#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #SixtySecondStartup is with Demos Co-founder of Blazon, a new social media service for startups. We spoke to him about why they set up the company, how they started to grow it and what effects Covid-19 has been having on their business.

Co-Founders Nargis and Demos

Our interview with Demos:

What does your company do?

We are a social media services company to help startups be more active on social media channels with a low cost and flexible solution.

Why did you set up this company?

We were frustrated with the types of social media agencies out there not catering for startups. Solutions were expensive and not adaptive to the constant changes in a startup. We know what it’s like to build a startup and we want to champion startups in any way possible to give them a greater chance of success.

How did you get your first customer? 

While at an event trying to build another startup our first customer asked us who actually did our social media. When we told them, we did it all ourselves, they asked for our help because they loved our content. That was the catalyst to start a new service targeting startups just like them.

We knew we were onto something when:

We started asking startups if a service like this was available would they use it. When they said yes and then signed up when it was available, three of them in just two weeks we knew we were onto something.

Our business model: 

Startups £150 per month for us to post across their social media platforms regularly, engaging with their followers and producing 1 x blog per month for them.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because:

Social media is used by almost half of the planet. Many people often look to social media to validate a business or support them if they are customers. In order for that to happen a startups content has to be interesting and engaging for followers. There are so many startups who just do not have the time to get involved in the engagement as they are busy building their startup.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

As our business is all about other startups, we’re governed pretty much by their business activity during this time. Some of our clients, particularly those based in countries or localities worse hit by the virus, have understandably slowed down their efforts during this time, so we’ve been making sure their social media reflects that and is kept managed despite everything else – but there are other founders we work with who have flourished despite the crisis and their startups are continuing to gain traction and grow. We’re flexible in everything that we do for our clients, so we’ve altered our business accordingly during this time – offering support and guidance to those startups who need it and reacting to the requirements we’re faced with.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

We’re actually really grateful that we’ve been able to trade at all during this time, as we realise not every business has been so fortunate. Our team work remotely anyway, so social distancing hasn’t affected us in that respect (plus we’re already firm friends with Zoom and other work-from-home resources!), plus working with startups at different stages in different sectors means we’re already used to adapting to different circumstances. Lockdown for our team has involved various strategies, depending on the client we work for and events going on.

So, whether that’s creating new content for social media, filming new videos to offer advice and support to the community, writing blog articles on current trending topics, strategising new ideas for when ‘normal life’ resumes or anything else that’s required of us – we’ve been non-stop! Lockdown has its fair amount of challenges as both our co-founders are working parents, but we’ve been able to support each other and our team and make the most of the situation in hand.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

Most of our time ordinarily is spent chatting with other founders, and during this time that hasn’t changed. We still talk to startups, about everything to do with their journey – their concerns, their challenges, their triumphs, etc. But we’ve enjoyed, particularly more so now, being able to offer them advice, tips or find ways to connect them with people within our network. Some people just need a sounding board, and founders are no different – talking through a situation with someone who just “gets it” can often give rise to new ideas or help solve problems. 

Our regular features, #startupshoutout and #just50, create opportunities for us to champion startups and give them a bit of free promo on our social media pages – and during this time, we’ve tried to ramp that up. It’s hard for some businesses to attract those customers when so much has shut down, so anything we can do to give them a voice, we’re more than happy to do so. The most recent feature we posted was a link to the Save Our Startups petition that is challenging the UK Government to support and save startups from collapse. It’s important to get startup businesses thinking as a community and helping each other – it’s the only way you can grow and economy to flourish.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

Startups & Covid-19

In this blog series we are speaking to founders of startups to find out how coronavirus has effected their business, how they have adapted, and any tips they have to help others cope with these challenges. If you are struggling to adapt or looking for some advice, make sure to have a read of our interviews.

Our first interview is with Edward Upton, Founder and CEO of Littledata, which is an ecommerce analytics app and Google Analytics consultants for Shopify and Shopify Plus.

How has coronavirus impacted your business?

Luckily for us the impact has been mainly positive. We work as a globally dispersed team in normal times, so operations have not been disrupted. We saw a slight uptick in churn as smaller clients reacted quickly to slash costs, but our sales cycle for larger clients has been accelerated: people working from home have more time to take sales calls!

