Disruption: a breakfast with 5 London startups
As a kick off to Global Entrepreneurship Week I attended the How to Disrupt your Industry panel. The speakers were five entrepreneurs and founders: Chad Cribbens : CEO of firef.ly, Dan Hubert CEO of AppyParking, Bernadine Bröcker : CEO of Vastari, Anna Bance : CEO Girl Meets Dress, and Theodora Clarke (Chair): CEO of Russian Art and Culture. Each panelist briefly shared what made them decide to start their own businesses, tips to taking off to success and mistakes to watch out for.
Although all five have completely different businesses and backgrounds, from computer science to fashion, there were similarities in all of their startup stories.
The most common denominator was that in one way or another they are gathering information and making it accessible in a valuable way to their customers. All of them found an opportunity to profit from bridging an information gap. AppyParking started solving a problem that Dan experienced himself, misunderstanding the parking regulations in controlled parking areas. Digitising parking information in the city not only solves a problem for the drivers but takes the entire city one step closer to becoming a smart city. As for Chad from firef.ly it was about taking travel information that was fragmented in different portals and putting it in one. Bernadine, of Vastari, uses her knowledge and networking in the art world to create digital tools to connect collectors who want their stored pieces to be shown with museums who wanted pieces for exhibits. Girl Meets Dress carries a selection of dresses available for rent eliminating the stress of having to go out and find or invest in a piece for just one occasion.
One of the advantages of starting a company today is the access to social media to promote your company. All of these founders use and continue to use it as much as they can to reach a bigger audience. The panel chair Theodora Clarke, had been posting on her blog for months during her PhD studies before realizing her traffic was up to 60,000 visits a month.
However it’s not all easy. The panel also commonly shared how when “taking the plunge” and leaving their old jobs they had to cut back, adjust and as Chad from firef.ly described it, had to go through a financial desert for months before taking off.
Some tips they had for surviving the hardships:
1. Try to have a product rather than just an idea before going for financing.
2. Finding a good team is as important as your project because it’s a part of what you are selling. As well as a cofounder, it should be someone who that has strengths you don’t have.
3. And finally for your investors, try to get different ones not just one investor. As Dan from AppyParking said “choose someone you’d want to have a beer with”.
Melissa Arostegui, London