Shaper: Tom Adeyoola

Show aired on 21st January 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Frank Sinatra with Fly Me To The Moon. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers. I am Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me here on Jazz FM. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and we bring in especially from the cold into the warm, we bring in someone who is shaping the world of business and we call them a Business Shaper and my Business Shaper today I am very pleased to say is Tom Adeyoola and he is the CEO and founder of Metail and Metail is an incredibly clever business which basically lets people try on clothes on line without actually being there and make it accurate and work and you are going to hear all about how he does it. It is an incredible innovation. In addition to hearing from Tom, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we have got a brilliant selection of music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, Esperanza Spalding is in there, Oscar Peterson is in there and this new music from the one and only Van Morrison.

That was Van Morrison with a new one, Every Time I See A River. Tom Adeyoola is my Business Shaper here on Jazz Shapers and he, as I said, is the CEO and founder of Metail. You can go to their website right now if you want to have a look – www.metail.com – and Tom has reinvented how women right now, I think not men but we will come to men in a moment, how women are able to get the right clothes for them when they are buying on line. Tom hello and thank you for joining me.

Tom Adeyoola
Hello, hi.

Elliot Moss
Tell me about this business before we go back a little bit and find out how you arrived at this juncture. What does Metail do in your own words?

Tom Adeyoola
So ultimately we want to make people feel great about the whole process of finding, choosing and buying clothing and to do that through their own 3D version of themselves which they can then basically try on clothes, see what they look like and get an understanding of size and fit on line.

Elliot Moss
And you’ve… it sounds very simple. I mean like any good idea it is like ‘why hasn’t someone done that before?’ Why hasn’t someone done that before Tom?

Tom Adeyoola
I spent a long time investigating why when I first looked into starting this idea. There are a lot of people back in the early noughties trying this, the last internet boom and there have been people trying all the way through and there have been a lot of false prophets, a lot of people who came and said you know ‘we have solved the on line clothing fit problem, we can help you try on clothes on line’ and they have never quite delivered because the problem actually is really difficult and I think it is one of those things where there is a lot of underlying IP that was needed, there was a lot of underlying research and there is a lot of underlying technology that was needed to create something which on the face of it to a consumer that ends up being quite simple and easy to use.

Elliot Moss
And all those things, the intellectual property and the research and the technology and all that, is that why it has taken eight years for me to meet you?

Tom Adeyoola
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
Is that what you have been doing Tom?

Tom Adeyoola
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
Because I have been wondering where’s this Tom with the brilliant solution. I mean but seriously how have you managed to go from the inception of the idea, the understanding that there is a problem to this point where you are actually in market and revenue is coming and so on and so forth. What was the tipping point very briefly? We will come back to it but what was that first…?

Tom Adeyoola
So I think when I first started looking at the idea I basically decided there were three core problems that needed to be solved to create something that could be a genuine global consumer play and a real transactional utility and that started with, number one was the ability to actually create a 3D version of you from basic information so that you could do it in the home. A lot of people previously had been gambling on this idea of a laser scanner in every shopping mall and every town in every country but the bottom line is that people don’t want to get naked going into a random machine in a store, you know they have difficulty enough doing that when they pass through customs at Airports.

Elliot Moss
I was going to say I am sure we could find someone that would do that but there would be very few people that would like to…

Tom Adeyoola
Very few.

Elliot Moss
…as a hobby.

Tom Adeyoola
Exactly so nobody wants to do that so how could you make that really simple and straight forward and then number two was the ability to actually then provide you with clothes to try on so how to basically digitise garments in 3D in a way which then looked really compelling and interesting enough for you to actually buy and that was actually the real key piece that I established was really difficult. So loads of people had tried in that component there and had ended up with very computer graphics orientated images and it was a very expensive process. So nobody had been able to do that for less than three hundred to four hundred bucks and as a consequence it was only ever a marketing gimmick and so the key thing for me I basically established was how could we get that really cheap so that we could work with mass market retailers at scale across the globe and provide all of the content to give you that sense of an infinite wardrobe to try on and play with.

Elliot Moss
Wow and we’ve got more, that was just the beginning.

Tom Adeyoola
That’s just the beginning.

Elliot Moss
That’s just the beginning. Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper today Tom Adeyoola. Time for some more music right now, this is I Know You Know from Esperanza Spalding.

The lilting tones of Esperanza Spalding with I Know You Know. Tom Adeyoola is my Business Shaper and he has been talking about how this insight behind his business called Metail has come together and the Metail business is basically a 3D vision image of yourself with 3D clothes which enable you to buy things on line without having to return them all which most of us have gone through at some point or at least having to return some of them. Tom as I said, you have been at this for quite a while.

Tom Adeyoola
Yep.

