From Cape Town to the Emerald City | Ray Meiring from Qorus

Ray Meiring started his company, Qorus, in Cape Town, South Africa, and grew it there for several years before finally relocating to Seattle, WA.

Moving a company to the U.S. from abroad is a complicated process, but, as Ray says, “I wish we had moved out here quicker to work with this fantastic market in the U.S.”

With some team members still in South Africa, a ten hour difference, Ray now finds the need for great flexibility in when and how he works.

On the latest UpTech Report, Ray discusses the process of this transition, why he chose to do it, and how he now manages working with a globally distributed team.

More information:

As CEO and co-Founder of  Qorus Software, Ray Meiring leads an award-winning team of passionate problem solvers to create the absolute best customer experience possible. 

Qorus helps law firm business development, marketing and bid teams reduce the time it takes to create accurate and secure proposals and RFPs.   Ray is a frequent speaker, author and webinar host on a wide variety of topics including leadership, market strategy, law firm automation and the application of AI, and sales enablement for professional sales and bid teams.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Ray Meiring 0:00
If you don’t have a clear vision that’s really focused, and you can articulate that well, and you can back that up with a solid financial plan, and a strong product market fit. That’s well demonstrated through your history. That’s going to be that’s going to be a huge, huge challenge.

Alexander Ferguson 0:22
I’m excited to continue our conversation we began in our last episode round sharing what is your software, your platform around proposal management and how it’s kind of changing the game for those who do a lot of RFPs RFIs RFQs, all Rs. Now, this has been eight years in development and building it. Tell me how did you get to where you are today? What’s What’s your story? You can even go beyond before eight years?

Ray Meiring 0:47
Yeah, well, we started a business in Cape Town, South Africa, actually, back in 2004. It was a software custom development company. And it, it went pretty well, it was actually a great lifestyle company that we had through that that time period. But we wanted to build something that was bigger, something that could make a meaningful contribution into the, into the sales process. And so around about 2008, we started to see this general problem around proposals in many of the customers that we were working with. And we bootstrapped ourselves through that initial process of building out an initial product there, and taking that out to market, probably getting it into kind of a close product market fit around about 2010. At the time, we still had two companies. And we realized, hey, we needed to focus and separate the two businesses. So ultimately, we sold the lifestyle company and focused ourselves into this into this product business. And then we started to see some great traction, the kind of traction that comes when you when you focus, right. And we started to sell a product that we had developed into the United Kingdom first, and then ultimately expanded that into the US. And it’s really here in the United States that that traction, really started to build in the very healthy markets that are here, when we landed some marquee customers through that process that validated that we had a really good idea but that there was a strong market for RFP responses customers like Microsoft, like Hitachi, like insights here in the US. So that prompted us to refocus efforts now into the US. I actually moved here in 2015. And started to drive the business from here. And you know, it’s been a it’s been a great run of driving the business and just just growing and learning and expanding our horizons.

Alexander Ferguson 2:45
Relate Technologies was that the lifestyle business, you got it? That’s exactly right. Yeah. So that was start 2004. And it went to 2014. You said, 2010, is when you started doing kind of the bootstrapping that the concept. And you’ve listed 2012, as your official start for chorus on here. So it sounds like what was the turning point in 2012? That really quick took off?

Ray Meiring 3:10
Well, we had a piece of intellectual property that we were selling out of a lifestyle business, right. Okay. It was difficult for us to get the right traction and momentum when you had that split focus between the two. In addition to that, there was so much demand. So many coming up out of out of the UK out of the US, we realized that unless we put all of our energies into this intellectual property, this product that we have built, and really started to market that correctly so that correctly that we wouldn’t see success, or we would see a mediocre level of success there. So that’s what made us move,

Alexander Ferguson 3:49
and then changing into saying fully focused, this is where we’re going put all energy and you started with stripe. But did you then get funding for it?

Ray Meiring 3:57
Yeah, we did. We raised funding now that that was a an interesting experience, because we were South African in our structures. In fact, right up until last year until 2019, we were a South African kind of holding company on us. So when we raised funding the first time, which was in 2013, we couldn’t raise in the US so we raised rounds in South Africa, which would be seed rounds in the US but in South Africa was actually private equity that we had to go to to to raise the funds and the money there. And that kind of seed round just got us into the US helped us hire our first sales teams here. Up just develop the marketing that we needed into into the US. We wrote that up right up until 2019. At the start of this year, we closed our Series A with a US venture company after having switched the company from a South African business to a to a US business

Alexander Ferguson 4:58
between those two experiences, what would you say is one of the biggest mistakes one could make when seeking funding?

Ray Meiring 5:08
What is one of the biggest mistakes? Well, not having a clear vision, I think is really challenging if you if you don’t have a clear vision that’s really focused. And you can articulate that well, and you can back that up with a solid financial plan, and a strong product market fit, that’s well demonstrated through your history, that’s going to be that’s going to be a huge, huge challenge. In raising capital, you need to show and be passionate, obviously, about your vision, but then have the financial plan and the traction, the historical traction to demonstrate that you’re able to achieve some of those things that you set out to do.

