I caught up with Monique Needham, one of the co-founders of The Startup Crowd – The Startup Crowd is a series of events (Ideation, Build and Pitch) that is focused on bringing together start-ups and entrepreneurs together to solve their business challenges.
In the full interview below, Monique talks me through her journey so far running the company and how the idea for The Startup Crowd came about.
Hi Monique, Thanks for doing this interview with me.
No problem at all! :D
Can you give you some background information about yourself, were you the entrepreneurial type growing up?
I want to say I wasn’t. I didn’t come from an entrepreneurial background as such. When I was younger the idea of being an entrepreneur was not something I thought I was. I had ideas, self taught myself things I wanted to learn, often challenged the way things were done at school, and as I got older, at work. Something inside me never seem completely satisfied working to create someone else’s dreams come true. I had dreams of my own I wanted to see come to life. Still do! I just thought, I want to do something that I enjoy, do it the way I want, how I want, when I want and work with the people I want. Some called it being spoilt, in hindsight I call it my untapped entrepreneurial spirit.
Tell me how the idea for The Startup Crowd came about?
Tayo (my co-founder) and I were having lunch one summer afternoon after working on a project together. We talked about our own start-ups and the struggles of working alone. We wanted to meet like minded people, other entrepreneurs. The types of conferences and events we had come across that we would love to attend were very expensive, way out of our ‘startup’ budget so we thought well if the type of events we want to go to does not exist lets start up one ourselves.
What is The Startup Crowd?
The Startup Crowd is a series of events (Ideation, Build and Pitch) that is focused on bringing together start-ups and entrepreneurs together to solve their business challenges. We understand first hand the difficulty of starting up and working alone so our goal is to provide 6 hours of rapid incubation and start-up support. Through collaborative problem solving with the start-ups who attend and our superb business mentors The Startup Crowd aims to provide attendees with the mental models needed to help entrepreneurs think differently, develop concepts, build a strong network and propel their business forward. (All the things Tayo and I wanted when we first came up with the idea)
How’s has the first few months of running the business been? What would you say was the hardest part of starting the business?
The first few months has been a HUGE learning curve. Since we are our own target audience we have been able to come up with what we think start-ups would need and within months of coming up with the idea we had already ran the first event, Ideation Camp. We both have invested a great deal of time and our own money into this as we believe in it so much, so the hardest part for me was the fear of will people turn up, especially since we are new company, and will people enjoy it and take something from the day’. (My heart was pounding throughout the whole day of Ideation Camp) That feeling in my chest and that voice in my head saying ‘will this work, I pray this works’ and thankfully the first event was a success.
What is your business model?
Our main aim is to make our events affordable without cutting any corners on quality, so for the short term sponsorship. However we hope to be able to scale the business through a licensing format which will allow others to run The Startup Crowd , hopefully around the world *smiles*
What could you say has been some of the key things you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
Believe in yourself! Self doubt is something that constantly makes a surprise visit in my mind from time to time and I have moments where I think ‘I can’t do this’. I don’t have anyone telling me how great a job I am doing so I have had to sometimes step out of myself, motivate and praise myself for my efforts.
Also listen to your instincts! I can honestly say I have not gone on my gut feeling this much ever before until now. I have been in situations in the past were things just don’t seem right yet I have chosen to ignore that feeling, lets just say I should have listened.
What pieces of advices could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there looking to start their business?
Don’t sit on your idea trying to make it perfect before you tell anyone about it. I know we can be very protective of our ideas due to the fear of someone coming along and stealing it, however how do you even know what you are offering in your business is even something that people want? Not only just that but I found that when I had a new business idea, when I shared elements of it to others it enabled me to develop it in ways I could have never done alone. Being in my own head when trying to grow a concept was not always a great thing, getting different perspectives, using others around me as a sound board was one of the best things I could of done. Give you idea some air, let it breathe as long you hold on to the heart and the core of what it is, no-one will be able recreate it the way you plan to.
What can we be expecting from you and The Startup Crowd in 2012?
Everyone can expect 12 camps over the next 12 months. This year is all about testing the framework of how our days will work. We are very hands on with everything and taking on board every ounce of feedback we get. This year is beta year, so that by 2013 we can scale The Startup Crowd beyond just London and even, we hope, the UK.
Where do you want the company to be in 5 years?
Helping support start-ups globally! Knowing that something we created was helping entrepreneurs all over develop and grow would honestly put a huge smile on my face.
The Startup Crowd will be holding their first event of the year: Build Camp on the 18th of Feb 2012, Click here to book your tickets now with a special discount code (UNLOCKYHP) for the YHP readers.