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Tam Al-saad

Tam Al-saad
Founder of Foura on Launching and Growing a Startup.

At Marketing Trends we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. Having spent more than a decade working alongside inspiring people at startups and growth agencies, Tam decided to launch his own startup last year. In this interview he tells us all about his career in marketing and the story behind founding Foura - a service set to help people meet people.

Read the full story here

Career & professional background

Tam, how did your career in marketing start?

When I was 18, while studying, I got a summer job working at a startup, taking enquiries on the phone and helping people out. I was the fourth person to join the business and I stayed working with them all throughout university.

When I graduated, they gave me a full-time job and one of my main responsibilities was Marketing/Lead Gen, which was mostly centred around Google Ads. But being a very small company, I was also doing customer service, sales, HR, operations, and account management, which was an awesome experience for an 18- 20-year-old.

I had a degree in Economics & Business and marketing was part of that study, so luckily I had some of the foundations needed although it wasn’t a big part of the studies.

As the business grew I focussed more on marketing, took over SEO, and later became Marketing & Product Manager before leading our expansion into new countries and playing a role in the business growing to more than 80 employees.

If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be

I guess I don't think of myself as a marketer because I started with such a broad role and marketing was just a part of it.

Yet, when I arrived in Australia, I felt like the easiest thing for me to do was to continue working in Marketing, given it was probably my strongest point and the easiest skill to transfer to other roles. Yet I knew I was always going to launch something of my own at some point.

So I worked in marketing and growth for six  years, and now  I decided to launch my own startup, Foura.

Foura was set up to match up people who have some similar interests. They don't chat, and they don't choose each other. There's a decision-making process in the backend which matches people up based on those similarities and then they all go to a certain bar, on a particular night, and they meet each other in person.

I actually had the idea six years ago when I first arrived in Sydney. Before I got here, I was travelling for a few months around Asia and I was always meeting people at hostels or bars. I found it very easy somehow to connect with people to go to a pub or a tourist attraction.

Yet, when you are not travelling and you actually live in a city, the dynamic is quite different. So I had the idea of starting a business based on the premise of helping people meet people, but I needed to start working to earn money, so I put this idea on the back burner.

Now, I'm in a position where I can do it. My skills have improved a lot and I think the market is ready for something like this. I’ve actually been running a monthly social event for six years in Sydney: on the third Thursday of every month I choose a pub and everybody's welcome. It's a word of mouth event. People always show up! I think people are open to meeting new people and having a different kind of night out.

At the moment, I’m in a trial phase in the sense that there’s no revenue and no budget to invest in marketing yet. So I’m trying free posting, refining the message, making improvements to the website, and focusing on organic growth via people recommending it to their friends. But mostly I’m working on improving the service and speaking to users to get their feedback and suggestions.

You worked in the Marketing and Growth industry for many years, so what type of impact has COVID- 19 had on the sector?

When Covid-19 started I was working at Webprofits, the digital marketing consultancy/agency. At the beginning it was a difficult time as many of our clients were heavily impacted by the crisis. But we acted very quickly.

We did a couple of really big webinars last year on how businesses should react to the pandemic and what they should be doing in order to make sure that they continue to grow. For many companies, the pandemic was actually a huge opportunity.

The immediate reaction from most companies was to switch off their advertising so the CPCs and CPMs were much lower because the competition was low. So my advice was "get out there and do some advertising now, because your competitors aren't!"

And it all worked out very well at the end. We refocused, narrowed our products and services and redefined who we wanted to sell them to. We luckily recovered very quickly and within a year we were back to the same revenue that we were on before the pandemic hit.

What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?

I’m particularly interested in AI at the moment, especially the advances in regard to writing copy. I’m amazed at how much these softwares can give you with such little bits of information.

From the business name and a very brief description of what the business does, it produces entire paragraphs of copy, headlines, email, subject lines, content topics, and everything else. That's phenomenal. It’s not perfect yet, but it will help people and businesses save a lot of time.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?

Nowadays, there are more tools and channels available than ever before. Everything's constantly growing and I think the biggest challenge for marketers is deciding what the right path is: what channels should we be focusing on? How should I spend my time and my budget?

If I’ve learned something in all these years working in marketing, it's that everyone says “we don’t have a very big budget” no matter the size of the company - it’s hilarious!

Prioritising and making sure that you're working on the things that are actually going to get the best value and best growth for your business, I believe is the biggest challenge.

Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your week?

To be honest, I'm not very well-organised! I think the first thing for me is always to set goals. It’s very helpful to identify what and when you want to achieve something. Not to determine your exact steps, but to have a clear sight of what you need to do and the deadlines that you manage.

Another important thing that I recently learned is to stop trying to multitask. So I set myself as many things as I can during a day and then go doing them one at a time.

I use the Pomodoro technique, which is doing a 25-minute intense focus on a task and then taking a five-minute break. Come back, do another 25 minutes and so on. I find it particularly effective, especially if I'm doing a big task like writing content.

What brands do you take inspiration from?

I like brands that disrupt the market and that accomplish things that people thought were impossible to achieve. For example, Airbnb. 20 years ago, the idea of a random stranger coming from somewhere else and staying in your house or your room would be impossible to entertain!

But Airbnb has done that really well, they’ve also created a whole new experience of what travelling means. Even outside the travelling business itself, I am inspired by the stories we heard last year about how Airbnb took care of the employees they had to let go due to the Covid crisis. They tried to find them other jobs, helped them with their resumes, and did absolutely everything they could as a company to take care of the people that they had to let go.

Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?

At the moment I'm using Webflow to build my website and I find it pretty intuitive and easy, so it’s been awesome. But one of my all-time favourite tools is Zapier. It's so powerful, being able to integrate so many different platforms and automate the way they come together.

What are three resources you would recommend for anyone working in your field?

I've been listening to a podcast called Start Up, from Gimlet Media hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow and it's an awesome insight into how businesses start, grow and the challenges that they face.

The Growth Manifesto, blog and podcast. I might be a bit biased here, but the content that Webprofits has been putting out since before I joined has always been fantastic.

In general, I believe it's good to have multiple sources of information and not always focus on the same ones. I also strongly recommend talking to people who disagree with each other or with your own ideas because that's actually what happens in real life and in businesses.