Extraordinary Life Stories with Charlie Cadbury

Our CEO and Co-Founder, Charlie Cadbury was recently interviewed by John Reynolds.

Previous episodes have included Peter Andre, Jim Mellon, and John Caudwell. Charlie was honoured to be speaking to John Reynolds.

Read the full transcript below:

John Reynolds 0:38
Hello, my name is John Reynolds. On this episode of extraordinary life stories, I’m talking with Charlie Cadbury. Charlie is a serial entrepreneur working in tech for over 20 years. He’s pioneered working with voice and is now CEO say it now, which is a specialist technology company that helps brands take advantage of opportunities created by consumers shifting to conversation of channels, he spent the majority of his career exploring the opportunities presented by emerging tech. With this in mind, I’m interested to discuss the disruption AI is causing and how he’s embracing this with his business interests. As a dad of three, I’m keen to know how he juggles being an entrepreneur, and juggling family and life, something I’m constantly striving to achieve. I’m really looking forward to talking with Charlie. Charlie, welcome. Great to be tell me who is Charlie capillary.

Charlie Cadbury 1:31
So I’m actually a nine year old boy trapped in an aging body. I’m kind of curious. But it’s a good way to be. Well, I think you know, kind of day to day a lot of people know me, I’m the co founder CEO of a company called Say it now which is an ad tech business, we work with brands to help give them a voice what we do is we allow people to engage with audio into TV advertising using Alexa. So imagine your home listening to the radio or watching TV, the ads come on, one of the ads says tonight is pizza night. And I’d love to give you 50% off your pizza tonight to claim your coupon. Just say Alexa, open Pizza Hut, Alexa would say we’d like me to send a coupon to your phone to claim that discount, you say, yep, coupon arrives on your phone, and you continue watching the TV or listening to the radio. But at that same time Pizza Hut, then log into our Data Studio, they can see exactly when those ads have been served. When people are engaging with them, they can then kind of turn up the ads that are working and have you know on TV or radio seven times a day will turn down the ads that aren’t working. And that makes the media spend go faster. So this is this is quite exciting, really exciting.

John Reynolds 2:34
Want to go back to the beginning and then come back to that. What got you into this? Where did you want to be when you were growing up.

Charlie Cadbury 2:40
So when I was eight years old, my mother drove into the driveway and the coolest car that I’d ever seen in my life was a burgundy Austin Maestro. And in the middle of this Austin maestro, there was a little thing in the dashboard, it says voice synthesis system and you could press a button. And it would say average fuel consumption. And this was exciting to me because I was a big fan of a show called Knight Rider with the half the half, he was talking. Now looking back, I now see you know, kits, which was the talking car was an autonomous vehicle with a smart speaker built in that he could talk to you. And I now know that it was cloud based because I saw a picture of Michael Mike talking to his smartwatch. So you know, Kitt was in the car. And so, you know, this was exciting, he got me into kind of a world was interested in technology. Both my parents were, you know, they’d had their own businesses, they were accountants. And, you know, I can see my mother was always into using new technologies when I was 10 years old, doing data entry on Super calc for taking people’s kind of day books and doing that kind of manual data entry. And so I was always looking at the new technologies, which are coming through and that’s, that was the genius of this whole thing.

John Reynolds 3:53
So how did you get into that from the inspiration of Knight Rider, to then ultimately becoming an entrepreneur? Because you weren’t taught any of this at school? That’s not in the curriculum. So what’s the journey? And how did you pioneer to ultimately get to where you are now?

Charlie Cadbury 4:07
So yeah, I was never really an academic I was, you know, it was something that was, I was told to do, and I went there. And then, you know, as at the end of the end of vitamin A levels, I was looking at what are you most interested in Charlie? And that’s the subject is good going to university. So I was most interested in biology, like, how does this all work? Right. And so I then started biology and it wasn’t very exciting at university. It was I couldn’t see any kind of real-world application to connect career to what you were learning.

