Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I started out as a commercial lawyer, qualifying at a City-based firm, before jumping ship and getting involved in the London startup scene. Alongside founding bizoogo – a co-founder network for startup entrepreneurs – I’ve been involved in digital media and angel investing.
When did you get the entrepreneurial bug?
Starting a business was always something I’d imagined myself doing but it wasn’t until I started working that I developed the confidence to go ahead and do it – especially once I’d realised that most jobs involve a sacrifice, one that I’d rather be making doing something I was passionate about and enjoyed.
How did the idea for Bizoogo come about?
It was a solution for my own startup dilemma of having an idea but not having the technical skills or the industry know-how to develop it. Starting up can be expensive and before proof of concept, risky. It seemed like a good idea to have a go-to community, where you knew from the start there’s a range of people across the industries and areas of expertise available and interested in working together, to share the risk and responsibility, and to eliminate bad ideas early or validate and develop the good. So that’s what we’ve done and hopefully it’ll continue to grow into a cost-effective opportunity for all aspiring entrepreneurs to start new businesses and to build better resourced teams from the start.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Finding the right people to work with was the toughest. To start a new venture, you often don’t know where to start, who to ask or trust and there’s generally a lot of trial-and-error, particularly with freelancers. I think it’s a problem which knocks back a lot of people with business ideas because going beyond your own limited network is a step too far in the dark for most. We’ve created and personally used Bizoogo to help overcome that problem, and it’s fast becoming a really credible go-to community and first point of call for many UK entrepreneurs, because you’re sure to find a mix of different skills, experience and ideas, with the joint aim of collaborating and co-founding new ventures.
What is Bizoogo? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Bizoogo is a co-founder platform, where UK entrepreneurs can connect and collaborate with partners to develop and co-found new businesses.
The website is organised as a Noticeboard for “People” and “Ideas”. If you’re looking to find a co-founder to help develop your business idea, search our database of “People”; if you want to contribute your time and skills to a new startup opportunity as a co-founder, search our database of “Ideas”. You can shortlist your top picks and connect privately or publicly via our messaging features. And when you’re ready to meet, come along to our monthly co-founder networking meetups to find out whether the connection is as good face-to-face as it is online.
With an “ambition gap” in the UK that sees more than 44% of the population wanting to start a business but not doing it, our aim is to bridge the gap by matching the ideators with the technical help they need to execute. Working together lets both sides bridge the creative, technical and financial gap that holds them back; it’s also a really easy, effective and fun way of validating ideas and building a community for those of us that are new to the scene and just scratching and exploring the surface.
How have you been able to fund it so far?
We’re self-funded, although we’ll be looking to raise our first round in the next few months.
What advices can you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise investments for their start-ups?
Mitigate risk as much as you can. Find out what investors are looking for and be prepared to take the time to prove your business assumptions with real stats and use-cases. Unfortunately UK investors don’t have the same risk appetite here as they have in the US, nor do we have the same hype-generating tech press; that doesn’t mean there isn’t any money in the system or interest, but it does mean that investors are more cautious, so anticipating that with clear evidence of a business case will save you a huge amount of time and frustration. It’s important to remember that investment should help you scale, not be the deciding factor of whether you build or not.
Every UK startup should also know about the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), a Government tax initiative that, providing you qualify, will almost immediately make you a hell of a lot more attractive.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
They were incredibly exciting, and after a frustrating development phase it was an unbelievable feeling to finally push the button to go live. But obviously having this shiny new website was useless without the community using it so there wasn’t much time to celebrate before realising a whole new challenge of driving traffic through bootstrap marketing and PR, which we haven’t stopped since.
How did you initially get traction?
As a bootstrap startup ourselves, we’ve been using social media to spread the word via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; we promote our networking events via meetup.com; we’re big on strategic partnerships and try to attend and get involved in as many industry events as we can.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow it?
The best thing for us has been our face-to-face networking events. They were always an integral part of our strategy of connecting people because we’ve always believed that no meaningful relationships develop virtually, online. But being able to use meetup.com’s ready-made community has given us great access and exposure.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
It has to be the successes we’ve seen from users on the site connecting and working together on new ventures. It’s an awesome high as we see the concept being validated, as well the satisfaction knowing that we’ve played a small part in helping users realise their startup aspirations, even if it’s just the start of their long journey.
What should we be expecting from Bizoogo in the coming months?
We’re looking to create an end-to-end startup ecosystem where ideas are conceived, developed, grown and funded into profitable businesses, and we’re working on exciting features to get us there.
We want the platform to become a creative, dynamic and ambitious hub packed full of ideas and professionals looking to get involved across the industries, and we want to make sure we’re able to help any business from idea through to sustainability. Watch this space!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Get your team right – practically, you really can’t do it all yourself, and strategically you’ll struggle finding an investor interested in a sole founder business.
Take calculated risks – lean and agile methodologies of design and development will save you a huge amount of time and money building products that customers actually want and will use.
Performance & task milestones – define what they’re going to be and stick to them; you’ll be significantly more focused and efficient with your time and resources, and if you’re consistently not reaching them, start to re-think the business.
On Saturday 9th March we will be hosting, alongside Brightside, ‘Get Up Start Up‘ where you will be able to apply and be approved for a Startup loan of between £2,500 & £10,000 to help you get your business started!