We met on the Full-Time MBA class in 2016. Byron came into the programme with a burning desire to start a business and Henry had just exited his first and was looking for the next opportunity. It didn’t take long before we started having beers together and working on projects.
Without realising it, we were going through the ‘courting’ process of forming a co-founder relationship. This importance of co-founder relationships – not just picking the right one, but continually working on it – is often massively underestimated, the peril of many a startup (Y Combinator accelerator - famous alumni include AirBnB – see 20% of their cohort have a co-founder leave the business).
For us the criteria were simple – could we socialise together, could we deliver together (execution being far more important than idea generation) and most importantly, did the other person have emotional maturity (EQ). We both seemed satisfied!
During our programme we got obsessed with the inefficiencies in the entire journey of homeownership – it’s completely hamstrung by old processes and ingrained ways of thinking. After tinkering with various ideas, we landed on Track, a property and money manager designed for homeowners. And so our journey into proptech (property technology) began.
The transition out of student business, which we started as, to real-world business was a challenge. It’s quite a shock to go from the safety of the Imperial nest to being out on the cold front.
A mistake we see a lot of would-be founders make, whether that’s current employees or students – is to think that unless they can commit 7-days a week on their startup, it’s not worth doing. That’s rubbish. There are enough fears that stop people taking the plunge to start a business and if being worried about paying rent is another, well the business is very unlikely to start at all.
Upon finishing our studies, we worked 3 days a week consulting to pay the bills and the rest of the time on Track – we phased out the consulting as Track grew. It’s crucial to be creative in how you make it feasible to give your startup aspirations a realistic chance. This was our approach as founders, but with another lens as a full-time employee, perhaps ask your boss if you can work 1 day a week on the innovative idea you’ve got.
In the summer of 2018, we built a basic prototype to demonstrate our customer value thesis of bringing together disparate information about a homeowner’s finances (home value, mortgage balance, ownership breakdown) and displayed it simply, beautifully and all in one place.
We used this prototype to raise a £84,000 Family & Friends (F&F) round. A cool fact is that half the money came from 24 of our MBA classmates. Thanks, guys and gals! What an awesome thing to have your mates and family as part of the business. That said, there is an extra emotional weight of taking F&F money – it certainly drove us on.
We used the F&F money to build out a live-MVP in the Apple App Store which launched at the end of 2018 - we attracted a few hundred users and learned loads. It was also around this time that we received backing from Europe’s leading proptech VC, Pi Labs. This was a huge win and after going through their growth programme over the summer of 2019, shot us to another level.
A brief word on raising capital. What we underestimated was the importance of ‘the chase’. In the past, we might fall into the trap of thinking 'they haven’t responded to our email, they must not be interested', so do nothing. Wrong. Investors are like anyone else, busy. So we started chasing, following-up, making phone calls. And more often than not, they thanked us for reminding them and took the meeting. The more pitches you can do, the more chance you have of finding that person who believes in you and your vision.
Where are we now?
It’s an exciting time for Track, we have just launched the full app in the UK on iOS and Android. We are also crowdfunding on Seedrs – if you are interested in investing, check out our campaign page here.
We are under no illusion that there is still a long way to go before we make the impact we want for millions of homeowners, however, as is ingrained in our culture, be sure to celebrate the wins, then soon after decide where the next 'W' is coming from.