"It’s now coming up to nearly two years since Frugl was launched. In start-up land that’s practically a lifetime. It has been much harder than I thought. It took eighteen months to raise our first Angel round when I was convinced it would take six. Since we began we have watched many of our competitors go by the wayside while others have raised vast sums of money without having the ability to monetise. None of it makes much sense to me but I’ve learned to accept it for what it is. Over the past 24 months I’ve done more pitches, been to more demoes and met more start-up founders than all the hot desk spaces in Shoreditch put together.
I’ve made use of my PR background to drum up awareness time and time again; it’s amazing how resourceful one becomes when the success or failure of one’s own business relies on it. Most of all, I’ve realised that, while there will also be the lucky few who get by because of who they knew, for most of us it’s about buckling down and getting on with it. There is no magic formula to ‘making it’ other than trying, failing, getting back up and starting again. In the back of my mind I often recall something a prospective investor told me, “Stay lean. Keep your nerve. And hold on. You’ll get there.”
The longer I’ve been involved in the London start-up scene, the longer I can’t help feeling that I’m an extra in the classic, silent film The Gold Rush where, in the updated version, gold nuggets would be replaced by a shiny new App that has the potential to make its founder a few million before they’ve hit 25. As I’m old enough to remember and lucky enough to have made a lot of money during the first dot com boom of the mid-nineties, I’ve seen this all before. What makes this time around different is that I’m no longer running a PR Agency charging fat retainers to naive entrepreneurs; I’m on the other side of the fence. Back then life was cushy; now it’s just gritty.
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t read about a start-up that has raised £150k for an idea that seems so preposterous I keep expecting Ashton Kutchner to turn up and tell them they’ve been Punk’d! All the media hyperbole around the London start-up scene has created this false impression that all it takes is a good idea and a wad of cash. If only!
As a start-up founder running on fumes, we are constantly reevaluating our business. Decisions are made very quickly. In the space of two years we’ve gone from a curated app to a marketplace on web/mobile and mobile apps. If something works it stays, if it’s not, it goes. Being an older founder, I’ve worked out that the only way I’m going to stay in this alternative universe is to keep confounding expectations.
Two years may seem a long time in the life spam of a business but every day I’m learning something new. I’ve also developed an incredibly thick skin, which is necessary if I don’t want Frugl to end up as another start-up casualty. We’ve still got plenty of tricks up our sleeve. Watch this space.