Have you had to pivot your business and if so how?

The core need – helping ecommerce companies get a complete view of the customer lifecycle – is more pressing than ever, as every retailer switches their focus to online sales. So there’s no need to pivot, but we have scaled back hiring plans as we push for breakeven later this year.

Have you been engaged in a fundraise during this time?

Yes – our fundraising strategy had been to raise little and often as our recurring revenue and valuation increased, and with hindsight that was always at risk to a big change in investor sentiment. We closed the latest round this week.

How has this been impacted and are you adjusting your plans?

Unfortunately we saw a number of new investors pull out of the process in March. The reasons given were a combination of wanting to keep cash for funding calls from their portfolio, a reluctance to sell their public equities at a big discount to fund our company and a general uncertainty about startup survival in the downturn. We’re very grateful for a few of our current angels who actually offered to double down and invest more than initially planned.

So we’ve closed a smaller amount than we’d planned, but we can adjust our burn rate to compensate for that – and carry on fundraising later in 2020.

What message would you have for investors?

Now’s the time to back startups! Huge global disruption will lead to acceleration of long-term trends such as the shift to online sales and marketing, and the automation of knowledge-intensive processes. Startups with a quick route to profitability and a robust business model will grow faster than before.

How are you coping with lockdown? What is your strategy?

Most of the team work from home normally, so there hasn’t been major disruption. We’ve been turning the video on more often for internal calls – it’s just nice to see another human sometimes –  and been buoyed by some funny memes on our #random Slack channel. I’ve also encouraged the team to get outside and take exercise where they can. Sitting in front of a laptop all day is not good for anyone, and we all need to stay fit and healthy in mind and body.

Is there anything your business is doing to help in your community or with the wider crisis?

We’ve been involved in a cross-agency initiative https://offline2on.com/ to help retailers that need to switch to online trading fast to survive. I truly believe local small businesses are the foundation of our liberal democracy, and they all need a way to keep trading and keep afloat during the lockdown. We’ve been giving free advice on tactics for trading in the crisis, and extended free trials of Littledata’s software to assist with measuring their website performance.

What do you think about the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor?

The job protection scheme to pay for furloughed staff, and parity for the self-employed with small businesses, is the most helpful measure. I do worry about the bureaucracy of claiming back the money from HMRC – and whether launching a new IT system for HMRC to make the payments is possible within a month – but it is a bold and inclusive initiative.

Unfortunately the offer for government backed loans to SMEs is less useful. This is channeled through high street bank lenders, who still apply deeply risk-averse lending criteria – and are asking for personal guarantees from directors, even when the government is underwriting 80% of the risk. Last time I tried to tap bank funding the loan assessor didn’t even understand the economics of a SaaS business, so I won’t be wasting time on applying for now.

What else do you think the Government should do?

I am a libertarian, and I believe people’s liberty to move, socialise and shop should only be restricted in extreme circumstances. I see the UK government had no choice but to restrict movement but before this lockdown is extended again I’d like to see an open debate on weighing the massive costs to national health and wealth of restricting everyone against the assistance to the small percent of people getting hospitalised from this virus.

What advice would you give to other startups at this time?

Persevere and adapt where necessary. Startups thrive on disruption, and economic shocks like this bring huge disruption which smaller, nimble companies can exploit. Funding will be difficult in the short term, so get creative on ways to fund your growth: prepayments from customers, loans from friends and family or cutting costs.

For software companies, the main problems in many sectors have been the war for talent (and huge salary inflation for developers) and rising customer acquisition costs. Hiring and marketing should get a lot easier as big companies scale back, as long as you’re still around to take advantage.

For more tips on dealing with the impacts of coronavirus, visit our Startup Survival Guide.

The Coronavirus Startup Survival Hub

The Coronavirus has already had a huge impact, and no doubt is affecting the way that you go about your day to day life.

At the Angel Investment Network, as of Tuesday, we have all started working remotely. One of the things that has been on all our minds is how we can best look after our entrepreneurs who have put so much on the line to make their business happen, and are now finding their businesses under real pressure.