Charlie Cadbury 4:34
Exactly , I ended up not not finishing that degree. And staying around in, in Oxford, I got a job selling selling it equipment. So selling network infrastructure. Yeah. And so yeah, that was that was quite good and worked out. And I was able to able to sell I was kind of building up some cash and I thought, This is great. I’m gonna buy a house. I’m gonna live in Oxford, but then I thought maybe maybe there’s something else. So I bought a Bicycle instead, I took this bike and I cycled up to heritage then over to Europe, I cycled down to Morocco and spent four months

John Reynolds 5:09
Kind of Forrest Gump you got on the bike and just didn’t stop kind of Yeah.

Charlie Cadbury 5:11
Yeah, and that’s that was fine I was on my own kind of three main reasons to kind of to get kind of physically fit I’d been eating a lot of begets and drinking a lot of beer and putting on a bit of weight. And so I wanted also kind of get to know the neighbors instead of taking four months off all my friends, right? Why wandering into Southeast Asia and South America? So how about I go to Spain and France, you know, I’m getting my French and Spanish up that kind of worked and spent a bit of time working out, you know, who I wanted to be where I wanted to go? Well, at this point, I was 24 at that point, that I came back to London. And there was an old, old school friends and he was that like, Charlie, you’ve always said, we can start a business together like what what can we do? And I was like, Okay, well, let’s make money and interesting and exciting ways, which is really, really naive and stupid. But now we call this business stop brewing have an awful lot of fun. We bought a speed dating franchise called X pack, the dates that we ran for three years and the W postcode and London cycle of running kind of three, we started off running one event a month grew, that’s eight events a month 50 people each time that was fun, got us to learn about how to drive people to write online and ended up setting up a had a few different business ideas that started and failed at a media business putting advertising on water cooler bottles, but ended up starting a web business, write a short web design and build business grew that we’re gonna get organically from of two founders, up to a 45 person team. And so building first websites, then Facebook applications, then mobile phone apps, so you can have 2008, the iPhone launched. And that’s a year later, the App Store launched and hopefully we can build outs now was huge, and a gold rush. And so I oversaw the kind of build about 350 digital products from contract to code to get a really good understanding about and I suppose to sell that many kind of projects and work with them who are clients and teams, I probably saw about, you know, 1000 1500 ideas, people like, what can we do with this new technology? What can we do with mobile? What can we do with socialists, I think was really good and a breeding ground for my my curious mind about okay, is the application of these these new technologies?

John Reynolds 7:21
Interesting mentioned new technologies? Ai? Yeah. So bring it back to where you were, when you first introduced yourself? How is that affecting what you’re doing now? And do you see it as a positive or negative or both?

Charlie Cadbury 7:34
So I’ve got, I’ve been working with, with Alexa now kind of all specifically only in voice since 2014. And so you know, I read a book by a guy called Daniel Priestley, called the key person of influence, I read that it’s a great book, right. And so, I was the agency business, building mobile apps. For other people, it was always an agency. So you only kind of live and die by your last quarters, there was never any IP being built, there was never big exits. And so I thought I was gonna do something next, how to build a layer of technology and capture kind of the value of people’s moved voice. And they will build this IP and exit. That’s the kind of the journey that we’re on at the moment. So 2014 started to look at Alexa and what we could do with this, this new paradigm, people could not be able to talk back to the air around them, you know, I was at a Google talk about this. It’s kind of ambient computing, no longer you have to access the internet through your screen, you’re free to kind of talk to the air and and that was that was really exciting. And when people are like, how is this going to play into your life in the future? You know, what do I need a smart speaker? Do I need the system? And sure, it’s less about the smart speaker, it’s more about the assistants. And if you think of these intelligent assistants that can take the mundane tasks away from you. And you can do more with your life. So you know, I know that Alexa is getting better and better. Amazon announced last week that they’re incorporating large language models like chat DPDT style, thinking and technology. So they’re linked to it, Alexa, so that you’re going to have more expansive, more beautiful, more natural conversations. And you’re going to build your trust with existence and be able to delegate tasks. So can

John Reynolds 9:14
So can you tailor it? Do you think that’s what’s coming? What’s the tailoring to the always the individual?

