Its quite startling to sit here and attempt to summarise what the last 2 months have meant to my startup. The last time I wrote to you was the eve of my departure from Sydney for 7 week trip overseas. The trip – besides being fun – had the following goals:
- developing a stronger bond with my fantastic team of developers in Bucharest
- investigating the venture capital market in London
- researching the wedding and travel market further
I do not think I could ever have anticipated how successful my trip would be on all fronts.
I had read blogs and start-up advice that stated categorically the importance of building a strong relationship with your developers, particularly if they are based off-shore. I always knew in my gut it was important: many many a late night talking via Skype with my team does accomplish a lot, but nothing can replace what an intimate face-to-face encounter with your team can achieve. I spent a week in Bucharest, almost all of it with Emi – the owner of Brainient and my project manager – and his family. I got to meet his beautiful fiance Denisa, her lovely sister Anca, her charming fiance Adi, and Denisa and Anca’s entire extended family. I spent 3 nights at Anca and Denisa’s mother’s house in the country, celebrating Anca’s upcoming nuptials. We ate and danced and played games with the neighbourhood kids. Not your usual business trip, by any stretch, but I built an amazing relationship with Emi through this process, and that means the world to me.
I spent several days in the office, working with the whole team, celebrating with them, sharing the stories of what I had been up to, what I am planning, all with the goal of making them feel part of what I am building, so they are motivated to make it work. I also believe in sharing the success, and have since arranged for the team to have a piece of my business if we achieve our project goals over the next few months. I am achingly aware that the success of my business lies – to a large degree – on the enthusiasm and dedication of people that I do not see and that do not officially work for me. Its tough, but I’m lucky enough to have Emi involved who is as fully engaged and dedicated as any employee could ever be.
My plan was very simple: go for a long boozy lunch with my good friend Craig and see what he thought about things. Craig is a fabulous man, who used to be the CEO for a successful mobile services company in London, plus had his finger in lots of interesting business pots. I thought it might be worthwhile to get his thoughts on my business. I could never have anticipated the outcome…
I explained what Skimbit was about. He literally exploded with excitement! He said “Oh my god, fate has brought us together!” Turns out he was pitching some mobile services to a certain wedding portal, and he saw the possibilities that entailed. “What if you slightly change your service so it can also serve as a plug-in for portals?” To cut a long story short, we explored the idea, and it made sense. Craig arranged for me to present to the wedding portal. I then had 4 days to prepare a presentation, talk to my developers to build a demo, prepare financials and a new business plan… but miraculously, I got it done. I presented to the wedding portal, and a miracle then occurred. I say a miracle, because in business, this just doesn’t happen, normally.
They loved it. They said they wanted it. They agreed to my timeframes and my budget. They booked a flight that day for their head of technology from Poland to see me the following week.
I was in a state of blissful shock! Could this be the break I have been yearning for? Could this be finally the reward for all the work I had done?
I had a week to prepare for my next meeting. In that time I met with many of my friends in London who are connected to the seed capital market, who are starting their own start-ups, who have contacts in the web application space… and I started to build a new life for myself…
The final presentation to the wedding portal went perfectly. I presented to 8 people, including the Managing Director and head of Finance. They all loved my proposal and agreed to my plan. I couldn’t believe it… but a part of me felt that this might just be my destiny, that all my hard work and loneliness and risk-taking and sleepless nights might in the end be worthwhile.
So, in the space of a few weeks, I have decided to dramatically change my life. I am moving back to London to live. I am going to work exclusively on my business. I am going to have a two-pronged attack and build my business as both a stand-alone web service for the general public and as a plug-in fully customisable service for portals. It will mean a lot of hard work, but the thought of finally being able to work on my business, and make it the success I have always wanted it to be, makes me giddy with excitement.
Of course, it’s also terribly scary. I am about to live in the world’s most expensive city with very little savings and no regular income. I am relying entirely on my ability to get a business loan and secure seed funding quickly. Risky endeavours by any assessment.
However, my darling Craig has been my saviour once again. He has introduced me to seed capital investors and has convinced them to support me. So I now have someone assisting me to get a business loan and a firm intention to get me well funded. It seems so unreal, its like some angel on high has said “You know what, this month, we are going to make everything work out for her” and whoosh! everything is working out.
So I am taking this incredible gamble: that everything will continue to work out, that I will get funding, that I will be able to lead my business through to successful delivery to this wedding portal, that I will be able to secure further clients of that scale, and that I will be able to develop my stand-alone business so it becomes successful. It’s a big call, but what do I have to lose? I am single, no mortgage, no debt, and burning to make this work.
I returned from my holiday mid-August. I return to London mid-September. In that time I have had to pack up my entire life: sell all my furniture, my car, give up my flat, pack up all my belongings, close all my accounts, redirect mail, farewell my friends and family, plus I have had to work a full-time job to try and save money and work every night on my business with Emi and his team. Quite startling really. It stuns me to believe how quickly everything can change… to put it another way: isn’t it glorious how life can still totally surprise you!
So there you go! Wish me luck everybody!