Diary of a start-up: Learning from failure, pivoting and growing overseas
Following a hiatus from blogging, David George reflects on a failed crowdfunding round, finding a US partner and why time out is important
It’s been a while since my last post, during which a lot has changed, and thankfully for the better. The past 18 months has been tough and it’s good to start 2015 on a positive note, and with clear direction.
Failing at crowdfunding
The last time I posted, we were mid-way through our crowdfunding campaign and it wasn’t going quite as I’d hoped. We didn’t hit our target in the end, which was disappointing but provided a lesson, which I’ve bagged for the future.
In retrospect, I should have planned it far before it launched, and been more focussed in our approach and delivery. Gaining the investment would have meant a split of focus between the comparison business and the much newer insurance side, which could have meant both sides lost focus. The failure allowed me to re-evaluate my whole business model, and make some clear decisions.
I don’t regret having been through it, and I still believe it’s a great way for the right type of start-up to raise finance.
Building a new business
I mentioned in my previous blog the emerging opportunity in the insurance sector. It was a welcome project, which wouldn’t have been possible without previously building Bikmo.
Some financial service sectors have been through a number of years of innovation, from crowdfunding platforms to peer-to-peer lending (leaving aside the monster of the short-term lending market). Despite some animal-centred marketing campaigns from comparison engines, the insurance market has remained largely untapped.
Why? Because it’s a bit dull, everyone needs it, but most people resent paying for it. I put this down to the approach of many insurance providers; with a history of poor customer services, frustrating claims process and antiquated websites.
What if an insurance company was run by dynamic people like you, who give superb customer experience and make it as easy as Netflix to buy? It sounds a bit removed from what we know, but take a look at https://bikmoplus.com and let us know what you think using the feedback tab. We’re just focussed on bikes for now because that’s what we know and love, but there’s a project coming up in late 2015 which will be of interest if you lead an active lifestyle.
Some people find it hard to see what’s in front of them and others can take flight in their imagination. We live in a time when the internet is making the world smaller, and I’ve always been keen to harness our momentum, moving into new territories with our digital products and services.
Check out Uber, Airbnb or PayPal. There are few geographical limits with digital products and services, which means you can transact in, buy or sell across the globe.
From an enquiry through Bikmo.com I met Chris, and he was keen to run a similar model in the US. We’ve been collaborating, mainly via Skype, for the best part of the last three months, completed a research phase and now choosing a partner for New York state, and beyond.
I was lucky, finding someone with the right skills and the same ethos and approach to work with; it’s not an easy thing to trust someone with your business, particularly in another country, but I wouldn’t have thought of entering a new territory without precious local knowledge.
Taking a break
Running a business is hard. And when you’re pushing to make a success of it, it’s easy to eat up 12 hour days, six days a week, until you pop. As founder, or founders, of a new business you’ll find yourself doing development, marketing, design, accounts, management, and every other role available.
I do a lot of exercise but it’s been harder recently to motivate myself to get out. It always helps my head as much as my body, but there’s only so much it can do.
The Christmas break was a great time out to look back on the previous year and ride most days, re-energising for 2015. The beauty of a digital business is that you can run it from anywhere, plus you can schedule in emails and social activity prior to a break, which means most of the team can take some time out.
Coming back with a clearer head has meant some big decisions for January. Changes in the team, clear goals for the year, more focus on team training and skills has already been nailed. The next two months prior to our busy season are going to be flat out, but exciting.
Plus, I’ve set some personal goals – entering the 152 mile Flanders Sportive in April means I’ll put aside time for training. And having just got engaged to my partner Alice, means personal time has more focus.
It’s been a hell of a journey so far – I didn’t expect an easy ride but it’s exceeded expectations and 2015 is looking spectacular already.