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Happy 5th Birthday Phrasee: An interview with Phrasee CEO Parry Malm

by Parry Malm



Parry here, Phrasee’s CEO and co-founder. Today, February 24th 2020, marks exactly five years since Phrasee was born. IT’S TIME TO PARTY! 

But before that, in a grand tradition, like in 2018 and 2016, we wanted to dive into what we’ve learned over the last five years… and what the next five has in store. 

And what better way… than an interview… with myself…?  

 

*** BEGIN FAKE INTERVIEW *** 

 

Q: Hey Parry! It’s been a couple years. You’re looking great. Have you been working out? 

A: Oh, these <flexes pythons>? Nope, not at all. Just nature.  

 

Q: So, Phrasee is five years old now. You must be proud, eh? 

A: Well, I guess. I mean, I often think I should be proud because that’s how you’re supposed to feel when you do something awesome, right? But I don’t know, as the years go on, I keep feeling like we’re just getting started.  

 

Q: FFS, humblebrag much, Parry?  

A: Yeah, I know. But you know what? If I stop to think about it, we’ve got a hell of a lot to be proud of! 

In the last five years, here are just a few of the awesome things we’ve achieved: 

  • Developed world-leading tech – and this isn’t even hyperbole. There is no other on-demand AI-Powered Copywriting tech on the market. Others have tried and failed, which is really a nice point of pride for us, although I do feel bad for those who failed. 
  • Signed up some of the most awesome brands in the world – Virgin Holidays has been working with us for five years. eBay for four years. Domino’s for three years. The list goes on. We would never have dreamt of it when we first launched.  It still blows me away! 
  • Kept it a capital efficient business – a boring one, I know, but this is the kind of stuff I think about these days. We’ve only raised about US$5m – which is, believe it or not, a tiny sum. Instead, we’ve focused on building an intrinsically strong business model.  
  • Doing it the right way – from our AI Ethics Policy, through to our company choir, Phrasee Phonics. We didn’t start Phrasee to be jerks… and we don’t carry on to be miserable. So we put in constraints to avoid jerks… and cool stuff to be happy. Noice! 
  • Built an awesome team – it’s true, our team really is awesome. Everything we’ve achieved at Phrasee is because of them, and that’s not even an understatement. If you’ve ever dealt with the team, you’ll probably have enjoyed it… because we don’t hire assholes. Simple!  

 

Q: That’s all pretty cool. You mentioned you’ve got world-leading tech. Has the product changed in the last five years?  

A: Absolutely, and in new and exciting ways. From day one people have been asking if they could get ‘the Phrasee effect’ across all their marketing channels. With the Phrasee Phormula, this vision is totally achievable!  

We’ve got customers right now extending their Phrasee effect across email (subject lines and in-body), mobile app pushes, SMS, landing pages and Facebook ads. We have more channels launching too – watch this space, as they say. 

 

Q: Neato. So, you talk about your awesome customers, and name-dropped a few, cool cool. What’s your ambition with both current and future customers? 

A: Well, first off let me humblebrag a bit more – our most recent customer survey gave us an NPS of 83%. That’s pretty awesome, and it’s deeply humbling that so many smart people from so many respected brands put their trust in us.  

What’s really exciting has been our global expansion. From year four to five, our American book of business has doubled in size and is now in the multi-millions. So, the coming quarters are going to be all about increased penetration of the United States. In fact – as I type this, I’m on a plane heading to Palm Springs, California, for eTail Palm Springs. Come say hi at Booth 603 if you’re there! 

 

Q: So, this capital efficiency thing. Why should anyone care? Isn’t that sort of boring?  

A: Well, I’m kind of hoping at least one accountant will read this post and feel validated. But it’s actually very important. By not raising much money, it forces us to focus on only doing things that customers want… and ensures that we only spend money on smart things.  

It also means that we’re not on the venture capital treadmill, constantly raising from Peter to pay Paul. We have taken investment on, yes, and we have very supportive investors. We have a business plan in place which is fully funded – and we’re executing on that plan… and the plan is 100% about empowering our current and future customers with AI-Powered Copywriting.  

Yeah, that was a boring answer, I know, but it is what it is. The things I consider interesting five years into Phrasee are SO different to what was interesting when I was unemployed and pushed my chips in on Phrasee. Then it was about survival. Now, it’s about optimization. It’s still interesting, it’s still fun – and it’s very different to how it used to be.   

 

Q: So, you say doing it the right way. What’s it like up there on your high horse? 

A: The air is very pure and clear up here, thank you for asking. 

But it’s an important point. In the first couple of years, the job consumed me; I was it, and it was me. It overtook my entire identity and source of confidence. And that’s what the business needed for those first couple years. 

But as time has gone on, I’ve realized – as have my co-founders Vic and Neil – that there is more to life than a balance sheet. So, that’s why we believe in building Phrasee the right way – in a way that lines up with our collective ethics. 

It’s also why we do fun things. Like how we are throwing a massive birthday party next week in London – a MASSIVE one. And I mean off-the-hook massive. TVs-out-the-window massive (not that massive, but still). Because if you’re not having fun, what’s the point of it all?  BTW: if you want to get on the guestlist, contact your customer success representative please! 

 

Q: And your team is awesome, that’s cool. 

A: Yeah – one thing that people who move to Phrasee often say is they are refreshed by our people – how we’re simply and plainly nice. And we get stuff done. And we know how to balance work and play.   

What’s super cool is our first two employees – Jasper and Verity – are still with us five years on. And a bunch of others will be coming up to their four-year anniversaries – people like Stu, Matthew and Molly. And three years, two years, one year, the list goes on.  

Simply put, they’re an awesome group of people and that is the accomplishment that most fills me with pride. I love and respect each of them in their own unique ways.  

 

Q: OK, enough about the past. Let’s talk about the future. What are a couple things you’re stoked about in the next year? 

A: OK, there are two things. 

One is doubling down on our partners. We already have full – and graceful – integrations with the likes of Movable Ink, Salesforce, Acoustic and more. This year we’re going to embed deeper with them, and with others in the ecosystems in which we operate. That’s mega. 

The other is the book The Language Effect, which I wrote, and which is being released today, to mark our 5th birthday! 

See, at first some people don’t always “get” Phrasee. But when we have a chance to explain it, it makes sense. So what better way to explain the concept than a book? 

The book isn’t a boring sales pitch. In fact, there are only about four pages out of 198 which are salesy. The rest of it explains why we’ve pioneered the AI-Powered Copywriting category – and why people need to jump aboard now… or risk being left behind. 

 

Q: Last question: what do the next five years have in store for Phrasee?  

A: Well, I’ve learned to not make wild predictions, so I can’t say exactly what Phrasee will look like.  

But I do know what I want the world to look like. 

See, you’re a consumer, I’m a consumer, we’re all consumers. And our inboxes, our phone screens, our social feeds, are filled with terrible advertising. The vast majority of it is hard-discounting, high-pressure BS that renders any brand equity you’ve built up over the years valueless. 

This needs to change.  

And in the next five years, Phrasee will drive that change.   

 

Q: Well, that was great, Parry, what a great guy you are to interview. What are you doing later?  

A: Weird. Lose my number, weirdo.  

 

*** END FAKE INTERVIEW *** 

 

Visit thelanguageeffect.com to download a free sample of The Language Effect: why AI-Powered Copywriting is a marketer’s (new) best friend, authored by Phrasee CEO and co-founder Parry Malm.