PriceParrot: Simon Brooks
While homeless in Silicon Valley, Simon Brooks cleaned the kitchens and toilets of a start-up community to get by - and it gave him a wonderful idea...
Name: Simon Brooks
Company Name: PriceParrot
Founders: Simon Brooks and Jon Axel Sunnehall
Date Launched: 1/3/17
Tell us what your business does:
PriceParrot CPQ is a configure/price/quote tool for service industries. It allows companies to store all their pricing information online and quote prospects in 15 seconds. Currently, it takes them an average of one week to price a prospect.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The software pivoted from my former commercial cleaning company (Squiffy Clean) where it had a lot of success. The cleaning company was featured in New York Times, NBC, and several other well-known media.
It was the only cleaning company in the world able to quote online in 15 seconds. This advantage allowed us to close 100% of our walk-around invites by assuming the sale and earned us a Fortune Top 50 client.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The fast growth of the cleaning company with 100% close rates showed the power of the tool. Cleaning companies from all over the world approached me after reading about us in New York Times to inquire about using our tool. At the time, I brushed them all off thinking I was going to keep it for ourselves.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was running a cleaning company. How I started that company is a story too. I'd taken the well-worn start-up route to Silicon Valley in-order to build an educational word game.
After arriving in Silicon Valley with my two dogs, and not finding anywhere to live in time, I'd run out of money. Before I knew it, I was sleeping in my car. Without resources it's very tough getting out of the situation and over time my problems got worse. The situation went on for almost four years.
I was a member of Hacker Dojo (community of start-ups) and offered to clean the kitchen and restrooms daily in lieu of paying the membership fee. They accepted. While doing my cleaning I started to see points of data which is where I got the idea of collecting the data in order to recycle it and price new prospects online.
After getting nowhere with the word game, I decided to look at the cleaning industry. After doing my research, and seeing the opportunity, I decided to give it a go. I persuaded my first customer, a 16,000 sq ft building with daily cleanings to pay ahead of service so I could buy the tools/supplies I'd need to get started.
My company was growing fast. The problem I was having, as a Brit who'd been in the US for over 12 years and working seven days a week, often for 15 hours, was I realised I was lonely and unhappy. There was no me time and I had no emotional support. I knew, that to be really successful I needed a better life balance.
So, I decided to give all the service and supply contracts to my hard-working team leader and come home to UK to be near family and pivot the software so other service companies can use it.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, always. I don't do nine-to-five too well. Most of my working life has been commission-only positions.
How did you raise the money?
It's bootstrapped for now until I can secure the right seed investor for us. It's important they bring additional value to their investment.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We're subscription based. There's a minimum level with optional upgrades.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Being homeless in a foreign land and with zero money in my pocket was certainly a challenge. But, eventually, I figured my way out of it and have shown I can be resourceful. In this situation you learn about yourself plus what's important and what's not important.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting my first customer which enabled me to buy to tools/supplies to get started was big breakthrough, but, getting featured in New York Times helped a lot too.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Never give up and learn from the mistakes you've made. Always be learning too. In 2016, I did three start-up courses. One at Stanford, one at Tuck School/Dartmouth College (on Google campus), and another at Lorry Lokey School of Business.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
If we haven't already exited, then we should be thinking about exiting. I'm not trying to change the world, but change my world haha.