“8 Questions with Playfair” ft. Conor Sheridan @ Nory
This is the eighteenth in our “8 Questions” series — in which we sit down with founders in the Playfair portfolio who share their entrepreneurial journey.
We first invested in Nory, an AI driven smart operating system for the hospitality industry, in 2021. Since then, the company has experienced tremendous growth — 8x since launch in February 🚀— with a multi-million dollar pipeline and phenomenal user engagement metrics.
Today, we sit down with founder and CEO, Conor Sheridan, to hear his story from the beginnings of Nory. We hope this can help other founders and aspirational entrepreneurs in their own ventures.
1. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
He founded multiple companies over the course of his career. Listening to his passion when he talked about work was intoxicating.
It was a you vs the world mentality (in a positive way). The idea that you could build something from a few scribbles in a notebook to a tangible business was incredibly exciting.
I started my career in finance but quickly realised I didn’t have the same passion I saw in my Dad. I couldn’t get it out of my head. The feeling I should be doing something else, anything else at times. I must have filled in 3 notebooks full of potential ideas/businesses over the course of 2 years.
After that period, I took the my first entrepreneurial leap by founding Mad Egg, a free-range fried chicken restaurant. It was a whirlwind experience. It went from an idea in a notebook to 3 restaurants and over 100 team members in less than 12 months — needless to say I was hooked!
2. Can you take us back to the beginnings of Nory?
Nory was born like many other startups — part out of frustration and part out of feeling there must be a better way to do things.
While growing Mad Egg, the intention was always to lean into technology to optimise the business and give us better control over our margins (profits can swing wildly in a hospitality business!).
With that in mind, we signed up to the market leading operational tools to help manage our in-store ops — from staffing to stock and vendor management. Most products we used were incredibly clunky, outdated and complex to use. They needed to be manually overlaid with custom built models and tooling to get the results we wanted.
I couldn’t believe it — the products that were supposed to be automating repetitive workflows and helping our business perform better, were instead sucking time from our teams and having limited to no ROI on our P&L…
At this point, frustration became obsession and I decided there most definitely was a better way. Enter stage left, Nory — The OS the hospitality industry deserves.
3. What is the hardest lesson learned since day 1?
A restaurant group and a SaaS business are very different businesses and business models. Coming from a quantitative background, I had long held the opinion that once the TAM is large enough and the P&L is solid, it’s about getting the right people on the bus and you’re off to the races.
While that is certainly true, the process of building a brick and mortar D2C business vs a B2B SaaS business is very different. They require two very different types of problem solving.
In the restaurant side you are solving for now, what do people want today? What category is popular now and how can we package that (repeatedly) to grab a share of the market today?
In SaaS, to be a category leader it’s about solving for where the market is going tomorrow. Yes, you need to solve for issues businesses face right now but foreseeing how the industry you serve is changing and what it will need in 3–5 years is ultimately what separates the good vs the great businesses.
4. What has been your strangest day as a founder?
Meeting the Nory team F2F for the first time! Nory was founded during a Lockdown.
We had spent many long days and nights building this product and business together but had never actually spent real time together. Once everything re-opened, we all met up for dinner. It was incredibly surreal at first but we soon got into our (very Irish) routine of taking the p*ss out of each other.
The energy and excitement in that first dinner was intense and had a real magic to it. We all knew that we had an opportunity to do something special.
5. What have you learned from your investors since you first fundraised?
If you want to build a category defining business or a business of venture scale, everything needs be modelled deliberately from the outset.
From positioning to how users buy/onboard to your pricing strategy. Every decision you make about how your business operates, greatly alters the scale that you can achieve and also the backing you will receive.
6. As a founder, what is your proudest achievement to date?
Helping build the team we have at Nory. Seeing them relentlessly solve the hard problems, set innate standards and obsess over building a category defining business makes me very proud.
A great piece of advice I was given early on was to hire/work with people who make you uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in that they force you to level up, I feel this daily with the Nories!
7. Crystal Ball: What are your plans for the future?
Nory’s mission is to be the category defining Hospitality OS.
Globally, the industry has both traditionally under-utilised technology and been underserved by quality technology that can empower their businesses to perform better. We’re here to change that.
8. #1 piece of advice to an aspirational founder?
Be obsessive and relentless.
This reads like toxic hustle culture but in my experience, if you aren’t obsessing about your business then you’re already behind the pack. But obsessing doesn’t mean 24/7 thinking about an idea, it’s a constant progressive motion of diagnosis, decision making and analysis.
Relentless because 90% of your day is made up of roadblocks and fires that would send most people into a panic induced coma. Ultimately whether you succeed or not is down to you and how well you react to adversity will have the largest impact on your chances.