We caught up with Kristan Bullett, a member of the 2023 PARSE cohort, to find out more about his journey as a tech founder.
Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.
Humans Not Robots is a data platform providing analytics, advisories, and automation to enable, initially, the media + broadcast sector to make their digital supply chains cleaner, cheaper and faster. Ultimately this is a pan-sector play. We plan on making the digital supply chain 20% cheaper and 30% cleaner. Naturally, there are some huge numbers in play here. Some organisations currently spend billions on their cloud-based operations.
I am Humans Not Robots co-founder and CEO. I have over 20 years’ experience working in and around very large media organisations. Some of the companies I have worked for include BBC, Channel 4, Sky, Disney, Discovery, and Virgin Media. With a long history of hands-on architecture and development I have very strong technical capabilities. As I progressed through my career, I have been able to gain a strong and broad set of skills across most areas of business. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, but I have significant experience across sales, marketing, finance, legal and all aspects of team management. At Humans Not Robots I do a little bit of everything but spend a lot of my time in sales, building the product and, of course, fund-raising.
What was the inspiration behind setting up your business?
Whilst delivering services to large broadcasters, we realised that disparate digital workflows, services, and components were significantly contributing to duplicity and redundancy across the media supply chain. The more of a supplier’s product or services the broadcaster used, the more they paid and the greater the environmental impact.
Our research revealed that the Internet and supporting services are responsible for 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We estimate we can reduce that by 30% and therefore have a major impact on sustainability – and it will save a huge amount of money as well. If we can reduce the environmental impact of the digital supply chain by 30% and the cost by 20% then we think we’re building a really transformative product, that is something we are really excited about.
Why did you decide to take part in PARSE, and what are you hoping to achieve from the experience?
We are always on the look-out for accelerators, incubators and other initiatives that are supportive of founders and tech start-ups. These are very important as they help to provide different perspectives, challenge our view, and open new networks. PARSE is particularly interesting as it does not have a hard-structure and is not a huge commitment.
I’m therefore looking at PARSE as more of an on-going counselling session and, following the first session I think that is what it will be. It’ll be great to have some friendly and supportive faces who I can, confidentially, moan to about all the problems I’m having in the start-up but also get some constructive suggestions on how to move problems in the right direction.
From your experience so far, what has been the most valuable thing you have found within the Leeds tech community?
Leeds is a strong, friendly, and knowledgeable community. People want to help and, so far, I have not felt a strong quid pro quo approach. It is great to have people wanting to help without needing a pound of flesh in return. I’m hoping I’ll be on the other side of the table soon but for now I’m more of a taker than a giver!
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a Startup currently?
Right now, I would say our biggest challenge is maintaining financial stability at the same time as ensuring we can get to the point where we’ve built enough of our proposition that customers will start getting fully on-board. We have validated we’re building something that companies want but we need to get far enough down the road before we can pick up enough speed – and we need to pick up enough speed without veering off the road and crashing into a wall. It is a real balancing act.
Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company over the next 12 months?
If we can execute successfully then by this time next year we’ll have some strong revenue as well as some really strong customers names (think BBC, Sony + Sky) and we’ll be starting to broaden our offering into secondary and tertiary sectors.
If we have also built the team to 10 to 12 people and have an office where we can all meet (as and when we choose to) then we’ll be in a good place.
How do you personally define success?
There is a Warren Buffet quote which says, “…measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you”. He is 91 and a billionaire so has a slightly different perspective to most of us. But I really like the sentiment. Yes, there are financial goals, but I’m really interested in building a strong team with a really strong culture and an impactful product business that leaves behind a positive legacy.
Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?
Bill Gates post-2010. Shifting his focus to his philanthropic work and continuing to maintain, focus, drive and ambition is amazing to see. He clearly continues to be a very smart and considered person and has been able to pivot towards targeting and achieving very, very ambitious goals outside of the business world. If you look at the work he is doing in Africa, or his efforts to fight climate change, his capabilities are astounding.