John Reynolds 9:18
The individual or to the brand, if you’re gonna have a brand new message, that’s what our technology is built to have these kind of expansive conversations from our brands, if you want to talk to BT, they need to be emitted, they need to exist in this environment. So that’s what we built but the real test for me is when you know, I can say, Alexa, can you book a restaurant, my wife and I for Friday night, I can also book a babysitter, knowing that they will be able to complete those tasks. And that then gives me back you know, 10 minutes of my day, and more and more of this so that my my view for the future you know, I’m on my 70th birthday. I’ve got I’ve got three kids, they’ll be there with their other halves are beaten down by maybe some grandkids that point, right and I can I’m on a good path right now my 17 Both right now, it’d be great, we’d have a great party, I tell some good stories. But with an assistant, right, knowing that over the next kind of 30 years, they’re going to be doing more and more for my life. I’m going to tell more greatest stories about a greater life lived, right? So the things that will be possible will you know, at the moment, I’m missing out on serendipitous opportunities to go and have weekends or holidays with friends, because I forgot, phoned them up, because synchronized diaries in the future, our assistants might have a chat or a Charlie, you know, you can use this becomes free and actually will free this weekend, and you both wants to go study in it together. And there’s a special on should I book that for you. And you know, that these kind of like these kind of things will happen. And more of my life have never thought, yeah, this is kind of exciting, kind of kind of AI optimist, which

John Reynolds 10:47
is positive. But to my point, I mean, that is huge. I mean, juggling family, business life, having time to go away, I’m too busy. Actually, if you can integrate personalized use of AI. So massive, was huge

Charlie Cadbury 11:01
jealousy and others, this is slipping quite quickly now. So meta actually, just this week have released their new glasses. And you know, they can, you can talk to their AI. So they’re bringing out an hour you can talk to, you know, live live streams us. This is new for Amazon last week released their kind of Alexa glasses. So you can have you can walk around the world with access to all of your digital products and services, you know, your your email, but restaurants, all that, you know, hands free ways you can just walk down the street and actually look at what meetings do I have today? Can you push that on back and send a message to this person over here. All of this is delivering more utility and a frictionless way to you as an individual, because we can talk at about 150 words a minute, some a bit faster. And you can only type into your phone about 50 words a minute. So yeah, it’s easier to get stuff done at all, this is giving time back to your life. And that’s, you know, our most precious commodity.

John Reynolds 12:04
When you’ve been what, 20-25 years of innovator in tech, this must be the most exciting time you’ve seen and you’ve got to stay right on the wave, right? If you’re raising capital, or you’re creating an opportunity in business at the moment, based on the now you’ve got to have some foresight and some vision of where things might be going or you’re going to be left behind in a year, let alone two years, three years. Yeah, anything like that.

Charlie Cadbury 12:29
But luckily, I’m the best that I’ve ever been, right. So I can take a bit but you know, the last business we kind of we ran kind of an agile and lean methodology that’s all about kind of build tests learn build Tesla, and actually, the way that every business and individual runs their life, you know, you know, I go out today, you know, we’re having a great chat, I’m learning from you. I’m gonna have another 10 great conversations today, which means tomorrow, I’m better than today and in six months time, way better than I am today, right? If I look back at myself, six months ago, I was a child in comparison to the man I am today. And so, you know, during seeking growth or compound interest, right, so you know, so it’s all company that the more conversations you have, it’s all kind of stacked stacked on top of each other. Yeah, there’s a great quote by a guy called Gregory says EQ was kind of popularized by Tim Ferriss. And so he says, easy choices, hard life, hard choices, easy life, and it plays into this kind of this idea of compound interest. You know, if you know, if you go and have two meetings a day and spend your day watching TV, that’s an easy life, right? But you know, it’s an easy choice, you’re gonna have a hard life, if you might have choices, you know, you get out there, you try and do the things which are hard, which is a lot of things right now, you know, life is hard, but it’s, you know, you sprinkle it with fun and becomes, you know, hard but fun by it. Yes, that’s why I can look at things, then you can then compound interest and all those things, whether it’s kind of choosing the stairs rather than the left, or choosing to invest on savings and money rather than gifts, that restaurant or going to have kind of conversations with people and you know, try and push forward what you’re trying to do and you’ll, you’ll learn your curiosity and that’s kind of got a load of, of advisors, and really, really good network around with Keep me informed. And you know, having built that, that’s how we’re going to stay ahead, but I’m going to do all of this way better tomorrow. Yeah.

