2 October 2020
What inspired you to join the social enterprise, Foundervine?
I am extremely passionate about diversity, economic empowerment and advancing the lives of underrepresented communities. Foundervine was started by a group of like-minded individuals who came together because we were frustrated by the lack of diversity in the technology and start-up ecosystem; only 1 in 9 senior leaders in London’s tech scene come from a BAME background, London’s BAME population is about 40%. Also, less than 1% of VC funding goes to women or black minority founders. It’s this opportunity gap that inspires our mission. We exist to close this opportunity gap and increase representation in the start-up ecosystem.
How does Foundervine support diverse entrepreneurs and guide them to succeed?
Foundervine supports diverse entrepreneurs through the delivery of start-up and scale-up acceleration programs. Whilst traditional accelerator models focus on education, we understand that underrepresented founders face multi-dimensional challenges regarding confidence, mentorship and community-building. Foundervine focuses on these additional elements to increase likelihoods of success.
We operate across three axis being:
- Access: Increasing access to entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship for diverse founders.
- Acceleration: Increasing opportunities for diverse founders, including access to networks, high-impact learning opportunities and investment-readiness support.
- Advocacy: Acting as a voice for underestimated entrepreneurs primarily in the UK and beyond.
Our core programme is called Startup 54. It’s a three-day start-up acceleration programme designed for people who have very little or no previous experience in entrepreneurship and are between the ages of 18 to 30, although it’s open to everyone. You come in for the first time on a Friday evening to meet others on the programme, and you form teams based around mutual ideas. Then, you spend the next two days learning about business modelling, customer discovery, pitching, and financial modelling, and then you pitch to actual investors and experts by Sunday evening. We have seen some incredible stories come from the programme. People who may have just graduated or who are very early in their career and absolutely hate their job, but they come out of the programme and discover a new passion and learn entrepreneurial skills.
We partner with mission driven corporates who share our vision, to utilise their talent and resources in scaling early stage ventures. We are currently running an accelerator programme in partnership with Barclays Eagle Labs.
You have recently co-founded Wealth8. How did you get the idea for the business?
The traditional wealth management services do not actively cater to my generation. Also for decades they have been the preserve of investment-savvy men from well to do backgrounds. I initially thought that wealth was for older people or something to plan for retirement. It did not occur to me that I could achieve financial independence at a young age, if I wanted to. It took a couple of years (after I graduated) before I fully appreciated the value of saving and investing, as well as the tools and options available to me for doing so. Even after I had done some research into wealth management, I was put off by the high level of fees charged by traditional wealth managers. Being a fintech enthusiast, I felt that the wealth and investment space was ripe for the disruption that has been experienced in other aspects of the financial services sector. My drive for leveraging digital innovation to open up access to finance led me and my co-founder to build a product to do so. More importantly providing access to a community that has been overlooked and underserved.
Where would you like Wealth8 to be in 5 years time?
In our world money is like Oxygen. Everyone should be able to transact, save, financially plan and build wealth on the same playing field.
There may always be disparities with wealth itself. But there doesn’t need to be poverty or scenarios where such basic things like saving or protecting yourself from risk – is preserved to certain countries, demographics or genders.
I would like to see Wealth8 open up access to wealth and investment opportunities for 1 million individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds and back home on the African continent as well as other emerging markets – playing our role in global financial inclusion.
In your role as a founder, what has been the most challenging thing so far?
I compare being a founder to being a superhero in a cartoon or video game, each day is a new episode or level which poses a new “baddie” to defeat. Once you’ve overcome, you only have a very short while to celebrate before you are presented a whole new bad guy in the next stage. The most challenging episode in this journey has been the whole process of gaining our regulatory approvals to provide investment services with our Authorised Representative and the FCA. It was an extremely challenging few months, although in hindsight an enlightening and worthwhile experience. We feel much more confident of success having successfully been through what was a very rigorous process!
What is your advice for a founder looking to build a new venture during a pandemic?
My advice would be the same as prior to the pandemic. Top 3 tips would be:
- Start!: This does not mean quit your job, however start taking practical actions to turn your idea into a reality.
- Solve: Focus on the problem you’re trying solve and not the solution. This is ever more important during the current climate where there may be great pressures on businesses.
- Speak: Continuously engage your potential users to understand their needs and be open to receiving feedback from anyone. Unexpected insights are available everywhere.
The one nuance I will touch on during the pandemic is to understand that we are in a more challenging climate, therefore everything will be that little bit harder! So, you’ll need be to extra sure that you are ready for the challenge and have a real passion for the problem you are looking to solve.
What would be your predictions for the start-up ecosystem over the next five years?
An objectively more inclusive and diverse ecosystem with diversity of ideas, founders and funders. There is a lot of momentum to change the narrative of the start-up ecosystem with organisations like One Tech, Cornerstone and Ada Ventures to name a few, also contributing to change in different areas of this space. I believe that the opportunity gap within our society will be closed with our collective efforts and there will be many successful diverse start-up stories to celebrate over the next five years.
Which entrepreneurs do you respect and why?
Rachel Corson and Jocelyn Mate, co-founders of Afrocenchix. I have been following their journey for years and have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing them speak. As black women, they are truly changing the narrative of what it means to be a successful founder. They will be true inspirations for generations to come here in the UK. They released an informative blog post that detailed their journey to raising investments. A lot of people would have heard their end success stories, however this candid post detailed the tough journey and grit required to navigate that journey. It’s a personal inspiration and includes key practical lessons for any aspiring founder.
What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?
Invest in yourself. It’s the best investment you can make.
Mental health is real and can be extremely prevalent especially in the entrepreneurship space. I have had my personal troubles at various aspects of life with ADHD and anxiety. In more recent times I acknowledge that I need to always prioritise my mental and physical wellbeing above anything else. I lean on daily yoga, running and my morning prayers / devotion. Although not always a magic pill, these daily routines are my foundations and the ultimate investment in any future success.