting better… it’s completely different from anything else you’ll find.
It’s hard work. It’s frustrating beyond belief. It’s unfair. And most people like the idea but don’t have the stomach for it.
On top of that, every idiot wants to give you advice and those that you should be listening to don’t have the time. The funniest part of all is that some people just get lucky. It’s a lot about timing; right place- and right time-type stuff. That can be both a motivator and a reason to give up.
And of course it’s about the people. The journey with people that made a pact with you to do something very few ever get to do. Then sometimes… it’s saying good-bye because some people can’t stay or won’t stay. All of this while making sure that you’re playing fair with the people closest to you in your personal life and business life. Again, it’s hard.
How is the startup scene different in Denmark and the USA?
Things that shouldn’t work sometimes get a spotlight in Denmark.
In the US, businesses that are incredibly niche can grow to amazing heights because it’s a country with a population of 320 Million consumers that all speak the same language and most have a disposable income.
Many American entrepreneurs are unapologetic about their aspirations to destroy anything between them and their dreams.
Experimental business models thrive in an environment flush with cash. The Danes can be more measured and don’t take the same paths that Americans might miss.
There’s a lot of similarities between the two as well. I think most people are inherently good and want to help where they can.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s tough to say. If you asked me where I saw myself 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have said running a SaaS model to disrupt deal-flow in the architecture industry, scaling a growth-hacking agency, and doing tons of keynote speeches in Copenhagen, Denmark. But here I am. It’s quite a ride.
You never really get back the same amount that you put in on a month to month basis. Especially when you’re building things early on. In the long run, if you keep giving more than you take, I hear things have a funny way of working out. I’ll get back to you as to whether or not that actually is the case.
I plan on continuing to push myself into new, uncomfortable, and interesting circumstances. I want desperately to continue to learn. Surrounding myself with smart and competent people on regular basis is important to me. And I’ll probably keep myself to the standard 6-day work weeks until it doesn’t make sense to do it anymore. Anything else is just a guess.
We would like to thank Taylor for such an extensive overview of his career path and his contributions to the Danish startup ecosystem, as well as wish him good luck on his next projects!
Note: Interview has been edited for size/clarity.