John Reynolds 14:19
I can feel the positive energy just like exuding from you. I imagine that attracts you to all sorts of positive people and you’re pulling everyone up that growth mentality that desire that curiosity, you mentioned, I think it rubs off.

Charlie Cadbury 14:34
It’s rubbing off on me for me like it attracts luck. You know, whenever you’re talking about this study, I told that the story was constantly pitching to investors. I spent like half my time raising money half my time on sales half my time on business strategy and the halftime managing wise. I feel I feel like I’ve run out of time. It’s hard. It’s hard, but it’s quite often. Yeah.

John Reynolds 14:57
I mean, you mentioned hard this there’s a lot of If you’re suffering with getting the balance, right, being positive, staying positive, we’re actually filming in the jack studio, just ask a question. What’s your thoughts on Jane?

Charlie Cadbury 15:08
Does translate an amazing resource. You know, I think it’s amazing that the model is to keep it out free. You’ve got you can ask any question, are we talking just before? Yeah? How in the hell? Could you ask any question? Possibly using, you know, through an assistant and get to that wealth of insight and understood that the idea that you’ve got lots and lots of different experts that can talk to different situations you might find yourself in because sometimes, we need to call a friend. And sometimes you don’t have that friend. And it feels like that’s the problem that as well solving?

John Reynolds 15:41
No, that’s well articulated, and relevant to you? What do you do to keep physically and mentally fit because I can feel the positive vibe, you look like you keep fit, what actually works is there’s so many options, from ice baths to yoga, to breathing exercises, love to

Charlie Cadbury 15:56
select between my agency business and where I am today, I had to kind of get a life changing kind of transitionary period, you know, there was a bit of a six month period where I’d just had twin twin boys, my mum dies. And then I had my daughter. And then I walked away from this business working with for seven years, because I, I didn’t believe we were building any any value. So in order to kind of reset myself, I set up a consultancy, I changed the pace of my life, I was you know, I was called a product a fast moving problem solver. I was like, let’s just take a step back. And I started to go to 2015. And so I then I started John ClassPass, to start doing kind of classes, yoga hit with classes all over London that I have quite a headspace subscription, and started doing 10 minutes of mindfulness every day. And that was that was, you know, really, really good kind of reset and to work out what I needed. But in my body and my mind. And I didn’t during that process. That was something that Andy set on headspace and he said, Look, what you could do every day is you need to find the time to take a few mindful breaths, find something to focus on, and take a few mindful breaths. And what that will give you is direct access to that mindful state where you stop being high adrenaline, high cortisol, you reengage your kind of your rest and digest states. And then you can make conscious decisions rather than just running around like a maniac on autopilot. And that can you know, there’s really no way. And so I then I then went online, I was like cool, I need to find something to focus on, which is going to help me have these mindful moments. And it didn’t exist I so I had this idea about creating what ended up becoming the moment pebble, which is a physical device that you you keep in your pocket, you take out a few times a day, you tap three times and it glows. And as also it suddenly more as it gets brighter, you breathe in, it’s darker, you breathe out. And so for 30 seconds, you have four mindful breaths, and you put any pocket you can with the day you have this. And that, you know those during that kind of exploration, I went through a big accelerator course. And when that myself, I see my wife because we got going on this journey together through a mindful Based Stress Reduction course. So that that gives me some of the kind of the mental tools and you know, I was actually talking with my wife last night. That was when we really started think about this concept of metacognition. So how can I think about how I’m thinking, so that I think better, right? It’s, it’s a kind of ladders, but it’s kind of handy. So that’s good. And then I kind of go from I’d like a daily kind of hygiene during COVID Whether one of the things that stuck was finding that all of my arguments in my life anywhere business home whenever misaligned expectations. And so what was happening during COVID, I was working from home, the kids were being homeschooled, and I was getting hardly anything done. And the kids would say, Daddy, you’re always working. And so it’s hugely kind of misaligned kind of living X lived experience. And so I was like honeys gets more time in my life. Where is the time? Oh, it’s before everyone wakes up. So I started waking up really early, and going for a run and then coming back and having what I call the golden hour. So like an hour of work, but there’s no emails Pinyon because I’m a monkey I like what’s really early, or really early for me is just before six o’clock. Okay, so I know when the seasons are changing, it’s getting dark. Yeah. So just for six Latin Bible, half steaks, work until half, seven the kitchen and I’m really really good at kind of structuring the day. At that point. It gets me ahead of the day. And I’ve kind of kept that up

