Limahl Mills and John Mendy, Co-founders of Fortrese

Visible Hands
Jul 28 · 5 min read

Founder Visibility is an interview series that highlights founders that inspire us and share how they found their firsts: co-founder, customer, capital, and confidence.

Limahl Mills and John Mendy, Co-Founders of Fortrese

Meet Limahl Mills and John Mendy, co-founders of Fortrese. Fortrese is a mobile app that helps underrepresented people in the UK gain access to capital. Read about the inspiration for Fortrese and the journey these founders are on to making their ideas a reality.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tell us a little bit about your journey leading up to starting your company, and what that looked like as co-founders?

Limahl: When I moved back to the UK after living abroad, I started seeing that these problems were far more prevalent than in some developed environments. John and I want to provide a platform that gives people access to affordable capital while limiting the obstacles that usually come with that. Our solution, Fortrese, is not just another app. It’s an intelligent system that helps us determine if the customer is viable to access capital. We’re trying to be as broad as possible, while still being very diligent in the risk management algorithm.

How did you first identify the problem and find your customer base?

We built a risk management system into Fortrese that resolves any prior trust issues. This solution extends the customer base past the previous model that was very limited due to the reliance on mutual connections to access capital. Coming from the communities of our customer base, we had direct access to our early customers.

What was the biggest challenge you faced early in your startup journey?

There is not enough focus on Black male founders in the UK, and it’s portrayed as a very niche audience. The “Big” funds, the VCs and angel networks, are usually in the States. Securing capital is always a challenge and comes down to the right connections.

What is a piece of advice you would give to your past self 18 months ago?

In anything you do, hindsight is 20/20. You could have always done things differently. However, if I’m honest, I think that is also part of the journey.

The good thing about Limahl and myself is that we are both very humble and are willing to acknowledge when we could have done something differently.

Notably, we learned that since our target audience has a trust element challenge, we couldn’t rush getting the basics right at first. It takes time.

Limahl: Additionally, I would have restructured the amount of finance we had in place before starting development. I would have also begun the MVP sooner from a tech side. That’s something I would have looked at differently.

What’s one way that our team, our community can support you on your next step. Our next goal or milestone for your company?

Limahl: One thing that would massively help us is getting visibility to investors who would invest in a FinTech platform outside of the US. So much of the money for FinTech is in the States, and we can’t always get access to it. We don’t want to put a limit on our pool of potential capital to just Europe.

More about the Co-Founders

John Mendy COO & Co-Founder is an entrepreneur with an extensive and diverse background, in sales and the financial services industry. John started his career in sales, working for firms such as British Gas, Ventura, and HSBC. Having completed his education with a Masters in Law from the University of Manchester, John moved to Geneva Switzerland, where he has worked for various large financial services firms, in sales and risk management.

Thank you, Limahl and John, for sharing your story!

Visible Hands invests in underrepresented talent who strive to build their tech startups. Check out our manifesto here.

Visible Hands VC

Inclusion improves innovation.

Visible Hands VC

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups by providing company-building services and investments of up to $200k.

Visible Hands

Written by

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups by providing company

Visible Hands VC

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups by providing company-building services and investments of up to $200k.