Alexander Ferguson 5:47
growing it, funding is one piece, but then actually getting clients and growing the customer base that is one of the biggest first pieces you have to tackle any insights or or Takeaways you can share of whether it’s getting first couple clients on a SAS Type platform, and then scaling beyond the first few.

Ray Meiring 6:08
We focus very much on landing marquee clients as our first our first client learning reasonable brands out there. And we invested a lot of time and energy from the founders to the product team and actually getting to those brands, making sure that we understood their requirements, and we were able to fulfill those those requirements. We did that very early on, because we knew once we landed the marquee brands, if if other companies could see that we were successful in a big organization that trusted us that we had, we had proven ourselves and scaling further was would be easier. And that certainly worked well we invested a ton of time. In the first I’d say three customers that we landed, we were fortunate to land Vodafone in the UK, as one of our very first customers, they still a customer today, which is amazing. But really they helped us to shape the product, understand the space and then we could use that brand. And that experience to then move to a few others develop the case studies there and start to scale.

Alexander Ferguson 7:16
What have you seen as far as common mistakes that people are making in with marketing and with growing their their customer base in in today’s world and environment?

Ray Meiring 7:25
I think that there is a sometimes a we certainly made this mistake and over dependence on the inbound lead coming in from from marketer. That’s a mistake that we made, I would say and at certain times we we became quite drunk on inbound leads and on that whole paradigm there. But what we really started to see is that that’s one component. And it may be a strong component, but you need to have other channels, developing and driving those leads into the into the business, we’ve had great success with trade shows as well. That’s been a really useful space for us. Because that was pre pandemic. It’s been it’s been tough this year. With those types of things and then implementing an outbound strategy as well. You know, prospecting, getting out having BDR is calling into that market. They’re developing your brand as they making those calls as they sending those emails. But you’re going to pick up those nuggets where you’re injecting yourself into that process at a point in time. That’s right, and you’re picking up those leads. So that’s a mistake we made, possibly other companies are making some of those mistakes as well.

Alexander Ferguson 8:42
helpful to hear it’s important to not get drunk on just the inbound but having a healthy multi pronged channel strategy. For that, outbound that the BDR that those representatives reaching out. I imagine a lot of emphasis now going that direction, because you can’t go necessarily to trade shows in certain places. What are you going to what do you feel is going to be a key way for those type of channels to be successful? Going forward?

Ray Meiring 9:09
It’s been interesting this last year, because of the pandemic, there’s there’s a few things one, as you mentioned, trade shows, they’re all online. And while they’re great for your brand, we didn’t necessarily develop a lot of leads through those online trade shows. The second piece that’s been interesting is that BDR has traditionally used telephone quite effectively. And with everybody now working from home, what are you going to do? You’re going to start calling cell phones, you’re gonna start calling home phones. So we’ve really had to look at our email functions in the BDR area there and what kind of message are we sending out? How do we differentiate ourselves? How do we personalize those messages to a greater degree? And how can we show that there are humans behind those messages? And it’s not entirely robotic So we’ve really had to focus our attention on that the messaging around that email aspect to the business development function there. And I’m very proud of what the team’s done there, they’ve refined and refined and refined that message to get us a great increase in our outbound leads that that we’ve seen them in 2020. And

Alexander Ferguson 10:20
that leads us nicely into the next piece of team and building the right team to be able to accomplish anything I imagined over these past eight years, there’s a lot of team development, when it comes to to hiring and building that team. What are some common mistakes that you’ve seen have done, whether you’ve seen you’ve done it yourself or seen elsewhere that you would say, avoid this for sure.

Ray Meiring 10:44
One of the common mistakes that I’ve seen and I’ve certainly fallen prey to this mistake is being under pressure to make a hire. And so compromising too too quickly to make that, that high, you know, you need somebody by a particular date, you’ve got a group of candidates, there’s a couple of them that you you like, but you’re not completely excited about. And the time pressure forces you to make a decision. And then you make a mediocre decision on that on that high, and maybe you compromising culture to make the higher maybe you compromise track record to make that higher or domain knowledge you, you’re forced into making a compromise that, of course, the worst compromise that you could make is the culture compromise. It’s the values compromise, and and We fortunately have not find ourselves in that situation. But you definitely do experience that pressure to make a decision to make a hire. And it’s a tough balance, because you don’t also, you know, just defer the decision, looking for a purple unicorn. So that’s really a difficult balance to strike between a rushed hire that makes you compromise or holding too long, and not making any higher because you’re looking for something that just doesn’t exist.

Alexander Ferguson 12:05
Beyond a resume, What messages do you use to assess the potential of a candidates and when you bring them on?