John Reynolds 19:29
to where I can parallel that is awesome. I mean, it just feels that you sort of won the morning you can win the day, a bit of a cliche, but you’ve just got that tiny, you’ve got yourself set up, got a workout done, got some fresh air, whatever it might be, and there’s better for the rest of the day totally.

Charlie Cadbury 19:44
I wear weep and it’s gotten it’s got a chat DPT going to tiny dots, playing around with a light bulb, what can I do to like make my days but it says the days where you exercise within three hours of waking up are your best days. Just little insights that are great. And then We’ve got a new advisor that came into the business last year. And he’s he’s a brilliant comms expert and tells me, you know, brilliant, very simple advice. I like China, what are the three most important things you’re doing today, what three was support, things like that is such a simple, brilliant converse, like, framing of thoughts. And so usually on my my run, I didn’t take my headphones, I don’t. It’s just just me and my thoughts and on the way to the river. And back, I think about the three things I need to do within my golden hour. Alright, and then as long as I do the three things that makes you think about the 100 things you’ve got to do and prioritize just the top three most impactful things, yeah, then I’m friends, and I’ve like got them away before f7. And then I now walk to work. And, you know, I walk again, with my phone in my pocket, looking up at the trees, right, slightly three of those, and whether it is a 20 minute walk, to work. And by the time we get there, I think about just the three most important things that I need to do that day, right? So if I only ever do six things a day, they’re still quite quite good, but they’re the most impactful things. Yeah. And that’s how I’ve put some calm in or otherwise might be quiet que en se my especially because,

John Reynolds 21:05
you know, you’re you’ve got different business interests going on three kids, young kids, you’re just staying present, you’re staying current? And actually, there’s a there’s a goal setting element to that as well, you know, by setting those three targets, if you like, I mentioned to take you back to the other sort of more chaotic years. Did you set goals? Did you did you journal? Did you write things down?

Charlie Cadbury 21:27
Things like that, that, you know, during my 20s? Like, you know, you think you know it all and pretend that it didn’t, right. And so, you know, you could have a whole load of like learning by mistakes rather than learning through experience. And I do during that time, I put myself on a on an accelerated course with called the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses, which is fantastic and transformational. Yeah, the end of that was like, Oh, my gosh, you know, that scene matrix like Anna configures? Like, I know a little bit more about running my business like maybe analogies, but anyway, so um, so that was one and I came out of the back. And I was like, Cool. How do I learn from other people’s experience rather than making many mistakes? That’s when I started to hide my spreadsheets. Yeah, my first chairman, and then started, you know, to have that kind of advisors around me really looking out for where, where can I get this learning from to shortcut? Yeah, rather than trying to make these mistakes, why and I

John Reynolds 22:24
love that, because you’re basically making the point that you tried and failed many times to be where you are now. And there’s a lot of talk and a lot of people that are afraid of failure, and therefore they won’t even try, you are the epitome of just decides, like, just get on with it. Just get on with it. And actually, you pivot you learn. And that’s how you ultimately keep moving. Keep momentum. Yeah, but

Charlie Cadbury 22:45
I have convictions, I hold them with it with a soft grip, you know, I’m very happy to be right, until I’m wrong. I instance, like, I make I make decisions when I’m 70% sure that they’re right, which means I’m very happy that I’m wrong 30% of the time, but that means I try more. I fail more. I learned more.

