Tech City Life: Start-ups are hard (but they’re awesome)

In his first blog for us, our new tech columnist shares the realities of starting your own business and why an MVP and networking are crucial to success…

Ex-googler Rich Pleeth is co-founder of Sup, the free mobile app that helps you see your friends more. Based in Shoreditch, Pleeth has taken over the baton from former Insider Bertie Stephens and will be sharing his frank insights on life as a tech start-up founder over the coming months. Here, he talks quitting his job, refining his MVP and networking like crazy…

Many of my friends and family are envious that I quit my executive job to follow my dream and launch my first start-up. It is pretty exciting but it definitely is a case of the grass is always greener. They hear the positive side and imagine us sitting around on beanbags, playing table tennis while we think what we’ll do on our next offsite activity. They assume we’re on a guaranteed trajectory to the coveted ‘Unicorn Status.’

Of course, the reality is rather different, but it is still awesome.

Starting from the beginning

It started when I resigned from my job at Google in 2013 to join GetTaxi as vice president and chief marketing officer, I had a fantastic time but something was missing and I decided I really needed to follow my dream of launching my own start-up. I built up the courage and left in March 2015, with nothing to go to and the scary prospect of moving from a very decent salary to zero income. Moreover, I didn’t really know what I’d get up for on Monday morning. My calendar went from a multi-coloured mixture of overbookings to a clear schedule.

So what do you do on day one? Luckily, I had an idea for the start-up so I set to work on a deck to present the idea of Sup.

To take it back even further, the idea for Sup came about because me and my friends were finding that when checking in on Facebook or posting a picture on Instagram, you’d see the next day that one of your friends was at the same airport, event or at the next bar. In my opinion, when people come together, magic happens – and so the concept for Sup was born.

I didn’t want an app like Find My Friends where you can track people and see exactly where people are anywhere in the world, this works for some families but for the majority they don’t want their exact location broadcast to their friends 24/7. Sup doesn’t have maps; instead you see a radar with a maximum range of 2,000 meters that shows you if your friends are nearby but not their direction or exact location.

Getting an MVP out there and networking like mad

Once I’d refined the idea I got an MVP (minimum-viable-product) ready to go, an elevated pitch deck that had been reworked, reworked and reworked.

I was excited and I was hungry and I knew I needed to make connections. I went out and I schmoozed, emailing people I’d met in the past, going to countless networking events and dinners, some of which were brilliant, some of which weren’t but the beauty is that anyone can go to a lot of these events. You can find out about most of them on tech blogs and they’re definitely worth a go.

All it takes is for you to be introduced to that one person who might make all the difference, an investor who can put in that initial funding to get everyone else to fall into place.

Take knocks and get up again, haters gonna hate

Some people will hate your idea, some people will accidently send you an email they meant to send to someone else telling them that “the founder is cool but the idea is shit” (at least they thought I was cool :)) But you need to take the hits and truly believe, believe in your idea, believe in your team and knock down anything that comes in your way. No one will believe in your idea as much as you.

I met a lot of funds and angels. I would go out every day with breakfast meetings straight through to networking drinks late at night, meeting as many people as possible. My social life was put on hold. I broke up with my girlfriend (I told you it can be tough!).

Having Google on my resume really opened up a lot of doors but there was no substitute for working a room. Eventually, we got commitments from angels and then JamJar, (the fund set up by the Innocent Co-Founders) which was fantastic, totally aligned to what we wanted to do and they understood our vision.

I kept on the roadshow and by June we were in the final stages of closing with our law firm, Joelson Wilson; hand holding us through the complexities of term sheets, shareholders agreements and the various disputes that inevitably come along.

We officially closed our round on July 3 which was great but the real work was about to begin. We needed to hire a team and actually produce what our MVP was doing.

And that’s where I’ll pick up next time…


(will not be published)