Ray Meiring 12:11
Well, it’s always, you know, always interesting to go through somebody’s resume and to hear about their experience. And that’s a fundamental process. But I really enjoy the questions that a candidate asks me, I think that gives me a lot of insight to how they think how they work. And what kind of questions are they asking, are they truly interested? Are they researched? Are they offering valuable insights? Are they interested in the future of where we’re going? What kind of questions do they have? For us, for me? And to me, that’s, that’s one of the most valuable parts of any recruitment discussion is actually just hearing the questions that the candidate has.

Alexander Ferguson 12:55
Obviously, over the years, the team grows, and then you have people hiring other people. How big is the team now today? We’re just short of 70. Gotcha. And it’s, it’s over distributed a couple places, or you’re mostly in Seattle.

Ray Meiring 13:08
We are mostly the client facing roles are in our in Seattle in the US. And then we have engineering still in Cape Town, South Africa and a few client facing. Folks, they’re looking after the UK and rest of world team. You know that that’s an interesting dynamic to the business because Cape Town and South Africa on nine to 10 hours to Cape Town to Seattle, or nine to 10 hours and timezone difference that so it does introduce some very early mornings and late nights for for both teams and interesting learnings around. How do you deal with that? Geographic separation,

Alexander Ferguson 13:51
any takeaways for others who do have multiple offices that are have hours between the teams,

Ray Meiring 13:57
flexibility is key. Obviously, you have to change your hours, you’re not going to be able to just operate in your typical nine to five type role there, but leaning on collaboration tools, so we obviously use Microsoft quite extensively. We use Microsoft Teams, as our it’s kind of like our home main tool. We’re conducting meetings, developing videos, sharing files, having chats and discussions. That’s that’s, that’s critical. And during the pandemic, it’s actually been good that we had some of those disciplines in place as we will now spread out further into our home offices and into various areas there. So it was great having some of those disciplines in place. If I look at the cloud software that we’ve purchased this year, it’s been increased. We’ve increased the use of cloud software, again to just help us to work in a very separated way from a physical point of view.

Alexander Ferguson 14:57
Do you see going back to the standard the normal One goes back to the office next year or what’s what’s your plans?

Ray Meiring 15:05
Great, interesting question. And there’s just so much variability around that. Today. I think where we’re gonna land up and I, that’s all I can says that we’re going to end up with a more hybrid model, where we have collaborate collaborative spaces available to ourselves, where we can go into a boardroom with a whiteboard, and you know, thrash out a problem, or a strategy or an idea. With a big screen there, we can talk about those things. But the actual desk situation where, you know, that’s my desk, and I go in in the morning and sit at the desk, and then I leave in the evening. I think that’s, that’s not entirely gone, but certainly reduced for many, many teams, because we can do that stuff from our home office now, and really get together when we need to collaborate. And that’s what it feels like it’s heading towards, at this time,

Alexander Ferguson 16:04
any favorite books, audio books, podcasts, blog sites that you would recommend or go to regularly?

Ray Meiring 16:11
Yeah, I really enjoy reading books. So I recommend that do as much reading as you can, because that is a great basis.

Alexander Ferguson 16:21
Any favorite words about it your mind though? What’s up any favorites?

Ray Meiring 16:25
Favorites? Well, I’ve got a few go twos that that I always go back to. So the hard thing about hard things, is a key book. And if you ever go through one of those difficult times in your business, that book just gives you some inspiration to keep going. We’ve just discussed again, as a company, lean business. I think that’s the name of the of the book, I’d have to look it up. But it’s it’s the whole principle of, of the lean startup. That’s the name of the of the book. And a lot of the principles in that and how those principles apply to the disciplines inside of the organization. And and pushing that through a book that I read recently, culture code, Daniel, I think it’s quite a that’s how you might pronounce it. But really fascinating observations on culture and motivating teams. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. And then you know, podcasts and blogs. Jason Lemkin, Sastre blog is a fantastic blog, read just about everything that comes out from their best and SAS podcast is a great one to listen to. Thank our marketing team for introducing me to that one. So yeah, great to to get those other experiences in there as well.

Alexander Ferguson 17:42
Last question I have for you what kind of tech innovations do you predict we will see in the near term, the next year, and long term, 510 years.

Ray Meiring 17:53
The Coming of Age of NLP and AI is, is certainly happening right now. And I think that that that process is, is just going to continue to grow in the next few years. But the principles around virtual reality or augmented reality, I’m interested to see how that’s gonna play out. And in a few areas, firstly, with the way that the pandemic has changed the work environment, are there technologies and tools there that will allow us to collaborate globally, more effectively, and to create this, this feeling of togetherness when we’re not physically in the same room? Can some of those technologies introduce that into the workplace? But then even in our industry? How can some of those omitted realities technologies, benefit teams that are collaborating around documents, processes and decisions and how can they be applied and fed in to that process and that I’m interested to see how that’s gonna expand in the next five years watching that space very carefully.

Alexander Ferguson 19:01
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview, you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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