Dupsy Abiola is the Founder and CEO of Intern Avenue, an award-winning platform which leverages data and technology to automate the candidate sourcing process. I invited Dupsy on YHP as she shares her entrepreneurial journey since starting Intern Avenue.
Dupsy was recently selected to take part in this year’s Blackbox Connect, in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs between March 17-28 in Silicon Valley collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs from different parts of the world and taking part in workshops with successful entrepreneurs, investors and executives.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I began my career as a lawyer. I read Law at Oxford University. I went on to become an employed barrister specialising in large complex technical disputes. I have always been a problem solver at heart.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
Entrepreneurship runs in my family. My father was a famous and prolific entrepreneur in Africa. Starting my own business was something I always knew I would do eventually and so, when it was time to do so, it came naturally to me.
How did the idea for Intern Avenue come about?
While working at my law firm, I was asked to help with our graduate recruitment programme. Doing this alongside my day-to-day activities, I realised how inefficient and time-consuming the process was at most companies. I’m a technophile and so it made sense to me to seek a technological solution. I did some research and spoke to knowledgeable people and that was when the idea for Intern Avenue was born.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Starting any business is hard. The hardest part in the early stages is coping with limited resources and finding support in the early stages; both internally (building a team) and externally (finding the right investors). Ultimately, people make or break businesses. This is part of the reason I started Intern Avenue in the first place. I am very grateful for the help and assistance that I received to date. It is really humbling to see how wonderful and generous people can be.
What is Intern Avenue? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Intern Avenue is an award-winning platform which leverages data and technology to automate the candidate sourcing process. Our algorithms can reduce the time and expense of hiring emerging talent by up to 90% because it automatically connects employers to candidates who are suitable for their roles. Effectively, it allows companies to headhunt entry level talent.
How have you been able to fund it?
Intern Avenue is angel funded. We have great group of investors who are very supportive of the vision that we have in place.
How was the experience being on Dragons Den? And what kind of opportunities did it bring you and the business?
Being on Dragons’ Den was a great experience because it not only allowed me to successfully pitch the company to the very successful dragons, it also brought a lot of exposure to the company.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds for their start-ups?
Firstly, never give up. Raising fund can be a difficult and even lonely experience but if you are passionate about your start-up, others will be too. Secondly, try and qualify your investors and ask a lot of questions. Investors will be doing their due diligence on you. It is however something that not that many entrepreneurs spend much time on. Ideally, you want people who have experience dealing with a start-up at your stage and that you can develop a great relationship with.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I was super excited but also incredibly focused on getting things up and running. I firmly believe that the enthusiasm of the founders powers the business forward, especially in those early months, and I had a lot of enthusiasm. This is not to say that it was easy however, I am a positive person and I see every situation as a challenge to overcome.
How did you initially get traction?
We were fortunate because we were dealing with an issue which affected a lot of people. Both employers and candidates were looking for a more ideal solution than what was out there. Because of this, most of our users found us organically. We were also fortunate enough to gain press and industry recognition early. Last year, we were semi-finalists for the Cisco Big Awards and we won the Europas award for Best Recruitment Start up.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
There are too many things to mention. On a macro level, we are just really passionate about the product, the problem we are solving and trying to cultivate an environment of consistent improvement. I try and make sure that everyone is committed to user success.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
There is no single moment. I think you have to be constantly thankful for every good thing (large or small) but also continue to be forward thinking. Everyday has been a learning experience and I try and see the highs and lows as equally important parts of the entrepreneurial journey. I am very proud of what my team work have managed to accomplish so far. I look forward to growing what we do and establishing Intern Avenue as the premier destination for finding and hiring emerging talent globally.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Intern Avenue team for 2014?
You can expect a lot of great things from Intern Avenue. We are growing incredibly fast in all areas. In the last month alone, our team has doubled in size and we hope to add even more people in the next few months. Every successful company needs to innovate and so we plan to introduce new products and fine-tune our existing product in the near future.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. There is no time like the present. There’s no training better than just getting stuck in and doing it. You can’t afford to be overly cautious when you’re starting out.
2. Do not be afraid to ask for things. Just because you are small does not mean you should be afraid to take a chance. The answer will be no 100% of the time if you never ask!
3. Persevere. There will be tough times but it is a marathon and not a sprint.
3 months to become a better entrepreneur and get your business moving forward: http://www.incubusldn.com/