Closing the chapter on smallfoot
3 years ago, I came up with an idea to tackle climate change. Today, that journey has come to a close.
I had a pretty cool job in 2017, working side-by-side with global executives on a 12-month project to tackle some of the biggest problems we face today.
On the topic of climate change, we spoke with 20 experts and ran focus groups to pinpoint exactly how and why this problem persists. We quickly narrowed in on one pivotal tension: the need for businesses to satisfy quarterly growth targets vs. the need to help consumers shop better.
People want to act but don’t know how, and business leaders want to do more but are restricted by quarterly metrics. What can we do to solve the problem system?
The smallfoot intervention
I don’t remember how we landed on spending as the basis for our solution, but it was simple and ingenious: businesses must meet spending targets, and how people spend their money provided a lot of insight into their lifestyle (and by proxy, their footprint).
The idea was born! We’ll use spending data to help people de-code climate change, and help businesses grow sales in a way that matters.
But this was 2017. Converting someone’s spending into their footprint was an unproven theory. Also, accessing their spending data was too expensive and complicated.
It was an idea I truly believed in but, it also required extra time I didn’t have to make it happen. (I had just proposed to my now husband, and we were in the middle of building our family via surrogacy.)
So we shelved smallfoot.
I just couldn’t shake the idea out of my head.
For 3 years my mind was filled with what if’s any time the climate change topic came up. I needed to put this to bed once and for all. So earlier this year, during my paternity leave, I quit Xynteo to pursue smallfoot full-time.
In many ways the timing was perfect. PSD2 has cost-effectively opened up spending data. Startups like Doconomy and North are proof that the theory works. And most importantly, 3 in 4 people are still looking for better solutions.
Along the way, I joined Antler to build up smallfoot in a 10-week sprint. With my co-founder we made a ton of progress — most notably, securing commitments from 3 retail customers, while logging almost 350 pre-registered users.
Two weeks ago we pitched to Antler’s investment committee, and ultimately they declined to fund smallfoot into the next stage. Though it was well validated, they were hesitant to invest in a business model built on a relatively risky data acquisition strategy.
A number of other factors ultimately led me to write the final chapter on smallfoot for good. But we’ve put in a lot of work and it will be a shame if it went to waste. So I want to offer you this.
Opening up smallfoot and next steps
I’ve summarised everything we’ve learned into one document — what people need; what businesses are looking for; how it might work; and useful insights into the market and technology. I hope this gives anyone reading this an added boost to whatever idea or initiative you are pursuing.
As disappointing as this was, smallfoot was intensely rewarding and fun to work on. I’m so thankful to everyone who’s helped me along the way, be it an encouraging text message, or heads down workshopping.
Though I’m not entirely sure what’s to come, I’m still very much driven by ideas that create ‘future-fit’ growth. Whether it’s the corporate world I return to, or continuing on in the startup world, I’m excited to see how the rest of the year plays out.
I obviously have some free time now 😅 and I’d love to make good use of it. Take a look at my background. If I can help you tackle a live problem or build out an opportunity, let’s chat over a socially-distant coffee!
Again, I want to express gratitude to everyone who worked on or contributed to smallfoot. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.