Greig Cranfield Co-founder of Yudoozy and Auckland Director of StartUp Grind shares some of the key realities of being an entrepreneur and what it takes to make it work especially in startup phase. For those of you starting out or looking to jump in be sure to read Greig’s pearls of wisdom.
1) Tell us a bit about Yudoozy, what is it, who is it for?
We can see the freelancing market growing rapidly and want to enable awesome freelancers to get exposure to great projects and help businesses get top talent easily without paying huge fees.
Yudoozy is for businesses to view availability and contact local freelancers/contractors with tech and creative skills without needing a recruiter. It’s free for freelancers and employers pay a subscription fee each month to access the database.
2) What’s the story behind the idea?
I recruited UX designers in London for startups and agencies. I heard the same frustrations from contractors and employers on a regular basis, saw a broken model and could see a problem longing to be fixed. I moved to Auckland, and it was even more evident here!
I sat down with my then boss and now co-founder Trudi Batson, she fully understood the problem and was looking for something else to launch, so we decided to explore the idea together. After loads of business discovery sessions, prototyping, blood, sweat and tears we arrived at Yudoozy.
I am eternally grateful to Trudi for backing the idea and bootstrapping us as far as we could when she already had a successful business running. It was a gamble on both our parts, but we believe it’s paying off.
3) You’ve had recent success raising capital to help take Yudoozy to the next level. Raising capital can be a challenging task. Based on your experience can you share a few tips with entrepreneurs looking to raise funds?
Raising capital scares the hell out of some people! It shouldn’t. It’s a game, a process and like anything else it can be learnt. Our initial ‘friends and family’ round was heavily reliant on reaching out to people we already knew. Some of the best advice I can give would be to chase investors for their expertise and network, not just their money. The investors we have gained are also incredible for helping us with advice and ideas.
A big tip is that you need to factor in your full-time salary when asking for cash, no one will back you if you don’t back yourself. “I’ll work on it on the side of my full-time job to save a salary and have security” is not going to get you money. Investors want to see you fully believe in the success of this, so you have to show your commitment. We’re currently opening up our series A round which is already a trickier proposition so come back to me in two months for an update.
4) What has been your biggest challenge so far as an entrepreneur and how do you overcome obstacles that get in your way?
Mental toughness is key. Running a startup is a grind! I think the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face is themselves. There are times when you question yourself when something goes wrong, or everything goes wrong at once, and the doubts start creeping in, especially in startup phase as it’s not for faint hearted.
If you have created a product or service, you’re going to receive both positive and negative feedback so removing your ego and bias from feedback is critical. It’s too easy to take people’s feedback too personally and get disillusioned.
5) Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you fired up?
I recently became a dad for the first time so as soppy as this sounds, my daughter has now become my biggest source of inspiration. It’s made me prioritise what’s important.
6) What key advice would you give to entrepreneurs just starting out?
Another key tip – read. A lot.
Find customers as early as possible. Not your friends and family, real customers who aren’t close to you personally who won’t be afraid to hurt your feelings. Too many entrepreneurs get seduced by their own idea and build a business around ‘well I’d pay for this’. Removing your ego from an idea is tricky, I’ve been guilty of it, and most people are. You have this vision of how you want to solve a problem or run a business, but you find out shortly after launching it that no one will pay for it. Businesses fail to get off the ground because founders perceive with their idea rather than fully understanding the problem their proposed business is trying to solve and then adapting and iterating based on the potential customer.
Don’t be too precious about what you’re working on either, talking to people and seeking advice is key in the early stages. The chances of someone taking the time, effort and possessing the passion to steal your idea and somehow manage to launch it to market before you do are slim. Another key tip – read. A lot.
7) Can you recommend any books in particular that have helped you on your entrepreneurial journey?
‘The lean startup’ by Eric Reis is a must-read for any startup founder and Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday is also a game-changing read for marketing on a budget.
8) What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Can anyone make a go of it?
Definitely. I believe anyone can build a successful business regardless of who they are and what their background or education is provided they have the vision, passion and the mental strength to see their ideas through to fruition. In business, you run into constant challenges and difficulties so without these things success is a long shot.
The media often depicts quite a different view though especially in the tech startup space. Headline stories such as ’21-year-old whizz-kid builds app in bedroom and sells it to Google for millions’ don’t help and would have us believe that truly successful entrepreneurs are born not made and portray an image of overnight success that only happens to born geniuses.
I never went to university, and I definitely had no idea what I was doing when I first started out in business. Funny thing is you quickly find out that pretty much everyone else first starting out is in exactly the same boat as you and also knows next to nothing. Once you get stuck in though you’ll learn pretty quickly from experience. So if you’re seriously considering starting something of your own just make a go of it as fast as possible, even if it’s a side project to begin with. You’ll learn very quickly whether or not the life of an entrepreneur is for you or not.
And it’s definitely not for everyone, I know loads of people who are actually just happier working for a large company on a salary doing what they are good at, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all (if anything sometimes I envy them!) because being an entrepreneur often means living in a constant state of uncertainty and potential failure.
Despite that though one of the best things about being an entrepreneur is that everyone has the opportunity to start on a level playing field. As long as you’re able to drop your ego, have the right attitude, a willingness to learn and strong work ethic anything is possible.
9) Are there any groups you belong to or mentors that you’d like to highlight that have helped you along the way? If so, what have they brought to the table for you?
I run Startup Grind here in Auckland, so I get to sit down and have conversations with incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs on a monthly basis which I still pinch myself over. There’s no particular groups outside of this, but I have a good network of people I can sit down with over beers and seek advice from.
The great thing about doing business here in New Zealand is people are happy to sit down with you and give advice in exchange for coffee or alcohol! I’ve learnt a lot from Trudi too, having a co-founder that has started and run businesses before is helpful.
10) What are your hopes for Yudoozy’s future? The ultimate goal…
There are still pain points in the product I’m working on, iterations to be made and problems to solve, but this is never ending for a SaaS product, it’s what I love doing. We’re planning to launch in overseas markets very soon as we’ve validated this is a viable business now. We have happy customers and happy freelancers so now we’re positioning ourselves and the product to scale rapidly.
Our ultimate goal is a very human one – to have a successful business that helps a large number of people achieve their goals and allows us to achieve ours in the process.