Get Refueled: Eight Lessons from Eight Founders
The Refuel Team has had the opportunity to speak with eight inspiring founders; here are the top eight lessons that we've learnt from them.
1. It's okay to go solo, as long as you mix with the right crowd
We kicked off our very first founder story with Regina of SGTutoring. As a solo founder, Regina handles all the operations, and constantly faces the issue of the lack of guidance and someone to bounce ideas off with. To combat this problem she actively surrounds herself with people who are interested in entrepreneurship as well. This sentiment is echoed by many of the other founders we interview as well.
"When you interact with enterprising people, it motivates you to keep going. The most important thing is to surround yourself with people who are like-minded and passionate about what they do." - Regina
For Vanessa of IglooWear, the people she surrounded herself with was a reason why she got interested in entrepreneurship. In university, she was exposed to different people with different ideas, which spurred her to be more adventurous, and try new things out of school, which got her started on entrepreneurship.
Ernest of ClimbPass had a similar experience, whereby his interest in entrepreneurship was sparked by attending a two-week entrepreneurship programme. During the programme, he witnessed many young participants who had their own startups, and he was extremely inspired. This pushed him to intern at a startup in New York, and he subsequently became a startup founder.
2. But if you are looking for co-founders, a hackathon might be the right way to go
It is undeniable that many successful startups are run by solo founders. While there is no correct answer when deciding if your startup requires a co-founder, bringing another person who can fill in the gaps can have an impact on the success of your startup.
According to Daryl of Augmentus, one of the best ways to find a co-founder is through hackathons! Daryl met his co-founder Yong Shin at Startup Weekend Singapore 2019, where they first pitched the idea for Augmentus. The duo found that they were a great team and worked well together, and subsequently decided to keep working on the startup together.
"I think hackathons are one of the the best places to find co-founders because you really cannot bluff your way out of it. Either you deliver or you don’t." - Daryl
3. Always begin with the problem in mind
If there's one thing we've learnt from speaking with all our startup founders, is that they all started a company to solve a problem.
Before he working on his current venture, Raimie of dateideas built a mobile application to provide information on the places to get the cheapest groceries, how much families can save, and how much more time they spend going through that route. However, he stopped working on it after a year when he realised that the problem he was trying to solve was not serious enough, and there was a lack of a clear market.
"I learnt a lot about how having a problem is the most important thing in every startup." - Raimie
Eddie of Thryft also noticed multiple problems in the secondhand books industry, and sought to solve that problem. He analysed a typical user journey when attempting to buy or sell secondhand books, and his team at Thryft developed an algorithm to simplify the tedious process.
4. Invest your time in something that you are passionate about
Without passion or love for what you are doing, you might find yourself dragging your feet to work every day.
To Lihui of Charlye & Co., one thing that entrepreneurs need is passion. Passion gives you a reason to keep learning, and to working hard toward the mastery of your craft.
"One thing you need is passion, as long as you have passion you will have the motivation to go far, even when times are tough." - Lihui
Ernest also started Climbpass out of pure love for the sport, and wanting to spread the joy of climbing to people who were not well-acquainted with it. When he first met his three co-founders, the first time he did was to convince them to climb with him. Getting them interested and passionate in the sport as well, allowed them to find purpose in creating Climbpass.
5. Be open about your startup idea
Many entrepreneurs are guilty of keeping their ideas under wraps, as they presume someone will steal their idea. The harsh truth is: ideas come and go, no idea is completely unique. So, instead of keeping their startup idea a secret, most founders have learnt that it is actually more beneficial to share them.
Sharing her ideas is one of the best ways for Vanessa to get feedback and validation. By sharing her ideas with friends and mentors, she is able to get feedback on how to execute them better.
"Many people have the same ideas, but it comes down to execution. I think people shouldn’t be afraid of sharing ideas because in the end, it can bring in a lot of returns in terms of feedback." - Vanessa
Besides sharing their ideas with friends, most of the founders we've interviewed also have mentors that they turn to, or participate in pitch competitions and hackathons to validate their ideas.
6. Use partnerships to your advantage to stand out from the competition
Starting up is never easy, and startup founders can seek to form partnerships with other startups or organisations to leverage upon connections, or even stand out from their competition. Every relationship formed must be a two-way street to ensure both parties are benefiting from the connection.
Nora of Minimal Concepts has formed many meaningful partnerships with charity organisations, where her handmade earrings are typically given to organisations on a consignment basis, and are then sold for fundraising efforts. Since its founding, Minimal Concepts has already partnered with more than 10 different organisations, supporting their fundraising initiatives.
"The competition in the market is huge. Even though I sell my earrings at a much lower price with my partnerships, there is a social cause behind it and that is also a factor that makes my business stand out." - Nora
Eddie's startup, Thryft, also has a Books for Charity initiative, whereby charity organisations can list their books on Thryft at no cost, with 100% of the profits going directly to the organisations.
7. Set achievable goals that you can hit
Many startup founders tend to dive straight into creating the end solution the moment they have identified a problem. However, we've learnt from the founders we interviewed that sometimes the best way to begin is by creating Minimum Viable Products (MVP) as a way to test the initial response from their target audience.
One of the mistakes Eddie highlighted when starting Thryft was attempting to build an instant valuation application right away. However, he soon realised building an app was too soon to test an idea, and so the team started off with Whatsapp Business, which worked just as well.
"To test an idea you don't really have to come up with the full fledged solution. Think of the intermediaries that can still be used, and offer similar results" - Eddie
Ernest and Raimie also had similar experiences, and thus they tested their solutions with Telegram chats/channels first before building a website.
8. Your mindset is one of your most important assets
Starting up is tough, and entrepreneurs require the right mindset to be able to achieve progress. Here are some of the key traits the founders we've interviewed identified:
#1: Being positive and open-minded
#2: Having passion, and following your heart
#3: Resilience, and bouncing back from failures
#4: Be humble and take advice from others
"Resilience is really one of the most important qualities an entrepreneur should have. We face so many setbacks, it is important that we don't give up." - Ernest
Startups are risky businesses, but building a startup is also an exciting journey. Learning about the journeys of startup founders is a great way to kickstart and guide your own business.
Refuel was founded to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through the stories of startup founders. We aim to build a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and hustle on together.
We hope you liked the story! If you have any requests for startups to feature, questions on entrepreneurship, or just simply want to chat, feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or Instagram!