Next week, we plan to introduce our Coronavirus Start up Survival Hub, full of practical tips – from accessing emergency funding to minimising business expenditure and applying for grants. In the mean time, we thought that these resources could be of use:

* Times are about to become tough. How can you manage your costs and get ready for a fall in sales? This guide from Seqouia Capital will help founders plan for the Coronavirus.
* Remember that there will be winners and losers. Look at the predictions here, but also keep in mind that there will be opportunities when things pass.
* Look after your mental health: the meditation app, Calm, is offering free mediation videos.

Finally, our upcoming Angel Investment Network and friends event, is becoming a virtual event. More details to follow shortly.

Above all, stay safe – although times are tough, this will pass.

Onwards.

Drummond & The Angel Investment Network Team

Four questions for female founders launching a business

Our Head of Growth and entrepreneur Ching-Yun Huang was invited onto a Female Founders’ panel at the Curtain Hotel last week in advance of International Women’s Day. Here she shares some key learnings.

It was a pleasure to be invited on to a panel with other female entrepreneurs at the Curtain Hotel recently to share our experiences of starting a business. It was a lively debate and discussion as we all had different experiences that we could bring to light. There were four key questions that came up from the audience, that I wanted to address.

1. Are you taken as seriously being a woman?
Does being a woman impact what you want to be able to achieve as an entrepreneur? The view that some expressed was that you are at a disadvantage because you might not be taken as seriously, with a lack of investors willing to back you. Although it is true there are less female founders, my personal view is that we could be in danger of creating a barrier that might be more psychological. I think if you have a good business case your gender shouldn’t matter and you should have the confidence to articulate your vision. However everybody’s experiences are different. 

2. What sort of support networks should you create?
What sort of support network should you put together to ensure you get the backing you need? One view is that in order to get a better support network, you should only have a women focused network. It is true that any entrepreneur needs to build a good support network. I would argue as a budding entrepreneur you should look to the groups and people that are going to best support you as your key priority. This shouldn’t be just down to gender, but who will take you to that next level. Be ruthless in this.

3. When do you need investment?
When it comes to funding and investment, the audience was split between two groups. People who felt ready to scale their business, and a bigger group who want stability to start their business. I think any entrepreneur should think long and hard about what they need the finance for. For me personally I am looking at bootstrapping my business as far as I can without trying to get outside influence. However there is an extent to which women are perhaps more risk-averse, which is a barrier to having more women entrepreneurs. It’s hard to make the transition into a more uncertain world.

4. Do you need a background in tech to launch a tech business? 
Lots of people in the room expressed an interest in starting a tech business. A popular question was whether you needed to have studied tech. I studied literature and had nothing to do with tech. However I do think having a working knowledge is important, so i picked up computer languages and some other skills. For my business, I found a co-founder who is a developer. A complementary skill set is a winning combination in starting a business.

Ching’s is developing a dating app called The Moment  

#SixtySecondStartup

This week’s #SixtySecondStartup is with Giuliano, the Co-founder of Get Groomed. He started Get Groomed with his Co-founder Sabrina after moving to London and realising how inconvenient it was to get an appointment at a barber shop. Spotting a gap in the market, he started Get Groomed which allows people to book a barber to their home or office. Since starting 2 years ago, Get Groomed has now rolled out across London.

Giuliano and Sabrina, Co-founders of Get Groomed

Our interview with Giuliano:

What does your company do?

We connect mobile barbers with customer. Customers can book barbers to come to their home, office, a hotel or where ever they may be. We also provide male beauty services for weddings and events. 

Why did you set up this company?

When I arrived in London, I tried out different barber shops and salons and noticed some issues with them. Most shops are only open between 10am-5pm, making it difficult for customers to find the time to go. If they go at the weekend, there is often a long waiting time. I also found it difficult to know if a barber would be any good and able to do the hairstyle I was after. My Co-founder Sabrina mentioned that there are apps for women to book hair appointments, however we realised that there was a gap in the market for men. We built a prototype, hired a few barbers and found customers very quickly.

We knew we were on to something when:

A few months after we started, we got approached by a famous Fintech startup to provide male beauty services at one of their events. This was despite us having no marketing budget, and not sending a single email or doing any cold calls. It showed us that there was demand at a corporate level.

