The Serendipitous Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are strange creatures and you may never really know how you end up becoming one. Before founding BuddyHub, Catherine McClen was on a career break from the City, London’s financial heart, and looking for something more meaningful to do.

“Looking back, it doesn’t feel like I made a decision that I’m going to do a startup. You may think how on earth did it begin?”, said Catherine.  

For Catherine, it all started five years ago in a very serendipitously moment of her having just joined Twitter and seeing a tweet calling for ideas to combat loneliness and isolation amongst older people. This was a cause close to Catherine’s heart and despite her being very civic-minded and doing lots of volunteering work, she hadn’t come across a solution that worked well.

“The very simple lightbulb moment was understanding that the barriers, for me, were that I couldn't really commit with the time to the volunteering opportunities that there were out there. There’s no flexibility and I was worried about dependency and I didn’t want to let a person down”, explained Catherine.

A few weeks down the line and after a rushed application to Unlimited, came the good news that she had been awarded some money to take her idea off the ground. Catherine still recalls the exact number: £3,874. And suddenly, she found herself as an entrepreneur: “I remember telling my friends and all toasting. I'm a social entrepreneur apparently!”.

Catherine rolled up her sleeves and started a befriending scheme pilot in Islington which was supposed to last three months and ended up taking six times that. During that process she recognized that technology would be crucial to making this work, “I'm not a techie but I knew technology would be super important”.

It was at that time that Catherines path crossed with Activate. “I've met one or two techies before who were offering to build me websites for money I didn't have and with too many bells and whistles that I didn't know whether or not I needed. When Paolo [director at Activate] and I sat down, I was like ‘Ahh, this guy gets it!’”.

Catherine applied and managed to secure a place in Activate’s 2016 startup programme. She recalls the excitement she felt at the start:

“I knew this was gonna be a deep dive into BuddyHub so that was a pretty unique opportunity to have. I felt very supported particularly because I was a sole founder and suddenly you have a whole group of people from outside really looking in a deep dive”.

Team BuddyHub

Team BuddyHub

Fast-forward three years and BuddyHub has moved from an idea and running a pilot scheme to signing up Buddies and Seniors and proving traction. Catherine confesses that it was only recently, when she was filling out an application form, that she realised how far she has progressed with BuddyHub: “There was just something really great about realising, almost without noticing because you're just so busy, that you've passed through all stages and you are going from startup to scale”.

When talking about the future, Catherine says that the plans are to scale up and be a national organisation within the next five years. But she also warns that this is going to be a  make-or-break year: “I think it is feeling make-it rather than break-it. It’s going to be make-it by hook or by crook!”.

To know more about BuddyHub:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

The Entrepreneur Journey

Do you really have the time to read all the newspapers everyday? Ten years ago, Beniamino Pagliaro, founder of Good Morning Italia, was working as a journalist in a leading Italian news agency and pondered: if even journalists have a hard time reading the newspapers, why wouldn’t regular readers?

When Beniamino first had the idea of sending readers daily news briefings, he pitched it to his employers at the time, a news agency in Italy. However they weren’t receptive to his proposed solution. Undeterred, he contacted ten journalists from different news outlets, some of whom he’d only know from Twitter. He told them about his idea and asked if they were interested in joining him to explore this space and the opportunities it could present. The response? All of them said yes. For Beniamino, this was his first business validation.

“Thanks to the Internet, I had this idea, sent the email and months later we were live. We had a very simple Wordpress site and we started to test the market to see how it would go”, tells Beniamino.

Some of the journalists Beniamino reached out to in the beginning ended up being part of the core team. They helped produce and send out early morning newsletters with curated news to help readers keep up to date with the most important stories from around the world. The team’s background and experience was fundamental to turn the initial idea into a business.

Good Morning Italia team

“The first briefing was sent on January 2013 and from that day on, everyday, we didn't miss a single day. The daily briefing was sent out on Christmas and Easter included. So you need to have a team.” Today, there are around 20 journalists working on the editorial side on a daily basis.

When Good Morning Italia started working with Activate, the startup was at a more developed stage than the usual undertaking. “In a way I feel the whole team built a programme for us”, said Beniamino. The strategy was to take a step back and, through sessions with Activate team, work to find the real market opportunities and redefine the goals.

“A programme like this will make you work on many things directly. So if you want to build a company, this is the right process. It will help grow your company and in a way, even your ability on how to work”, he concluded.

Good Morning Italia still has subscribers who signed up on day one and the estimate readership is twenty thousand people including corporate customers. Watch this space!

To know more about Good Morning Italia:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

How It All Started

Let’s be honest, a startup journey can be brutal. We know that. You know that. And the stats confirm: 90% of all startups fail.

No one is born a tech giant. Apple, Google and Amazon all started in garages. And unicorn startups are exceedingly rare. Aileen Lee made her point when she chose this mythical animal to define startups who are worth $1 billion or more.

There is no shortcuts or magic, just a lot of hard work from people building products, services and technologies that consumers love.

For that reason, we decided to write about our portfolio startups and tell you more about their journey. How they started and where they are now. We will be publishing a series of posts interviewing the founders of Good Morning Italia, BuddyHub, isoshealth and Tomo.

To kick off, have a read about Good Morning Italia, a startup doing great things in Italy...