Elliot Moss
You have done a lot of things before you decided ‘I can only work for myself’ and I am not going to go through all of them but there are serious roles, I mean you graduated with Economics from Cambridge so that was obviously pretty good.

Tom Adeyoola
Yep.

Elliot Moss
Well done.

Tom Adeyoola
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
A belated well done Tom, you hadn’t heard it from me but there you go. But serious jobs; management consultancy jobs, financial analyst jobs, senior analyst. At what point did you say ‘do you know what enough. I am a bright guy, I have got ambition, I want to do my own thing?’

Tom Adeyoola
I think I had been a clever guy working for senior management and several different start-up businesses which were super exciting. I managed to get lots of really great experience and you know, being that sort of strategy guy it is sort of like a meritocratic position because you get thrown at big problems and you bring stuff back to the senior managers. I got to sit in the room with all of the sort of C Suite in terms of presenting stuff and being the guy who would say you know ‘that’s a bad idea, that’s a good idea’ and I’d worked in several different places so I worked in the internet with the internet boom. I then worked at Hutchison 3G which was the largest start-up in corporate history I think at the time going from zero to seventeen hundred people in a year. I then went back to work for my old boss to help start Private Jet business here in Europe which got sold to NetJets, Warren Buffett’s company, worked for Warner Brothers and then got to that point as you say where I felt that I was being that sort of clever guy but only working as a team of one and I felt I had got quite niche and I was wondering how do I make that next step and I spoke to a few guys who had gone off and done MBA’s and they sort of helped me sort of figure out and work through my thought process of what to do next and said ‘you know you’ve worked on entirely different things an MBA probably isn’t going to be that much value to you’ and then one person said ‘no come work for me’ so I ended up going to work for her and I initially started with a sort of strategy role which was doing a big consultancy piece of transformation for the Gala Group and then the company said ‘right okay, build our casino division, make all this stuff happen, turn this concept through to real product and reality’ and I took that leap and that was quite a hard leap I think at the time because it was that sense of like I have to now leave the room, you know, the senior management room to earn my way back into the room and that put me out of my comfort zone. It was then managing teams of people, it was taking a product from concept through to reality and it was really tough. In those early days we basically launched a product which didn’t work, it was broken and I was working a hundred hour weeks. I was literally going to the casino after work, staying there until six in the morning.

Elliot Moss
When did you decide that ‘you were going to do my own thing’ after that? That’s the big I am really interested in?

Tom Adeyoola
I think the thing with that was achieving that gave me the confidence.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Tom Adeyoola
To know that I could do it myself.

Elliot Moss
You knew that once you were set out in that uncomfortable place, you know what actually it wasn’t as uncomfortable as you thought, you quite liked it?

Tom Adeyoola
Yeah and I got over the hump of those hundred hour weeks and I took that broken product from nothing to seventy percent market penetration in the UK in just over a year so that was a case of like ‘oh I can do this, I can take a concept through’.

Elliot Moss
But it was a twelve month epiphany?

Tom Adeyoola
It was pretty much.

Elliot Moss
It was a long and we are going to hold it there. That twelve month epiphany will come to fruition very shortly when you hear what Tom and how Tom went about building his new business. Latest travel in a couple of minutes but before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

This is Jazz Shapers and I am Elliot Moss and every Saturday I get very lucky because I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business and we call them Business Shapers. We have interviewed many hundreds over the last few years; iTunes is your destination if you want to go and look up a few of the brilliant ones there. I can recommend Kelly Hoppen from the Live Session which we recorded earlier or rather later at the end of 2016 and now we are in 2017 and in 2017 we have new people and my new person right in front of me is Tom Adeyoola and he is the founder and chief exec of Metail and Metail as you heard earlier are a very smart company helping you buy clothes on line without buying the wrong ones. Tom we talked, you were talking before about how long it took for your own sense of comfort to be given an excuse so I am okay with this, I can do this thing called working for myself and how such a smart person could have come to that. What other factors do you think were stopping you making that leap? Was it the fact that there hadn’t been a history of entrepreneurs in the family or that your mates weren’t doing the same, they were in you know, the corporate jobs. Was it something like that?

Tom Adeyoola
Yeah it was both those things, so it was very much a gravy train from Cambridge back then and this is pre-internet era pretty much in many respects of people going straight into banking and consultancy and that’s where all the money was. So if you have a good education that’s where you are going to get all the big bucks. Also in terms of like my family, like my mother came to the UK from Norway. My dad came to the UK from Nigeria. They met here. My mum worked for day nurseries, my dad worked for the buses. I got a scholarship to a good school but I didn’t have that sort of broad network here in the UK of people that I could speak to about what’s that sort of job like, you know, how do you get into that or people who had gone and done something and achieved something big and you know even on my mum’s side in terms of her family there was no one, there were only a couple who had gone to University so it was a big leap to go from being a smart guy to saying well actually I think I can do everything by myself and you need confidence and you can’t really under estimate the power of confidence and accumulating confidence to get you to a point where you are ready to do your own thing.

