Founders Programme Interview: Sam Murphy
Last month, we announced the 3rd Edition of Founders Programme - our 5-week course that helps early-stage founders turn their initial concepts into venture-ready startups. Sam Murphy, CEO and Founder of Earthscope, is FP alumnus from our 2nd cohort and has gone from strength to strength since completing the programme.
Sam Murphy is an earth observation specialist, specifically experienced in monitoring wildfires and volcanoes, or as he quite succinctly describes it ‘monitoring hot things’. After getting his PhD in remote sensing, and completing post-doctorates supported by Google and NASA, his entrepreneurial journey was kickstarted with an agricultural startup he developed whilst at Entrepreneur First. Unable to shake his love of hot things, Sam went through the Founders Programme in 2019 and decided to double down on his current company - Earthscope.
So, what is Earthscope?
Earthscope is a space data company that works on wildfire detection and forecasting. The uncertainty in wildfire risk is too high, creating a gap in the expected loss between buyers and sellers of wildfire reinsurance. The solution is a better wildfire risk modelling. We achieve this through improved wildfire detection and forecasting.
And, how have the recent wildfires affect business?
I mean, I have been talking about wildfires for an incredibly long time. When I started at EF, I was whittling on about it non-stop, but it was pretty difficult to find a co-founder. Given that we’re in England - wildfires aren’t exactly an immediate threat! But yes, the wildfires in Australia definitely raised awareness - people are slowly waking up to the fact that it’s a real problem.
Let’s rewind. How did you hear about the Founders Programme and why did you join?
A friend of mine from the Google Campus, Matt Callery introduced me to the Forward Partners Founders Programme.
The obvious reason I joined is because I wanted to learn about how to build my business. But in addition to this, a big part of it was to build a relationship with Forward Partners. FP has a great team and a great reputation. Everyone I’ve spoken to has personally impressed me, and that’s not normally the case.
What was most valuable about the programme?
The customer development workshop was really strong. The slides were great, the content was great, and it was very timely given the stage of my business. I was introduced to Steve Blanks ‘Four Steps To The Epiphany’ - which involves finding your customer's pain point, unearthing the assumptions, and testing each one - and The MOM Test, which I am now a massive disciple of.
More broadly, the big secret of startups is that no-one knows the right answer. There’s no one way to build a successful startup. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because it means anyone can succeed, if you’re in the right place at the right time, and you’re willing to put the work in. Bad because it makes it hard to know what the right thing to do is.
Founders Programme enables you to learn from people who are more experienced than you about what heuristics and strategies have a high success rate in the world of startups.
Also, going through the Founders Programme is like a badge of honor. It helps to communicate that you’re serious about your business, and are building in-roads with key people in the ecosystem. This kind of stuff is critical for early-stage founders.
And what has happened since the Founders Programme?
I joined the Insurtech Gateway. They are an incubator that essentially helps insurance and technology companies to crack into the insurance industry. Becoming an ‘Entrepreneur In Residence’ gave me access to capital, as well as a regulatory licence to sell insurance, both of which are incredibly exciting because it means that I can sell my product to much bigger markets and to a much broader range of people.
So for anyone considering the programme - you’d say it’s worthwhile?
Yes. For sure, give it a go. They have a great team. There is also value in hanging out with other founders and increasing the size of your network.