In this episode, Legislate meets Kes Daood, Founder and CEO of Quester. Quester is building a place to collaboratively share and organise information in resources lists to help individuals apply to Universities and jobs. Kes shares the story behind Quester and the types of information Quester helps organise.
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Charles Brecque: Would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself and Quester?
Kes Daood: Quester started off actually from another startup, my co-founder and I had the Doxa, which helped students get into UK universities and primarily worked as a B2B enterprise, helping tutoring agencies all over the world get their students into these universities, offering it as a white label service. We noticed tutors were sharing resources with students, and they were pretty boring to use and pretty annoying to curate so we thought why don't we make that process more interesting. We came up with Quester, which allows people to share those resources in a much more engaging and dynamic way, helping individuals not only curate better builds for consumers as well. It's a product that appeals to my co-founder and I, given that we were both tutors for a long time ourselves before we ended up setting up Doxa.
Charles Brecque: What types of resources can I expect to find on Quester?
Kes Daood: At the moment it's all around wider reading, supra-curricular, which is another word. There are a million terms to mean the same thing. Wider reading, supra-curricular, extra-curricular, enrichment, intellectual enrichment, but the idea is you're going to university, you need to show that you've done more than just your A Levels to impress the application tutors. You can come to Quester and find all of those resources in one place, we're also building out a bunch of workplace resources as well to help people apply to jobs more successfully. In the longer-term, we want it to be a place for you to curate anything, not only university resources or workplace resources but you can create lists of resources on anything that you find interesting and share it to communities who you think will engage.
Charles Brecque: In your entrepreneurial journey, what's been your favourite moment so far?
Kes Daood: What's been my favourite moment? If I say I have none, is that a working statement? I think my favourite time-, every moment is trauma, I just get PTSD thinking about the past. No, I think my favourite moment might be the social we had recently. I have 4 other individuals who are partners of Quester, so it's really a joint enterprise. My co-founder had never met 3 of them in person, a whole bunch of the team had never met in person, some other individuals are working abroad but with the pandemic on, finding the right time to meet was just always very difficult. We had a social for the first time where we celebrated our pre-seed raise, us just as a general get-together. It was lovely to see people actually with each other in real life, knowing that this actually exists. It made it all much more real, it's not just a game, we're not just online pretending to do a startup, we are actually doing a startup.
Charles Brecque: It doesn't feel real until you're in personal, I get that.
Kes Daood: We had a cake to bring it all together and I thought ordering a 6-inch cake, which was offered, would be too small, so I went for the 8-inch. It turns out that the diameter is not what I should be worried about, the cake was 20-inches high, enormous, way too much for 10 people in the room.
Charles Brecque: What would you wish you'd known before starting Quester?
Kes Daood: Could I interpret the question slightly differently, which is what I wish I knew before I started Dox? That was the first one.
Charles Brecque: Yes.
Kes Daood: I had another co-founder, who, on my first day of work, came to me and said, 'Kes, I think it's time. Why don't we start a startup?' This was literally on the first day of my grad job. I thought to myself, 'That sounds exciting, why not?' So, I'd quit my job in about 6 months, and we sat down and got up a whiteboard and mapped out some ideas, 'This sounds fun, this sounds interesting, let's just pick something and run with it.' On reflection, it was a really positive and negative process, because I didn't leave my job to pursue a particular idea, and I didn't leave my job to build a startup with any kind of plan, which meant very quickly it became apparent that we might be trying to solve problems that didn't exist. That was the negative side of that, and I wish I could go back and say, 'Before you jump into a startup venture, make sure you have some idea in mind of the kind of direction you want to go in.' I had literally no idea what I was interested in, we had on that board a whole bunch of different things. Education, finance, we had social apps, a whole bunch of ideas. That was the negative side of it, but the positive of it, and something I wish I had more awareness of as well was if you bring the right people together who share the right interests, or the same interests and have a similar mindset, then you'll find something to do, you'll build something valuable. I think that's become a fundamental part of our philosophy, finding talented people who share our mindset for enjoying what they're doing. They're all a bit nerdy, and they are very deep thinkers and are reflective, just bring them together in a room and they'll do something good.