Our business model:

Our business model is commission-based. It helps us to keep working hard to connect barbers with customers: the more money they make, the more money we make.

The biggest mistake I’ve made is:

Establishing a strategy to increase revenue at all costs. It might be attractive for people who can burn a lot of money each month, but it is not sustainable over the long term. We believe in lean ways to improve the business: we are now profitable every month and we are growing every month.

We think there’s growth in this sector because:

One word: convenience. We have a lot of customers contacting us because they can’t find the time to go to a salon or it’s inconvenient for them to go as they have caring duties or are ill. In the same way that there was a boom in food delivery services in the last decade, customers are looking for on-demand, high quality male beauty and grooming services from the comfort of their own home.

We worked with AIN because:

We have been running our platform for 2 years and we are operating across London. So we are confident that this is the right time to scale-up and expand to more cities in the UK. We are looking to partner with forward-thinking investors who share our vision and AIN is one of the best tools to connect with those kind of partners.

Get started today and view pitches from entrepreneurs around the world.

#SixtySecondStartup

In this week’s #SixtySecondStartup, we spoke to Will Ross who is the Founder of Tendo, a skills passport for frontline workers. Will started Tendo to make frontline work more secure for employees and to make it easier for companies to hire, retain and train their workforce.

Our interview with Will:

What does your company do?

Tendo allows frontline workers to generate workplace credentials while they do their jobs, building a verified, portable history of skills and hours at the end of each week.

Why did you set up this company?

We started Tendo to make frontline work more certain. For the worker, this means improving their long-term economic security. For the business, certainty comes through having a loyal, dependable workforce and an ability to encourage employees to learn new skills.

What is your business model?

We bill businesses on a per user basis. This monthly charge is a way to offset the cost of workforce churn.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

Frontline workers remain offline. By bringing them online, visibility of supply provides a major step forwards. We also consider this workforce to contain a massive amount of untapped operational and creative potential – we aim to empower.

How did you get your first customer?

By building a feature that removed an administrative overhead for a training provider.

We knew we were onto something when:

When employees indicated that they would be motivated by having a trusted way to generate and retain a record of their work reputation.

Our most effective marketing channel has been: 

Going to events where we can speak directly with decision makers.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Spending time marketing to cities where Tendo can’t have a repeatable physical presence.

What we look for when recruiting: 

A willingness to experiment and an inclination to speak more in terms of immediate actions than long-term plans.

We worked with AIN because:

Angel Investment Network provide a clear way to signal company type to a list of investors, ensuring that angels can search for early stage companies where they can significantly influence growth.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

Behind the Raise

Welcome to the first of our Behind the Raise blog series! We know how difficult fundraising can be, so these interviews offer some tips, advice and insight into what has worked for different entrepreneurs.

For our inaugural interview, we are delighted to be speaking to Andrea Armanni, Co-founder of Mammalo. Mammalo is transforming the service industry by making it easy and quick for people to book the services they need. Through Mammalo, people are paired up with local professionals, making it hassle free to get the boiler repaired, hire a photographer or source a makeup artist.

Tell us about Mammalo:

Mammalo is a marketplace for on-demand local services delivered at home, where people can find and book anything they need from a painter to a hairdresser. With over 3 million people moving to cities every week, finding trustworthy experts in large urban areas has become much harder and very time consuming. Mammalo’s mission is to connect those in need with the right people that can help, and is set to become the go-to website where people can find any service they need, delivered to their door.

Why did you decide to raise investment?

Without funding the vast majority of startups will die. A startup usually means a company that is built to grow fast, and fast growing startups usually need to burn cash to sustain their growth prior to reaching profitability. In our case, we raised a friends and family round in the beginning of 2018 which allowed us to launch our first MVP in November 2018 and work towards finding the right product market fit. In less than 3 months, we managed to gain over 1500 users. We needed more liquidity to invest in marketing and tech development, so we decided to start working towards our first seed round.

What is your top tip for anyone raising investment for the first time?

