It’s been four years since we landed in London. Three young professional Israeli entrepreneurs with a big idea and nothing else. Four years where 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 into 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 among the smartest. You’ll quickly find yourself in a situation that 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… essential, and just a few months into the project, we won the Sirius Programme of the UKTI. A UK government program that chooses 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, and your network and build your start-up in a new market. The rest is up to you.
Five minutes was the time it took to make the decision. We are moving! In just a couple of months, we sold the car and the motorcycle and ended our apartment leases. We packed the whole house into boxes and stored it in a long-term warehouse. I 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. 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 better have a typical local phone number so that people can contact you. To have a standard UK phone number, you need to have a contract with one of the telecom suppliers. 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 a straightforward example, out of many, that represents the basic, most simple and obvious things in life for a local resident are a struggle for a foreign person, like us. Add that to the life of the entrepreneur, and you 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, ask me why it took us a few years to get to where we are, like building a start-up 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 endpoint 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. In 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 for the role. The core team is the heart of the start-up’s success.
Throughout the years, many employees have 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 has our speciality and our personality. Together, we complemented each other and bolstered our strengths.
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 has rich experience and knowledge in our domains from past roles, and we all hold 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, and everything new. 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; it's 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 essential existence with investment and trying to manage hundreds of administration and operational tasks to keep the machine going. You and just 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 is a long and bumpy road. Those small victories reflect that you’re on the right path. Indicate that you’re still alive.
Whichit - Startup Introduction
A year after we landed in London, we won the 'Start-up of the Year EMEA' by Facebook. Later in the year, we won the People's Choice Award at Pitch@Palace by the Duke of York, and we won the Innovate UK R&D Funding Award with £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 and testing different angles and messages to the target market, we were able to hit the golden point of the start-up – the Product-Market-Fit. From that point, the target market started to convert and become 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 for what we needed 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...