Charles Brecque: Would you recommend working in an industry and finding that problem before going off to fix it?
Kes Daood: I think for some individuals yes, because I think some people need to have that certainty that they'll be able to find a specific thing to solve, and also that they'll have a back-up option. If you're slightly unhinged, like me, then actually just jumping straight into it can be positive because the pressure that it puts on you I think makes you solve at a much quicker rate. Because there was no back-up option, and because there was no specific plan in place it meant I could be a lot more flexible and move a lot more quickly.
Charles Brecque: What's the big picture vision or roadmap for the next 5 years?
Kes Daood: We feel like the internet has gone through many phases and the place it's ended up is a relatively centralised system of searching for information. Our big picture vision is rather than having that happen in a central place, why is that not done by community? We really want to bring ownership of information back to the community level, where individual groups can organise and share information in their own way, and interpret it in their own way as well, rather than that be controlled either by 1 centralise platform or by algorithms that are customised to the individual. There's a space in between and we feel that's missing, which has seen growth of that kind of demand in platforms like Discord and Twitch, where sharing those links and that information happens, but there's no easy and nice way to actually begin to organise and share. So, we see it like an internet for every community.
Charles Brecque: In terms of filling that gap, how is Quester achieving that?
Kes Daood: Very slowly, would be my answer. In the coming years we want to build out from just having a bunch of lists that we have curated to allow the community to curate those lists, and then allow the community to start to create spaces where they can add all kinds of information to the organisation of those resources. Be it in a list, be it by adding data-points, by adding commentary to their engagement with each resource. Giving them a lot more power to comment on that content.
Charles Brecque: What are the key contracts that you interact with the most?
Kes Daood: Key contracts interacted with the most are going to be-, for Doxa there was a lot of interaction with contracts with individual tutors, we have about 250-300 tutors. Each of those signs a separate agreement, just setting out the terms, there's a lot of back and forth with that. With Quester it's slightly different, because we don't have that marketplace. Instead, we primarily interact with NDAs, we do have some freelance agreements as well, or employment contracts. One thing I should add, I can't believe I've forgotten this, investment, pre-seed investment contracts, a massive, massive thing. I think I've just removed that process from my mind because of talking to those lawyers for so long, I'm getting anxiety thinking about that.
Charles Brecque: With those contracts, what are the key areas of friction you've encountered and how did you overcome them?
Kes Daood: The contracts through Doxa, we had reviewed and reiterated depending on feedback, so that's been a useful process, actually talking to the individuals signing them to get their interpretation, rather than just have a template that's static. I think with Quester there was a lot of back and forth with the investment contracts, we have really great investors, thankfully, who are more than happy to accommodate us with that process but it meant a fair amount of time was spent trying to get those terms to suit both parties.
Charles Brecque: If you were being a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
Kes Daood: I think simplicity. Having a contract with a clear explanation as to what you're signing, in a really simple manner, would be very useful. I don't think it's a secret that it's a very rare occasion you actually go through the entire contract and unless it's an important one, like an investment agreement, in which case you have the inverse problem of you read the entire thing and make sure it all makes sense, so you've invested a huge amount of time. I think people are craving a simple way to assimilate that information. They can go into more detail if they need to within the terms of the contract, but can get some flavour of without having to spend too much time.
Charles Brecque: I think you've just described Legislate.
Kes Daood: I promise I'm not paid by Legislate to promote, this is not a bribe, this is entirely spontaneous.
Charles Brecque: That problem you've identified of contracts being difficult to digest and read is something we recognised.
Kes Daood: Glad to hear I got that one right.
Charles Brecque: No-one so far has said they would be impressed with a complicated contract.
Kes Daood: That's my favourite, as complicated and as difficult to read as possible. Having spent time looking at contracts from lawyers, that's what you would think was going through their minds, so I'm impressed to get the answer right.
Charles Brecque: Thank you very much.