It may sound obvious now, but one thing that we learnt whilst raising our first seed round is to be “Investment ready”. For some founders it’s enough to have a story and a reputation to raise funds, but for most it requires much more. Angels invest when they believe in the idea they hear, in the founders’ ability to realise its vision and in the market opportunity. When, as a founder, you are ready to tell this story, and bring some proof of customer adoption, you are ready to raise money.

What attracted investors to your company?

I believe what really helped us was getting the right launch strategy in place and the first 400 users within our first month. Then, a solid data vault with a detailed business plan, financial forecast and investment deck.

Andrea, Co-founder of Mammalo

My biggest fundraising mistake was…

Our biggest fundraising mistake was undoubtedly underestimating the amount of time and effort that was going to go into the fundraise process. Since we started working on it, we spent nearly 6 months on the fundraise trail before completing all the legals and receiving the investment.

Why did you choose to use Angel Investment Network?

We came across Angel Investment Network through a friend of ours at Y Combinator SUS as we were about to launch our crowdfunding campaign. As for every business looking to raise their first seed round, finding the right angel investors can be challenging and time consuming. Angel Investment Network was a great opportunity to gain exposure from the largest angel investment community in the world. Our pitch was posted to over 200,000 investors and remained live over a 2 month period in which we had a chance to talk to multiple investors and present them our vision and future objectives.

To find more fundraising tips, visit our learn section.

#SixtySecondStartup

Our latest #sixtysecondstartup interview is with Greg Geny, Co-founder and CEO of BeRightBack (BRB). Fed up of spending so much time planning weekend breaks, he decided to create the world’s first travel subscription service to make booking short trips easy. Through BRB, customers get 3 trips every year to surprise European destinations, making travel fun and stress free.

Our interview with Greg:

What does your company do?

BRB is the world’s first travel subscription service. We offer customers 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations for a fixed monthly fee.

Why did you set up this company?

BRB came from very personal pain points. I did a lot of travelling in my 20s and early 30s and a few years back I realised that I was spending more and more time researching and booking my weekend breaks. The root cause of this comes from the fact that the onus is still on the customer to do all the heavy lifting and as the market has become more and more fragmented, this research process is now taking on average 10 hours and is spread across 4-8 weeks. So not only do customers need to spend hours researching their next break, but by the time they are ready to book, flight and hotel prices have gone up. This did not feel like a very customer-centric approach to travel. 

What is your business model?

We are a subscription based model delivering 3 trips per year to surprise European destinations, for a fixed monthly fee. We leverage data to tailor the breaks to the exact preferences of our customers. Customers can also purchase additional services.

How did you get your first customer?

We ran Facebook and Instagram ads and got 3 customers on our first day. Whilst social media advertising remains a strong channel for us, we are now building our brand across a range of channels – from social, SEM and content creators to large partnerships. The latter will allow us to leverage synergies between BRB and established audiences in other verticals such as financial services, telcos, travel or media. 

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

The market has grown 29% since 2012 and is set to grow further over the next 5 years. At the same time, Millennials and Gen Z have very different expectations from previous generations. They love travelling (particularly city breaks), they value convenience and they want a personalised service. BRB meets the needs of this new generation by turning travel into a lifestyle. 

We knew we were onto something when:

We got picked up by major media publications – the Telegraph, the Guardian, Lonely Planet, SKIFT, CNBC and more and started seeing the traction behind the business. We’re grown 350% this year alone. 

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Not starting the business sooner, although I believe that timing is everything and now is the perfect time for BRB to disrupt the industry.

We worked with AIN because:

We wanted to tap into an existing network of investors to support our fundraising efforts.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.

Tech leads but stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses, finds Angel Investment Network report

Angel Investment Network has revealed its latest ‘State of the Angel Investment Nation’ findings. It is based on the data of our UK registered businesses looking for funding and the keyword searches of investors.

Investor keyword searches
‘Technology’ was the top search term used in 2019, based on investor keyword searches. This was followed by ‘property’ with ‘mobile’ the third most popular. ‘Robotics’ climbed six places year on year to now be the fourth most requested search term. Meanwhile ‘electronics’ is up by nine places on the list to number six.

