It’s been four years since we landed in London. Three young professional Israeli entrepreneurs, with a big idea and nothing else. Four years we worked every day, fighting to survive in the startup juggle, searching in the dark to find the golden cup in the local market. Sometimes we see it, even holding it for a while, enjoying those small victories in the endless and cruel start-up journey, and then going back to work, putting our full energy in our venture, with the belief that one day we’ll enjoy the fruits of our labour. In a nutshell, this is our story.
Don’t Worry, Everything Will Be Fine
As an Israeli I can say that this is one of the most used slogans. It would be an understatement to say that it is not one of the smartest. You’ll quickly find yourself in a situation in a wise man would never dare enter. But on the other hand, from my point of view, it is one of the chromosomes that an entrepreneur must have — to dare.
We started with a bunch of guys, a lot of help and support from friends, working to develop a crazy idea I had. With a basic version that looks like… well… basic and just few months into the project we won the Sirius Programme of the UKTI. A UK government program that choose around 60 startups worldwide, offering them to relocate to the UK and develop their startup in the local market, with a small grant, a 3 months accelerator program and an office for a year. You, just need to leave your home, your family, your friends, your network and build your start-up in a new market. The rest is up to you.
Five minutes, that was the time it took to make the decision. We are moving! In just a couple of months we sold the car, the motorcycle, ended our apartment leases. We packed the whole house into boxes and stored it all in a long-term warehouse. Bought tickets on a low-cost flight and went to the airport with just a trolley and five boxes to be sent in a week’s time. Don’t Worry, everything will be fine.
The British Paradox
A business card. The basic information that represents you and your business. A small piece of paper that every business person has. It took four and a half months to get one in the UK.
In order to have a business card, you need to have a normal local phone number so people can contact you. In order to have a normal UK phone number you need to have a contract with one of the telecom suppliers. In order to have a contract with one of them, you need to have a local UK bank account. In order to have a UK bank account you MUST HAVE a local home address, with the original council tax set to your name. But in order to rent a flat in the UK you MUST HAVE a bank account. But in order to have a bank account, you must have an address… I call it the “British Paradox”.
That was one simple example, out of many, that represents the basic most simple and obvious things in life for a local resident, are a struggle for the foreign person, like us. Add that to the life of the entrepreneur and you just start to imagine the number of hurdles we needed, and sometimes still need, to overcome on a regular basis. Sometimes people, mainly in potential investor meetings, asking me why it took us a few years to get to where we are, like building a start-up and in a foreign country should be in the blink of an eye … I always hold myself from explaining all the reasons, because if you never ran a marathon with no end point in the middle of the desert and with no water, you’ll never understand the feeling of an entrepreneur.
The Team is Everything
That’s what every investor will tell you, that’s what every entrepreneur will testify. And I can say the same. Most of the start-ups that failed, the core team was the main reason. Whether it was an internal dispute, the team wasn’t strong enough or not fit to the role. The core team is the heart of the start-up’s success.
Throughout the years, many employees passed through our company. We always kept our team small, professional and highly motivated, in order to keep the company, lean, effective and efficient. But the core team was always there. Each of us have our own specialty, and our own individual personality. Together, we complemented each other and bolstered our strength.
Along the way, I noticed that we literally taught ourselves almost everything we know today in the start-up world and in our industry. Yes, each of us have rich experience and knowledge in our domains from past roles, and all of us are holding advanced degrees from top universities. Yet, just with a crazy idea on a power-point, we found ourselves dealing with new technologies, new markets, new materials, new tools, a new country, a new network, new everything. We challenge ourselves to learn on the go; planning, building, trying, testing, failing and then again… and again… and again…
A start-up is not about the idea, its all about the execution and execution is made by the team.
Small Victories Its All You Need
Building a B2B technology start-up from scratch it’s like the David and Goliath story, but this time there are a lot of them and you’re more like a baby-David. Trying to go through the massive corporate doors, proving your product in a competitive market where big tech companies dominate the market and thousands more are jumping from all over, trying to bite the cake, and then the long and clumsy sales cycle. While all this time you’re looking to survive your basic existence with investment and trying to manage hundreds of administration and operational tasks to keep the machine going on. You and just a several team members.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the small victories along the way. Those are actually the most important, as they are the light-bits for the entrepreneur. The orange peel trail in a long and bumpy road. Those small victories reflect that you’re on the right path. Indicate that you’re still alive.
A year after we landed in London, we won the ‘Start-up of the Year EMEA’ by Facebook, later on the year we won the People’s Choice Award at [email protected] by the Duke of York and we won the Innovate UK R&D Funding Award with a £250k grand to develop one of our algorithms.
As we were determined and consistent with the concept of the idea, playing with the product definition, testing different angles and messages to the target market, we have been able to hit the golden point of the start-up — the Product-Market-Fit. From that point the target market started to convert and became clients, the conversations became deals and revenue and the search mode turned to growth.
It was like in the Matrix movie, when Neo saw the Matrix. We then knew and saw the perfect formula. What we need to do, how and where. It’s not the end goal and no champagne will be open just yet. We still have a long ride in front of us and the odds are still against us, like any other tech start-up. But we have been able to overcome another step on the way to the cockpit, enjoying the small victories along the way.
To be continued…
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