Elliot Moss
I’ve met a few people along the way who weren’t wealthy enough to go to a private school or anything like that. You went to St Paul’s which is one of the best schools, if not the best school in the country, as you said it was on a scholarship. Did you ever feel like the poor kid there? Did you feel out of place or was it not like that for you?

Tom Adeyoola
I think…

Elliot Moss
And I don’t mean poor, not in a pejorative way at all but just in the sense you were the scholarship kid?

Tom Adeyoola
Yeah I think fortunately I think St Paul’s is one of those like great places where because it is in the heart of London it had a great ethos on basically people being there based on their ability and the ability to try and fund through their bursary scheme people from all different types of backgrounds and at that time certainly I think it slightly tilted since. There was a really good mix of people from lots of different backgrounds and I never felt a sense of money being a differentiator for people and I think I was probably lucky because I was good at school, I was good at sport, I played rugby to a high standard, I was in the debating society…

Elliot Moss
What position were you there Tom? You’re not a big unit over there.

Tom Adeyoola
No I was centre wing.

Elliot Moss
Oh he was fast.

Tom Adeyoola
I played for county level, I was scouted for Harlequins, I was you know, it was… I wanted to play but this was the era before Jonah Lomu suddenly hit and this was amateur. I think when I got to eighteen that was when it turned from amateur to professional and everything changed.

Elliot Moss
You may be fast but you’re not as big as him and we are going to pause right there because he is a super-fast thinker and he is going to come and say some more brilliant things but I am going to play some music first and what we are going to play right now is the Oscar Peterson Trio with C Jam Blues.

That was C Jam Blues from the Oscar Peterson Trio. Tom Adeyoola is my Business Shaper, we have been talking about speed on the rugby pitch but also speed of thought and that opportunity that you were given. Did you ever and we talked about you know, not having role models and stuff. When you had gone to Cambridge as you said then I imagine the role models were those traditional corporate jobs?

Tom Adeyoola
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
How hard was it then once you got that confidence. You made a very good point about don’t underestimate the importance of confidence. Once you got it, once you knew you were going to do it and you were going to make the leap, what did that feel like Tom? Emotionally? Forget the rational brilliance over there about the business idea but actually knowing that you were going to go and do this?

Tom Adeyoola
I think it was massively liberating actually so when I made the decision to do it I was actually doing it from potentially a very strong financial position in the sense of the company I was at Inspired Game Group was about to be sold so my bosses were going to become wealthy, they had basically indicated they were going to invest in me. I’d negotiated to consult a few days a week ongoing for them for a little while, while I got my feet off the ground, got things together and I was going to make some options. So I was like ‘yeah everything is pretty cool and everything is going to be alright’. But they were about to sell their company to Icelandic Banks and this was late 2007, the deal collapsed the night before the press conference announcing the deal. It didn’t go through, I was looking at a position where I had quite a big mortgage but having made that decision to leave I was gaining confidence day-by-day and gaining the sense that this was the right thing to do day-by-day so even then staring at 2008 with a big mortgage, no investors, no options I felt that it was worth taking the risk and I think that was like massively liberating and I think over the course of the next year, well two years, having no money and learning to survive on very little money taught me a lot about myself and actually really sort of strength of focus on an idea and how you can achieve things.

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with my guest, Tom, today plus play a track from Mark Murphy, that’s after the latest traffic and travel.

Mark Murphy with the racy Milestones and my racy guest and he has a speed of thought and a speed of everything is Tom Adeyoola and he is only with me for a few more minutes. Founder of Metail and the CEO as well. You’ve raised twenty million dollars I believe since the inception of this business. You’ve got a strategic partner in IBM, you’ve got tie-ups with Tesco, you’ve done stuff with Henry Holland, the fashion man, icon whatever you want to call him. All sorts of stuff this is surely a business that is about to pop or it is popping. What are you going to do to make sure that in two or three years everyone knows who Metail is versus those people in the know?

Tom Adeyoola
I think…

Elliot Moss
Just a couple of those key things?

