I remember setting up my first business during the dot-com days. We were 4 co-founders. We all had day jobs. We all gave it 6 months to try out - a year later we were still there ! We all had business experience. We were all graduates. Yet, when it came to sourcing professional support we struggled. We were unsure what the investors were looking for? We were unsure when to engage with an accountant or a lawyer. We weren’t even sure what to ask them ! At times, we were paying them good money to find we already knew the answer.
10 years later. During my MBA I decided to organise a business supporting other entrepreneurs. I understood not all entrepreneurs would be able to afford my support, but I knew they needed help ! So, how could I make my support available to them as well? I felt organising a CSR would help make the business inclusive and bridge this gap. Within 6 months I was the founder of the London Chapter of 'Entrepreneur Commons'. A global not for profit peer to peer support for entrepreneurs coming out of the Silicon Valley. Here we were looking to support entrepreneurs when they needed help the most. This was the boot strapped phase when they hadn’t established their product / market fit. The phase where they needed traction. The phase where the business had not been systemised. The phase where cash really was King. In other words, the early stages where all businesses needed needed clarity and direction. Yet, they couldn’t afford it or were not sure where to go to get it.
5 months later. An Aussie Entrepreneur setup a meet-up group in London. It was designed to offer mentoring support to entrepreneurs. But, a month later he had to leave the UK - he had some visa related concerns. I felt the group was vital to London Entrepreneurs. It would be good to grow and customise it in line with the needs of the entrepreneurs. I remember we were 120 members when I first took over. Today we are over 1700 members. We focused on offering support that helped entrepreneurs lower their risks of failure. I could only offer 4 hours a week of my time and there was no budget. So, we as a group had to be efficient with our resources.
Within 6 months we had a home at UCL Print Room Cafe - they were happy to host us when it wasn’t being used by anyone else. The students usually left at 6pm. Most of our members worked, so we would turn up at 6pm - usually 6.15 :) . (We have now moved to The RSA just off Charing Cross on the same basis.) We offered these 2 hour knowledge sharing micro events on a weekly basis. We as a group also attracted professional service providers. They were happy to offer their support.
Like myself these professional support providers wanted to support entrepreneurs in the early stages. Like myself, they were limited by the amount of time they could offer. They were happy to offer their spare time offering their expertise. They felt this was a great way to make a contribution to society. More importantly, they felt these sessions humanised them. For instance, the ‘thank you’ they would get was cherished as much as receiving payment on time ! Over time, we ended up helping Micro and SME professionals organise a CSR program. Alongside supporting entrepreneurs as well.
This approach supported a female entrepreneurship group based in Chelsea, London. They as a group were looking for business support to help their members but weren’t sure where to start. We also supported UKTI. We offered professional business mentoring support to High Growth Korean Startups at Campus London. They were visiting Tech City London as part of the official state visit of the Korean President. In those days, the UKTI didn’t offer business support like it does now. We also supported international companies entering the London market. For example, EFactor a global entrepreneurship community was looking to enter the London market. We offered them local knowledge, traction for their events and introductions to local organisations. The idea was this support would make their market entry workable. This would benefit the London entrepreneurial eco system. Our members also supported postGraduate students at King’s College, London. We supported them during their Annual Business Planning Competition. One of the members we supported went on to become a Euro Top 30 Female Tech entrepreneur. She was invited to Downing Street. Our Weekly biz Tips educated entrepreneurs globally.
As the data emerged of what worked and what needed attention we customised a precise offering. We decided to make this offering more widely available. We tested this at Mass Challenge UK last year. Needless to say it delivered the intended results. We are now spinning off this support as sharing economy support for entrepreneurs. It will offer near free support to entrepreneurs regardless of geography. And, it will allow professional support providers to organise a CSR for their business.
We hope this will help entrepreneurs lower their failure rates. It will help them understand when to access professional business support. It will also allow Micro and SME support providers make a contribution to society via a CSR. In short, the kind of support we all lacked is now available as a social enterprise.
We look forward to you trying out our free beta.
This project part of the biz Stuff co creational project portfolio.