In the world of startups, each founder’s journey is unique. Everyone has their special motivations for starting their own tech company, and the road to success can look varied, especially in those early days.
However, although each is unique, all the founders we have helped at thestartupfactory.tech tend to have the same set of core attributes.
A great example of this is former TV star turned tech entrepreneur, Reece Douglas. Reece came to us 12 months ago looking for help with a software tool to help him scale a fast-growing influencer marketing business, Social Plug.
This article is based on a conversation we had with Reece not too long ago, where he shared his experience of what it’s like at the very beginning of a startup. Together, we unpacked some key tips for any new founders looking to start their own business.
We kicked off the conversation by asking Reece to tell us what made him decide to become an entrepreneur:
From child actor to tech entrepreneur
Reece: “Back in 2016–17, I played the role of Denzel Kelly, a little bugger running around the school in a show called Waterloo Road.
During this time, I started to gain quite a large following on social media and started getting a lot of inboxes from brands wanting to work with me; one of the biggest ones was Canada Goose.
Rochdale is always freezing, so getting some expensive new coats free of charge was a welcome gift! Obviously, they wanted me to wear them and promote the coats to my network, which was what the freebies were all about.
But Canada Goose made a fundamental mistake because my audience demographics on Twitter were 80% female!
This major brand had asked me to advertise £4,000 worth of male products to a female audience – completely the wrong target market.
So I thought to myself, how many other brands are making this mistake? That was really like the lightbulb moment for me. I started sending products to my celebrity friends and getting them to post about it, which worked great.”
Micro-influencers were the lightbulb moment
Reece: “But I soon realised that a lot of the other brands I was working with couldn’t afford to spend the fees celebrities were asking to promote their products, so I started to engage with local influencers, or as we call them, ‘micro-influencers.’
These were everyday people who had built a trusted and engaged audience, and when I ran a campaign with them, the results went through the roof!
So, I continued to work with small and local brands around Manchester until I hit a ceiling, and needed a tech solution to scale it up.”
Reece has a fascinating story, and despite early fame, has always managed to remain very grounded, realistic and hardworking, which are vital traits to have for anyone looking to start their own business.
Getting through personal adversity
However, you also need that element of confidence and self-belief to get you past the times of personal adversity:
Reece: “There was a time, after my TV career ended, where I was really depressed. I was questioning how I went from being the cool guy to suddenly becoming nothing almost overnight. So at the age of 15, I started really questioning what the hell am I going to do with my life?
I had to face the real world, and the idea of getting an ordinary job at Tesco terrified me.”
This is true for a lot of founders and entrepreneurs out there. They come across a problem that has affected them, and it’s that effect that really drives them forward.
Challenges and adversity are also why many entrepreneurs look for technology solutions. In Reece’s case, it was all about scaling his business:
Using tech to scale a business
Reece: “After my agency business took off, the problems I had on a daily basis were not only with the transparency of data, but also in terms of the logistics of working with micro-influencers at scale.
I had a business offer that worked and was already making sales, but in order to grow it further, I needed technical support.
The next question for me was how does a young guy who can’t write a line of code start building a tech company?”
Finding the right support
Reece: “Instead of trying to learn all of this myself, I needed to find somebody who understands tech and could help me with my journey and point me in the right direction.
For any new founders out there, the biggest asset that you can leverage is your network. For me, it was Tech Manchester who helped me so much during this time.
Through them, I did a podcast with Lawrence Jones from UKFast, and the Evening News even published an article about me!
Tech Manchester also had lawyers who came in and talked about what laws you need to have in place, and they brought in people to talk about sales strategies.
I learned so much during this time that I almost forgot about the business at one stage!
And, of course, Tech Manchester led me to mentors who introduced me to Guy Remond and the rest of the team at thestartupfactory.tech.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Reece makes a very important point here. The beginning of a startup is a learning journey, and although everyone is different, surrounding yourself with a network of people is essential. Don’t be frightened to ask questions and get connected to a network, because they may well take you under their wing and fast track you to success.
For us at thestartupfactory.tech, money isn’t really our top priority, which comes as a big relief to many founders. For us, it’s about finding out if your proposition has value and if we can help you get there. That’s the most important thing for us.
It’s not all about money
Reece: “Of course, I needed money to build the tech I wanted, but a lot of investors out there were asking for 50% of my business!
But with Guy and thestartupfactory.tech it was totally different. I almost felt like I wasn’t even pitching to him. It was like I had a friend from the outset. He just wanted to see how he could help without asking for any initial stake.
Another amazing thing about having a mentor or network in place, like the team at thestartupfactory.tech, is that they can tell you what needs to be done before you start throwing money at anything.
With that advice, I kept working on my idea for another nine months, and I didn’t give up when I was told it wasn’t ready.
That’s a massive thing to remember. As a founder, you may have doubts that make you feel that you’re not going to be able to achieve what you want, but it’s all about resilience and patience.
I felt it was that resilience that gave me that opportunity to make this happen.”
Overnight successes take a long time
Reece is spot on here. As Steve Jobs said, “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”
If you can be robust at the beginning of your startup and take your time, you will be so much better informed about your market opportunity and how to solve the problems within it.
So, as Reece says, the most important thing any new tech startup founder can do is ask for help. Build your network up with experienced people who can help you build your initial tech product, and work hard, be patient and follow your passion.
I hope that was useful!
You can also listen to the full conversation we had with Reece by checking out episode 22 of our podcast “From the Factory Floor”. For any information about setting up your tech startup, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.