John Reynolds 23:02
Sitting here now, how would you define success?

Charlie Cadbury 23:05
with happiness? I think, you know, there’s the one the one that arbiter is, you know, is, you know, how happy are you? I had conversations, I was having a conversation with my stepmom. And it was like, Look, you know, this this is this is ultimately a conversation about happiness like this, this is this is the things that might that you might or might not want to do. And if we have this chat in six months time, we want to talk about how this might have changed your happiness. Right? Because otherwise it’s it’s it’s busyness. Yeah, yeah,

John Reynolds 23:36
that’s a great answer. One thing back to the AI conversation, deep fake voice and video. So that’s relevant to Jack’s relevant to your business, how much of a threat is that to that by deep fake, I mean, that imitation of so you know, Charlie, the respect to Charlie’s about to do a talk, and all of a sudden, that’s something awful offensive. And so it’s not you how you’re going to protect your business from that side of AI,

Charlie Cadbury 24:03
as with our businesses, is relatively secure. You know, we know we work with best of breed AI services that kind of pop into our platform. So for example, you know, for we’ve got the first part of our audio creation, we can create an audio ads on the fly. So you put in a paragraph of what you want your campaign to achieve, it then creates automatically spins up the script for that audio ads, and then creates a voice that voice that thinks you need in order to get their message across, it creates the music line and then spits out a 32nd audio ad that’s good enough to go and run that campaigns. But but all of that is done with the right kind of copyrights and permission. So there’s, you know, it’s technology that can that can imitate your voice and your likeness and you know, create an avatar view. And the important thing is to make sure that it has your consent to do that. And yeah, then you have a great opportunity for you to then profit for other people. Yeah. Using your likeness. Yeah, that’s, that’s really, really great. I think that, you know, there’s, there’s a huge opportunity for the kind of nefarious actions for people to, you know, you know, imitate what someone else is saying. And that’s, that’s, that’s trying to be locked down right now. And I think that’s, that’s quite high on the priority of all the, you know, algorithms, you know, the big major tech players, because if they lose your trust, then you won’t go back and you’ll swap over to another I think what’s moving forward now is that you know, the way that you engage with all of their own assistants so Apple wants you to use Siri and Google wants you to use a Google Amazon wants you to use use Alexa and you know, Facebook now brought out their, their met AI who and they want you to met so you’re going to have all these assistants to choose from the minute you choose one. And that starts deliver utility like you know, you’ve choosing the phone, you’ve chosen an iPhone, so you’re relatively locked down. And so Apple are going to have more and more laws Yeah, on your life. And if you start to use Siri, then that’s gonna have more and more to swear in your life and they can profit off that. But in order to for you to be happy to use these platforms, you have to deeply trust that they’re, you know, work in your best interests, and ultimately that they’re delivering you loads and loads of utility you know, people have been working voice for eight years now. People are always listening is Alexa always listening and you’re carrying a phone like that has got potential to listen to you and fully around but you forget and you’re very, very, like, there’s nothing your phone can do wrong, right? If I take it away, like, you’ll be unhappy, and it’s because of a lot of hate relationships, some fast utility, right? You know, your life is so much so much easier with it. I

John Reynolds 26:38
know. I agree with that. I’ve learned loads talking to you if you’d like a positive vibe coming across in your knowledge of everything voice AI. Thank you so much for sharing that journey as well.

Charlie Cadbury 26:48
It’s really easy. It’s a sunny Friday morning.

John Reynolds 26:51
Very true. Thank you.