4 Inspirational Startup Founders and How They Got Started

Dec 2, 2017

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Startup founders, they’re just like us. Strip back the venture capitalists and the TED Talk invitations, and you’ll find pretty much every startup founder has contended with discouragement, exhaustion, and technical disasters.

The startup stories we already know are full of lessons to learn, but these founders get slightly less glory. Their experiences involve being patient, getting as much experience as possible, admitting weaknesses, and even turning down investment.

Becky Downing, founder of Buzzmove

If you thought there was an app for everything already, think again. Becky Downing was a solicitor when she came up with the idea of a price comparison platform for the house-moving industry, launching Buzzmove in 2014. There are 300 moving companies and thousands of surveyors on the books, and it’s helped thousands of people move and insure their contents easily and cheaply.

Buzzmove secured £6.65 million in funding because investors could see its potential in both the insurance and moving industries.

What we can learn from her:

Becky could prove to investors that her platform had growth potential. It was great now, but it could be even greater. She also created a new and essential tool for both movers and moving companies alike, so users and investors were catered for.

Your platform needs investors, but that platform’s nothing without the users. It’s important to remember that.

Chika Russell, founder of Chika’s

This Nigerian-born startup founder had some of the best startup training imaginable — six siblings (teaches you collaboration), her mother worked in A&E (great example of work ethic and dealing with pressure), and she has a degree in Economics too (book smarts are important).

You might recognise Chika Russell from BBC’s Dragons’ Den, she pitched her snack company Chika’s to them in 2015 and caught the attention of all five Dragons. Chika’s brings West African flavours to an increasingly gluten-free and vegan British audience, offering healthy snacks you can’t really find anywhere else. In 2017, she secured an investment of £800k, which made Peter Jones’ offering of £30k pale in comparison.

What we can learn from her:

When offered several thousand pounds, many would be inclined to just take it. There are strings attached to any investment though, and Chika had the restraint to know it was a better plan to hold out for more.

She says her experience with Dragons’ Den taught her “to have conviction”. Collaborating with other investors with different backgrounds proved to be a lot more profitable.

Paul Towers, founder of Task Pigeon

Earlier in 2017, Paul Towers wrote a blog post about what he’s learned as a non-technical startup founder. He founded task management tool Task Pigeon in 2016 because he didn’t like what was currently available, but without a coding background he had a few things to learn.

In his blog, Towers explains why it’s important to get as much advice as possible, prepare for everything taking twice as long as you think, and not to look for just technical skills in your founding partner.

Despite his lack of technical knowledge, Paul Towers launched his minimal viable product (MVP) in just 7 weeks.

What we can learn from him:

Not being able to code yourself doesn’t have to be a barrier, but it does mean you need to accept your limits. Paul embraced this, but didn’t just stick to what he knew either. His patience and willingness to engage with other people for help was the key to launching a product he loved and others needed.

Devika Wood, founder of Vida

Growing up, Devika Wood saw her grandma interact with over 100 different carers and even saw her hospitalised because of errors with medication and communication. After working with Google, studying human biology, and even researching cancer cures, Devika created Vida in 2016, a platform to bring “fully managed and personalised in-home and live-in care” to people who need it.

Currently operating in London and Sussex, care is charged at a flat rate of £16/hour, making it relatively affordable for users. Vida secured a £1.6 million investment and has approval from the Care Quality Commission for “rigorous background checks and training”.

What we can learn from her:

The root of Vida was a personal tragedy, but that doesn’t mean Devika rushed into a solution. Wood learned from research science, public healthcare, and health startups before she founded Vida.

One of Vida’s investors thinks the platform will “repair the care crisis in the local community”.

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