Tom Adeyoola
Yeah this is a massive year for us. I think UK companies haven’t been really good traditionally over the last ten, fifteen years of really doing the hyper-marketing game that the US do at really describing themselves and putting themselves out there. They have great tech but they never do the marketing piece and I think that is a really important piece for me this year which is to start to talk more aggressively about how much great tech we’ve got and how great a company we are and how much of a positive impact we can have on a whole clothing supply chain from beginning to end and to work with great partners to help leverage and amplify that message. I think often I will go to Silicon Valley and I feel like wow, you know, the first impression is always you see a company, it’s like wow this looks like a Ferrari, it’s amazing, look how great they are. You go up to it, you put your hand against the door and it goes straight through because it is actually made of papier mache. I think the thing that we traditionally do in the UK is we build a chasse, we build an amazing engine and we don’t put anything on top to make it look great and attractive and that’s a key challenge for us to do over the next couple of years.

Elliot Moss
And is that, that’s the number one thing?

Tom Adeyoola
Yes.

Elliot Moss
I mean if there was only one thing you were going to do it is that, the hyper-marketing? Just before I go to your choice of music, what’s the one thing that really matters to you, what’s going to make Tom feel fulfilled at the end of this journey or the next stage of this journey.

Tom Adeyoola
I think for me everything is about taking the journey to the end and a success so I think for me I will be happy the day where everybody is using Metail, they have a 3D version of themselves to try on clothes to see how they fit and that that has a positive impact on their view of self and their ability to find clothing and that we can have an impact on the supply chain that positively reduces waste and I think for me that’s taking that all the way through. For me, success is delivering on that vision. Anything before that isn’t so you know an exit for money where actually it just takes IP and it doesn’t deliver that end goal isn’t a success in my book.

Elliot Moss
Tom thank you so much for joining me. It’s been really interesting hearing about it, you seem like a very values driven person as well as looking for the big bucks, they are going to come, I know they are going to come but I know I can see also that that’s not going to be anything that matters to you. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Tom Adeyoola
My song choice is Song With Three Names, it’s actually from a band that I used to manage way back when, so they are one of the many things I did and we are actually just about to re-release that album now in the era of iTunes and Spotify over the next couple of weeks. It is a great sort of jazzy tune with a mixture of funk influences and not particularly this track but hip hop influences in other tracks that we put together and also it is a little bit of a shout out to my old house mate and key producer in the band whose partner unfortunately died last year.

Elliot Moss
And the name of the band is?

Tom Adeyoola
Busetti.

Elliot Moss
Here it is.

That was Song With Three Names from Busetti, the song choice of my Business Shaper Tom Adeyoola. Hard working, someone who did not shy away from those hundred hour weeks as he mentioned; values driven, someone who understands that if he is going to bring his company to the size it should be and it could be he has got to underpin his people with a really strong set of values and understands the importance of marketing. Tom is running a scale up business and when he really wants to scale up he has absolutely got to in his own words ‘hyper-market’. All fantastic stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday 9.00am here on Jazz FM for another addition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile stay with us, you know the drill, coming up next its Mr Nigel Williams.

Tom Adeyoola

Tom Adeyoola is the CEO and founder of Metail, the revolutionary body shape and garment fit visualisation company.

Metail is the leading retail tech company for the online fashion industry, with 3.5 million users worldwide. Tom founded the company in 2008 after seeing his wife deflated, unable to find clothes that fitted her after shopping online. His belief is that technology can improve the online shopping experience, and Metail’s technology replicates the changing room for the online shopper.

An Economics graduate from Cambridge, Tom’s career has spanned all forms of new media, from Sportal to3 and most recently as Head of Gaming at Inspired Gaming Group.

Tom founded the Cambridge technology start-up recruitment fair Silicon Milkround Cambridge, has been an active member of the UK government’s DCMS Think Tank on the Convergence of Media (2009), a Demos working group on technology legislation and is the inspiration behind the launch of the government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).

Tom is also a patron for the creative industries incubator MeWe360 and a Non-Executive Director of emerging personal wellness technology startup Chiaro.

Follow Tom on Twitter @tadeyoola.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“We want to make people feel great about finding, choosing and buying clothing online and to do that through their own 3D version of themselves”.

“There have been a lot of false prophets who came and said, we have solved the on line clothing fit problem, we can help you try on clothes on line. They never quite delivered.”

“The bottom line is that people don’t want to get naked going into a random machine in a store.”

I felt that I was being that sort of clever guy but only working as a team of one and I felt I had got quite niche and I was wondering how do I make that next step

“In those early days we basically launched a product which didn’t work, it was broken and I was working hundred hour weeks.”

“I took that broken product from nothing to seventy percent market penetration in the UK in just over a year. It was a case of, oh – I can do this!”

“You can’t really underestimate the power of confidence and accumulating confidence to get you to a point where you are ready to do your own thing.”

“Learning to survive on very little money taught me a lot about myself.”

“In the UK is we build a chasse, we build an amazing engine and we don’t put anything on top to make it look great and attractive. That’s a key challenge for us.”

“We are all part of trumpeting our successes and pushing ourselves out in the world. We’ve got to do this more than ever now.”