Daniela Arroyo-Olson and Tiago Fachada of Ecofye On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup
Don’t get lost in Perfection — Your product/service should be scalable and deployed effectively. When we first developed our offering, we spent too much time working on features that ended up not being used by our clients. It’s important to make sure you create a viable product/service which can be easily improved. You will not have the perfect product immediately. Iterations are much more valuable when done based on client feedback.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles. Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup? In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experiences about what it takes to create a highly successful startup. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Daniela Arroyo-Olson and Tiago Fachada.
Daniela Arroyo-Olson and Tiago Fachada are co-founders of Ecofye — a leading start-up which helps companies tackle their climate challenges and make a difference.
Daniela is the 2019 Lamborghini Future Fab Award winner in the sustainability category. She studied MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance at Imperial College Business School and holds a BSc in Management with Sustainability.
Tiago holds a MSc in Civil Engineering and worked on renewable energy projects before studying MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance at Imperial College Business School.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Hi! Thank you so much for having us! It is always great to share our story hoping it inspires other in this climate change flight.
Daniela: I am Daniela, I am originally from Mexico and Ecofye’s co-founder. I studied Climate Change, Management and Finance at Imperial Business School in 2018/19. My background is in sustainability and social development. In 2017, I oversaw a large construction project to rehabilitate a rural and indigenous area that had been devastated by the 2017 Mexico City earthquake. With a friend, we fundraised $500,000 and coordinated a plan for the construction of 70 houses for vulnerable social groups in the area. Houses that were built by them, for them and with local products. This project granted me the nomination of outstanding candidate at the United Nations Youth Assembly in 2018.
Tiago : Hi I’m Tiago, I am Portuguese and Belgian and the other co-founder of Ecofye. I have a master’s at Warwick University in Civil Engineering and am currently a member of the B Leaders programme. I have always been passionate about using my technical knowledge to drive sustainability which led me to study Climate Change, Management and Finance at the Business School in 2018/19 where I met Daniela.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
After completing our Masters, we both did an internship at a strategy consultancy firm to help them develop their sustainability offering to clients. During the project, we realised that there was a great deal of pressure felt by companies from their customers to reduce their emissions, improve their practices and be better for the planet. However, many were confused about where to start and did not have the in-house expertise to do it internally. We realised that with the knowledge and the network we had acquired at Imperial we had the necessary tools to help companies and create a real difference. We wanted to accelerate climate action so it was from that moment that the idea of creating Ecofye sprouted with the aim of delivering impactful changes to companies in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Sector using technology. It was a scary decision to take but very exciting as well as we knew that we would learn so much along our journey.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
D: Working with vulnerable communities in Mexico made me realise that it is often the poorer communities which pollute the least that are the most exposed to the risks of climate change. When I saw how slow companies were at implementing sustainable practices, I decided that I could use my skills and knowledge to accelerate the process and deliver a positive impact. I wanted to launch Ecofye to create a positive change or at least try everything that I can in my power to make it happen. My parents have always been super supportive and part of the Ecofye journey’s support.
T: When we first decided to launch Ecofye, I wasn’t sure how my parents would react. I decided to take the time to explain our idea to them in as much detail as possible as well as showing the vast opportunities available in the climate space. They saw the potential and how excited I was about the idea and fully supported me in my decision. This really gave me the confidence to fully immerse myself in the project and to make it my main objective going forward.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think a major factor that enabled us to get clients and generate revenue at the beginning of our journey was our willingness to take on new and challenging projects to deliver real impactful solutions. Our first client projects really put us out of our comfort zone. We knew that we would need to do a lot of research as this was our first time working on some project deliverables. But we had a really great network that could support us in filling in the missing gaps. During one of our first projects on assessing the feasibility of using satellite mapping to develop mangrove carbon credits, we decided to reach out to some experts we had met during our masters. This led us on a journey from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance offices here in London all the way to Brussels where we interviewed the Director of the International Emissions Trading Association. What we learned along the way built the foundations of many of our subsequent services and we ended up delivering a really successful project!
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Confidence — At the beginning we were unsure about how to price our services as we were just starting out. We had some quotes in mind but decided to go to our professor as we were unsure if they were reasonable. He reminded us our worth and our knowldge; but most important the benefit that we can bring to companies by delivering real change, and that we should not be afraid to value our services and price them accordingly.
Resilience — As a founder, it’s important to acknowledge that failure is natural. What is important is to take the failures as lessons to improve for the next time. Regardless of what it is, startup competitions, clients or talking to VC; stay resilient.
Innovation — Successful founders are innovative. Be brave to be the most innovative solution out there. But the most important, the one that suits the current business the most. Innovation is about a sweet blend between standing out and fitting to the current needs. Oh and try not to reinvent the wheel.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the hardest challenges we faced at the beginning of our journey was explaining what we were doing. Both co-founders graduated with the same master’s so we kind of were speaking the same “sustainability” language. It took us a bit of time to understand what sustainability means for different companies out there. Is it emissions, certifications, or social impact? in the end, we managed to successfully explain our services. The approach that helped us to most was to talk to people who had no background or idea about “sustainability” to be able to simplify our services.
Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
Here are the our five things that we consider most important for new founders
- Team skills balance is everything — The most important aspect of a start-up at any stage is the team. In the early stages, having a team that complements itself well is crucial as you need to cover different areas that require different skillsets. Both of us (Daniela and Tiago) had experience working together and knew we made a good team but we also knew that our different academic backgrounds would be beneficial to tackle different challenges.
- Do your research — Understanding your target market is a crucial step and it needs to be researched in as much detail as possible, it’s important to get your product/service right (or close) as early as possible to avoid big delays in the future. Before launching Ecofye, both co-founders worked closely with several companies on sustainability consulting projects which helped understand what the largest pains were.
- Communication — We can’t emphasize this enough. It is so important to have a good relationship with your team. And by good relationship, we mean open communication. Talk about if you agree or disagree with some decisions. You have to communicate this with your team at all times. Remember that you are building a company together. Likewise, talk about emotions, it’s ok to not always be ok. We launched Ecofye during the pandemic and this is a topic we always made sure was out there as we constantly encouraged the team to talk about mental health in a safe space.
- Don’t get lost in Perfection — Your product/service should be scalable and deployed effectively. When we first developed our offering, we spent too much time working on features that ended up not being used by our clients. It’s important to make sure you create a viable product/service which can be easily improved. You will not have the perfect product immediately. Iterations are much more valuable when done based on client feedback.
- Celebrate the Wins — Having a start-up means you will inevitably have to face some setbacks and failures. As a co-founder, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. At Ecofye, we decided to make blogs on the different milestones we had achieved as a way to take the time to step back and reflect on our accomplishments. Check them out in our website.
What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
Building a good company culture is really important even when you have just started and have a really small team. Creating healthy workplace habits and events is the key to building a working environment that makes everyone comfortable and working at their best. We used to organise social activities with the team like going for lunch or after work drinks every other week but that had to stop during lockdown. We decided to start doing weekly online yoga sessions from home as a way of doing a relaxing activity as a team. The classes were such a success that it is still something we do today!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow us on social media (Instagram and Twitter) as well as look at some of our success stories on our website (https://www.ecofye.com/success-stories) which we update frequently with exciting news. If any of the readers are interested in learning more about what we do or they are interested in working with us we would love to have a chat, you can reach out to us at email@example.com. Oh! and most importantly, if you know or have an FMCG company and would like to take action, contact us or sign up for our platform!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!