Looking Ahead to NRF 2021 with Uncrowd

Daniel Sevitt

We’re delighted to welcome back Richard Hammond, CEO and founder of Uncrowd to the blog. Richard kindly wrote a couple of guest blogs for us last year ahead of NRF 2020, but as you may have noticed, one or two things happened between then and NRF 2021 beginning virtually this week.

When you’ve done something well, really nailed it, there’s a kind of post-adrenal crunch that produces a chemical euphoria in your brain. I was feeling that back in September having finished a webcast with Microsoft’s top retail person Shelley Bransten. The episode would land later in the year to real acclaim, but for now I was glowing; I’d been able to represent our still tiny startup like we were a billion-dollar heavy hitter. That happened a lot in 2020.

My co-founder Rocky and I, started the year in ebullient form; racing around the East Coast in January, including a random visit to Scranton, a city that would become famous later in the year as the hometown of America’s next President. Then in February we were back in the USA, this time roaming California like startup nomads; Highway 1 from San Francisco down to LA and, again, randomly, a surreal stopover in Fresno at an event that made us wonder if we’d landed smack in the middle of an episode of Stranger Things.

Looking Ahead to NRF 2021 with Uncrowd

Everywhere we went, we’d make new friends and open up new opportunities for Uncrowd. Life was looking good and we were poised for something special. Like the rest of the world in February, little did we know…

Very early in March, I got a tip off from a family friend who is now integral to one of the leading SARS-CoV-2 vaccine programmes. “A pandemic is coming and it’s going to be bad, life-changing.”

I’m not given to knee-jerk reactions but what they told us scared me so much that I immediately made plans to close our offices, initially for two weeks, but we inserted a contingency for a further week! Oh, how innocent that now feels!

Looking Ahead to NRF 2021 with Uncrowd

What Rocky and I didn’t know as we drew those plans, well before national UK lockdown had been announced, is that for me and him; it was too late. We were already infected, remarkably each from different vectors.

It was bad. I’m British and our reputation for a stiff upper lip, best-not-bother-the-doctors, is well earned. My partner Emily and I had two small-hours rows about my refusal to allow an ambulance to be called as I gasped for air rasping out, “It’s fine, I’ll drink some water.”

And then, after 16 days, I was back. Back out on my road bike smashing out decent Strava times. Rocky took up running. We’d had our darkest hours and as it turned out, so had Uncrowd. Our lockdown is a story of rising demand for our customer intelligence as it became clear that the Friction versus Reward metric is uniquely able to make sense of new real-world contexts.

Looking Ahead to NRF 2021 with Uncrowd

Then in July we were crowned Microsoft’s Global Startup Partner of the Year. The party in Vegas was cancelled, and boy do we ever miss travel, but the impact of the award rattled windows anyway. It marked the moment of motive-force that has impelled us from almost no revenue to more than $1M ARR.

I’ve just watched my episode of Shelley Bransten’s webcast. It’s a version of me, and of Uncrowd, that I wouldn’t have recognised this time last year but that now looks exactly like what this improbable startup has become at the close of 2020: confident, required, a force for making sense of tumult and change. I’m proud of that.

Richard Hammond has been in the retail industry for 35 years, his current book Friction/Reward describes the Friction versus Reward metric and promises to revolutionize how you innovate for your customers, Richard and his co-founder embarked on building the next generation of customer analytics through their startup Uncrowd.uk.