‘If there is a 1% chance you have to try at least 100 times!’
Rashide is co –founder of an innovative car rental service called Whipgo. They are currently in the Y Combinator Startup School programme. He was born in Portugal, lives in Camberwell and works out of spaces in Elephant & Castle and Shoreditch.
Where did the business idea come from?
One day I had a busy schedule so I thought I’d rent a car but the experience I went through was horrible. It was time consuming, a lot of paperwork involved and there were extra fees on top. I was so annoyed that I ended up not getting the rental. That experience got me thinking “there must be an easier way without having to go through that much hassle”. That was where the seed was planted. I thought “hey, I could make a platform where people could choose the vehicle they want, and just get the car delivered to them — end of hassle”.
“Millennials are demanding this level of convenience.”
What challenges have you faced?
At the start it was not knowing what to do. Even though I had been self-employed, that was in creative services, it’s a completely different sector from transportation. Where do I start? I need to build a product. I need to build a team. I don’t know if people want this. I don’t know how people want it.
I made an interactive prototype first and as I was going to make the classic mistake of outsourcing without any type of knowledge, I came across the Stanford lectures and learned about the importance of MPVs, bootstrapping and a team. I then scrapped the app idea, went on Wix and designed a simple website and operated the platform out of my room using Excel sheets. It didn’t cost me anything (£75 to be specific) and that was the first proof of concept. That was the first stage of the battle. It shows you don’t need to make anything amazing to get started.
Do you feel that anything in your background has been either an advantage or disadvantage in your start up journey?
I was born in Portugal and lived there for 12 years before coming to England, including 2 years in Guinea-Bissau which is my Mother’s birthplace. Being exposed to different cultures, financial troubles, homelessness and more really opened my eyes at a very young age and taught me how to adapt and manoeuvre in different scenarios. Those values have stayed with me since and have played to my advantage in this journey because the opportunities exposed to black people in Portugal are next to none. It’s almost impossible to get a job as a bank cashier. A cleaning job or customer service position is as far as most will go and homelessness is a common thing. So when I came here and saw that the “impossible” doesn’t exist, it opened a whole new drive in me, where there’s no limits (in my mind).
We faced a lot challenges when we tried to raise our first seed round last year. It was hard to get a reply from a lot of investors and when we did, most wouldn’t give us the time of the day. It confused me because some people we knew who were at a much earlier stage than us were able to raise money easily. I always knew it would be a challenge, not only because of my race, but because of my background and academics. But we met a lot of founders, investors, lawyers, etc. who were just willing to help us and mentor us along the way simply because they liked what we were doing and how we manage to execute with limited resources.
“There’s always people out there who are always willing help, you just have to keep asking and not let the Nos get to you.”
How have you overcome challenges?
For starters, I am stubborn and that stubbornness doesn’t allow me to take a no for an answer. The only option is to try again and again and again. I have this ideology in my head where if there is a 1% chance you have to try at least 100 times. That’s how I treat everything in life and do my best to block out emotions when something goes wrong. Just keep re-doing it and try to do better and eventually it will work.
Can you remember a day when you thought about packing everything in? What was it that kept you going?
No- I’ve had a very difficult childhood and have faced bigger challenges in life. Quitting has never been an option. The vision is bigger than me.
Was there a moment where you thought ‘this is going to work?
When we were rushing to launch the first MVP and the first rental company accepted to partner with us. That was the moment I thought “this actually might just work”.
What are your dreams/ plans for the future?
To build the business, to tackle the mission we had from the start which is to make things as easy as possible for people to have access to vehicles. Not have to deal with anything like maintenance, ownership, insurance.
Other than that I have projects in mind to give back to Africa. I have noticed the core of every country is its transportation, without that they can’t develop as a people or nation. For example if you lived in Kent and you couldn’t get to London in under 1 hours, the probability of you looking for a life here just lowered. I want to develop a better system to improve transportation links around Africa and connect them all into one, like the TFL. It would be magical and impactful, not even for the money but to connect countries and cultures and people.
Is there anything you wished you had known before?
That the journey can really affect you mentally, change the way you are. How can I explain it? You almost become the start-up. How much work you put in. How much stress you go through. It can change your personality. So I wish I knew this would take a massive hit on me.
“Also, nothing is handed to you. There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background to make things happen.”
Why do you think it’s important for tech companies to be diverse and inclusive?
Understanding different cultures and different needs because not everyone is the same. That brings different ways of thinking about what you are making and how it is executed. Opens up your mind to different opportunities. You have to understand that there is a bigger world out there other than the bubble you spend your time in. Working together has always proven to be more efficient throughout history.
What is your message to inspire other underrepresented founders?
Your present and your past do not determine your future.
Step out of your comfort zone and open your eyes to other surroundings.
If something seems impossible that’s probably when you should do it.
You taking that risk could change everything.
I get my confidence from thinking that the worst that can happen is someone says no…when you simplify things you will realise all the battles are in your own mind and it’s really not that serious.