It’s been an absolute whirlwind experience for Peylar on FoundersDoor, the YSYS pre-accelerator supported by J.P Morgan and the Mayor of London for 18–24 year old founders in London. I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that there has been a significant degree of learning, self-development and the cultivating of our inner entrepreneurial spirits over the past few weeks.
Every element of the FoundersDoor environment is designed to maximise the value that the cohort receives. We’re welcomed into a community of ‘champions’ and mentors, who are all always open to provide guidance and constructive feedback. We’re provided with a WeWork membership for 3 months, allowing us to grow our startups in an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship.
We also have the privilege of sharing the experience with fellow aspiring entrepreneurs in the cohort. Some of the best advice that Peylar has received has been from other teams in our cohort. The workshops have also been invaluable in providing a holistic overview of the entrepreneurship journey, the pitfalls to avoid and the ‘shortcuts’ to building and scaling a successful startup.
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being stubbornly protective about your start-up and mistakenly believing that you always know best, when that’s absolutely not the case. We’re fortunate to have mentors on the programme who genuinely ‘have our backs’ and whose counsel has proven to be invaluable in building the business.
The beauty of having mentors from different professions, industries and with different passions, is that the diversity of thought hugely enriches our perspective. This is hugely important for us as entrepreneurs, because we’re exposed to a much clearer picture when it comes to making important decisions on moving the business forward.
In addition to that, through the Champions, we have access to a huge network of people with the expertise and wherewithal to contribute to the growth of our business; as well as the ‘warm introductions’ that are huge drivers of success for startups.
THE WORKING SPACE
WeWork has been in the news quite frequently of late, and not for all the right reasons. While their rapid growth strategy or corporate governance practices may be up for debate, what is inarguable is the value that the WeWork working environment has had on many growing businesses. These are spaces where you can build business relationships that can be leveraged to grow your startup, as well as benefit from the immense intellectual capital flowing through the building.
There is a real sense of community within the space, supported by the frequent networking and socialising events. We haven’t felt our productivity hampered at all, in fact being surrounded by people with their heads down, diligently typing away at their laptops, is inspiring and more often than not gives us a ‘caffeine-free’ energy boost to get some more work done.
There’s an old cliche, “you’re only as good as the company you keep.”
The cohort that Peylar is fortunate to be a part of is filled with talented founders of some really cool businesses. Shahbaz is working on a digital media platform targeting youth, providing video on both entertainment and educational content, on themes such as financial literacy. Tim & Maya are the co-founders of EcoScout, an app that measures, reduces and offsets your carbon footprint. We’re living in an increasingly green-conscious world and, fortunately, more and more people are looking to actively reduce their carbon footprint, for which EcoScout is the perfect tool!
Stephanie, Gideon and Bolaji are building Kidcountry, a company that assists early childhood professionals in launching quality home nurseries. Millions of working parents rely on day nurseries, so this is a really exciting startup, with a great team behind it. Paris is the founder of That Good Hair, a customisable hair care brand that allows people to choose their ingredients. Studies have shown the strong connection between hair and identity, so it’s a great thing That Good Hair exists to help prevent bad hair days!
A hallmark of the FoundersDoor programme are the weekly workshops conducted by experts on key aspects that entrepreneurs need to grasp in order to thrive. I could write War and Peace on all the lessons we’ve learnt from these workshops, but as I have the best interests of your attention span at heart, I’ll briefly summarise.
On Week One, we had Urenna of Cashmere sharing major pointers with us on understanding our customers and the market we are addressing. As founders, we have to ensure that the market we’re targeting is measurable, sufficiently large and reachable, otherwise your startup would struggle to lift off. We also had fun creating user personas and hearing the detailed descriptions of the cohort’s user personas.
Week Two featured a great presentation on customer validation by Nana of Metier Digital. This is an important process to go through because, as soon as possible, you need to be sure that the problem you’re solving is a problem that people actually have and one that people are willing to pay to solve. It’s an easy trap to fall into, where you assume the idea you have is a great one, without actually testing it with the market and getting the raw feedback you need.
On Week Three, we had an interesting presentation around customer attraction, activation and retention by Kay Kuyoki, a best-selling author and software delivery specialist. This was extremely helpful and got us thinking about UI/UX features to add to our site to improve usability. We also realised, through the presentation, the extent to which wizards would add value to the user experience on Peylar. We also had a mindfulness presentation by Muhammad Malik of Ramadan Legacy, that really emphasised the importance of mental state in entrepreneurship and nurturing it to ensure your morale and productivity remains high.
Our first workshop on Week Four was conducted by Theo, which was ‘hands-on’ and very practical as we were able to ‘bootstrap’ a website using various, free no-code tools that allow you to build at speed and to budget. The second workshop was by Nicole, covering start-up marketing. Just like all of the preceding workshops, we learnt so much from this, including the various channels we can leverage to gain traction, how we can utilise SEO to perform well on search engines and claim market share, as well as developing our marketing plan.
Week Five kicked off with a surprisingly fun and interesting workshop on the legal aspects of startups and entrepreneurship. We explored the various structures, our obligations as directors, and the documents we need to have and consider. Credit to Funke for making a not-so-interesting topic, really engaging. We followed that up with a pitching workshop with Andy, who gave us some fantastic tips on pitching and helped us with building a framework to produce a compelling pitch that does justice to Peylar.
To conclude, speaking for myself and my co-founders Aryan and Omor, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the FoundersDoor programme. We feel well-informed and well-equipped to grow Peylar into a business that will provide meaningful value to users across the globe.
The good news is that we aren’t finished learning yet, with more workshops to come, more quality time with our cohort, and more time leveraging the experience and knowledge of our mentors ahead!