With climate change centre stage in Davos last week, there also has been a stunning rise in interest for sustainable businesses. Searches for ‘Renewables’ have rocketed by 34 places to be the 14th most searched for term. Meanwhile ‘greentech’, unheard of even a couple of years ago, is now the 19th most popular keyword, up from 47th last year. Environmental leapt 56 places up the rankings to be the 25th most searched for term.

Pitch ideas
For entrepreneurs, property is the most popular sector for pitch ideas. Entertainment and leisure is the second, followed by technology. Overall there were 10% more pitches over the past 12 months from startups looking to attract investors.

According to AIN co-founder Mike Lebus: “Startups are the lifeblood of the UK economy and despite a turbulent year politically, there has been no slowdown in activity. Investor interest remains focused on technology and the cutting edge applications that are possible through it, including mobile and robotics. However property, one of mankind’s oldest profit generators, continues to drive the interest of investors and is now our top sector for pitches.”

He continued: “The growth in interest in impact related terms is remarkable and we are witnessing a seachange in investor attitudes as it has so quickly shot to the top of the news and business agenda. It is the reason we launched our spin off SeedTribe to help support entrepreneurs who put sustainability at the heart of their business model.” 

The report also reveals some discrepancy between startup ideas and investor interest. While fashion and beauty remains the fourth most popular category for pitch ideas, it is just 17th on the list for investors. ‘Inventions’ as a search term fell by seven places from seventh to fifteenth most searched term. Meanwhile ‘Gadgets’ also fell by 15 places to number 32 as investors instead look for more tech and software based ideas.

Entrepreneurial hotspots
AIN has also revealed the UK’s top entrepreneurial hot spots. London remains responsible for 37% of all pitch ideas, although its market share was slightly down. The South East is second in the list with the North West number three, up 10% year on year. There has also been impressive growth in other parts of the country. There was 25% growth in pitch ideas in the West Midlands, with East Anglia up 26%.

The Top 10 Sectors for Pitches:

  • Property
  • Entertainment & leisure
  • Technology
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Food & Beverage
  • Software
  • Hospitality, Restaurants & Bars
  • Retail
  • Business Services
  • Education & Training

The Top Keywords for Investors:

  • Technology
  • Property
  • Mobile
  • Robotics
  • Software
  • Electronics
  • Computers
  • Products
  • Residential property
  • Finance

The entrepreneur hotspot list is as follows (based on number of pitches from each region):

  1. London
  2. South East
  3. North West
  4. South West
  5. West Midlands
  6. East Midlands
  7. Scotland
  8. East Anglia
  9. Yorkshire and Humber
  10. North East
  11. Wales
  12. Northern Ireland



#SixtySecondStartup

This month our sixty second interview is with Firdaus Mogul, Founder of Check An Invoice. Check An Invoice uses AI and machine learning to identify invoice fraud. Firdaus set up this business after one of his friends was a victim of invoice fraud and he realised that there were no products addressing this problem.

Our interview with Firdaus:

What does your company do?

We identify and prevent invoice fraud using the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why did you set up this company?

When I ran my own B2B payment business, which I sold in June 2019, many of our customers spoke about instances of invoice fraud. On researching, we could not find any companies that offered solutions to this problem. So we decided to launch our own SaaS application that addresses the needs of both small and large businesses.

We knew we were onto something when:

Every prospect we met and investor we spoke to started complementing our market positioning and how the product is addressing an unsolved need.

How did you get your first customer?

Like all startups, our first customer was an acquaintance, who found the solution very helpful for his business as it reduced the manual workload of checking the invoices

Our most effective marketing channel has been:

Forming partnerships with accountancy firms, FinTechs and banks. These partners then offer our solution to small and large companies as a value added service on top of what they already offer.

The biggest mistake that I’ve made is: 

Assuming that there was already a good understanding of invoice fraud among SMEs. Although our research suggested that over 50% of SMEs are affected invoice fraud, when we went out and spoke to people, we discovered that awareness levels were relatively low.

We think that there’s growth in this sector because: 

Invoice fraud results in over $26bn of losses worldwide (Source FBI) yet, there are very few solutions which address this issue. Our platform operates globally giving us the ideal first mover advantage.

We worked with AIN because:

We worked with AIN because they have the largest and most engaged network of angels.

Get started today and view pitches from a huge range of entrepreneurs around the world.