Fliplet sees senior departures amid ‘growing pains’ 

UK-headquartered low-code application development company Fliplet has seen a number of senior departures in the past four months as it acknowledges growing pains in the transition from startup to growth company.

Fliplet was founded in 2009 and launched its first product in 2013, led by founder and CEO Ian Broom. Over the past 18 months it hired Neil McDougall as chief operating officer; Craig Lappin-Smith as head of product; Samantha Jefferies as global head of new business; and Melody Easton as chief marketing officer, with both Jefferies and Easton reporting to McDougall. However, all four have left Fliplet since June, with many in the legal tech market now asking what is behind the departures.

McDougall joined Fliplet in March 2021 as COO, having previously worked as CFO (and a board member) at investment management group Rasmala. He was brought in to help grow the business but left in July. He told Legal IT Insider: “Fliplet is a fantastic product, great tech and has some brilliant people but is struggling to make the transition from start up to a growth company. It’s not unique in this but it needs to listen and learn in order to truly capture the opportunity it has.”  

Lappin-Smith, meanwhile, joined Fliplet in August 2021 as senior product manager having previously had a varied career as product owner for GSK; an associate at Boston Consulting Group; and product manager for Beacon Targeted Therapies’ SaaS clinical trial and drug database product in the healthcare industry.  He left Fliplet June this year for holiday homes company August and told Legal IT Insider: “Fliplet is a really promising company, and they have some really decent people, but it feels like it has shackles on it. You need a different style of management from a startup to a small company and what’s really needed is for management to decentralise and relinquish some control.” 

Fliplet has seen growth in the past year of around 20% and it is not uncommon for successful young companies to struggle to make the transition from startup to growth company. Broom acknowledged the company’s growing pains, telling Legal IT Insider: “I think many ex-colleagues are right, Fliplet is at a transition point right now. We have grown well since the start of the pandemic when our Remote and Office Management Solution (ROMS) desk booking and office capacity management app took off and recently event and marketing apps are popular again. But we need to achieve break-out success to grow to the next stage.” 

According to Broom that means replacing staff who have left with people who have ‘been there done that’, and he said: “Working in a startup with lofty goals is really stressful if staff and managers can’t bring a playbook that avoids them being overly stressed in their roles.” Fliplet has promoted Chris Longmuir to CRO, and Broom said: “Chris is a good example of someone with lots of experience who has stepped up and is using processes he learnt in previous sales roles to hone Fliplet’s sales processes.” He added: “We are interviewing some fantastic candidates to replace Melody taking into account what Melody suggested we look for in her replacement, so we find a great fit.” 

Broom says that the second step is to mature Fliplet’s processes, commenting: “Two weeks ago with had a quarterly management offsite and we focussed entirely on what is and isn’t working regarding company processes. The management team left the meeting with a clear plan for the areas of the business that need the most attention and we have been actively improving these areas since the meeting.” 

Broom was previously a software engineer and says: “Fliplet is very process driven because that’s my background and we attract and retain staff that like processes. Not all staff enjoy working in process-based companies and many staff want to join a startup to escape the processes that often come from larger companies, but a company without processes is a mess and although all startups start without processes, the best way to scale up a business is to leverage processes to help increase quality, accelerate hiring and accelerate onboarding. That’s why we are currently analysing and improving our processes.” He adds: “With better onboarding, we should achieve better performance.”

Broom says that the third area that he is focusing on is developing and promoting internal people, including introducing internal training programmes. He also plans to reduce his own role, observing: “This was the goal when I hired Neil as COO, as Neil was responsible for half the departments.  I am currently working with our recruitment team to rebuild the management team with the goal that I can shift into strategy and move away from the day-to-day. Not only are there way too many things going on in the company to stay hands-on, but as the company grows it has more and more opportunities to help customers and this requires more time working on the strategy and supporting the management team.” 

Fliplet has in the past year brought in a trio of highly experienced board advisers, including Oliella Partners CEO and serial investor Dan Wales; Hyperscale founder Derek Southall; and Tikit and Xperate founder Simon Hill, who are all advising the company on its growth strategy going forward.