As any seasoned entrepreneur will testify, founding a start-up can feel like an uphill battle from the word ‘go’. Herbert Hellemann, CEO and co-founder of BuddyGuard, tells his story.
It takes a serious amount of determination, tenacity and a bit of good luck to create a successful business that turns over a profit. In a world where software has become king, starting a hardware company can make your challenge doubly difficult – we learned this the hard way!
However, while you may pitch to what feels like every VC and angel in the world, and live a truly bootstrapped life, more often than not it is always worth it in the end. To this day, we have raised €4.5 million in total, from a Kickstarter campaign, electronics firm Bachmann and angel investors. While our premier product FLARE is exactly what we wanted it to be, there are a number of things we would like to have known before we set out on our entrepreneurial journey.
It’s all in the timing
The age-old adage of ‘right place, right time’ definitely rings true when it comes to founding a business. In the first seven months, we went through all of our savings and relied heavily on friends, family and of course maxed bank accounts. Hard work and perseverance will always be the way to achieve your goals, but there is something to be said for having a little bit of luck.
Following our successful Kickstarter campaign, raising 200% of the initial goal, we successful secured further investment from Bachmann and a small group of business angels. Being in the right place at the right time, and finding the people who share your vision and are willing to invest can sometimes rely on a bit of luck.
More people will say no than yes
It can be incredibly disheartening to hear a constant stream of ‘no’s’ when you are investing so much of your personal time, energy, and finances into a project that you truly believe in. We presented to an overwhelming number of VCs in the first year and every rejection went along the lines of “come back when you can show stable sales figures”.
While it’s important not to take every setback to heart, and stay true to your vision, you should also be open to advice and listen to the feedback you are being given. It may be that you’re presenting the wrong points to the wrong people.
Honesty with yourself is the best policy
If you’ve founded a start-up you’ll know that almost every day, you’re exhausted, your nerves are burnt out, a regular salary is a distant memory and the idea of ‘work-life balance’ is an alien one. It’s on these days when you have to be incredibly honest with yourself and ask one of the hardest yet most important questions you can ask as a founder – “is this still worth it?”.
Life is short, and you have to have 100% belief that you are channelling your energy into the right projects and that ultimately, it is a two-way beneficial relationship. So many start-ups fail because the founders fail to ask themselves this question honestly, and they soldier on even when their heart isn’t in the business.
There will be countless times when you feel like you’re one step away from making it, with a few big names and investors backing you, only to receive a knock-back. The most important thing is to stay true to your values and never give up if this project is something you truly believe in. An idea that genuinely brings something new to the market will succeed if with enough hard work and a sprinkle of luck.