Skip to content

25 startup stories from 25 entrepreneurial founders


Following the podcast series AWS Startup Stories, where the brightest stars of the UK startup scene revealed personal anecdotes from their experiences of building a startup, AWS has been capturing the entrepreneurial spirit through storytelling in a new eBook.

Notes from Founders is the first of a series of eBooks comprised of 25 original founder interviews split across five issues. Founders often have unique insights to offer around what drives them, how they got started, their decision-making process and how they’ve overcome challenges, which has the potential to enthuse a new generation of entrepreneurs to take action. Notes from Founders aims to tell the stories of 25 founders we’ve been inspired by, handpicked from across EMEA’s startup landscape.

These startups are among the best in the industry and include some of the most inspirational minds in the business, spearheaded by vanguards who are taking ground-breaking ideas and showing us what can be achieved with hard work and tenacity. Therefore, it’s only apt that Notes from Founders launches with the first volume in the series, putting a spotlight on The Pioneers.

These five leaders from TransferWise, Elaia Partners, Freigeist Capital, Pipedrive and Collibra have built pioneering global brands, taking their organisations to new heights, while paving the way for those who’ve since followed. Whether it’s discussing their motivations for wanting to succeed, treasured anecdotes or lessons in how to move your startup forward when hitting obstacles, the Pioneers have not only been candid in imparting their knowledge, but they also give us a glimpse into the personalities who are driving ambitious change:

“In the tech world, the only constant is change”
Our relationship with banks is changing rapidly. Ten years ago, your bank was a bricks and mortar place; now it mainly exists on your smartphone. Who knows what the next decade will bring? Progress moves at ultra-high speed in the tech age and the only constant is change. You can’t assume anything will be the same in a few years’ time. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be in a good place.
Taavet Hinrikus – Co-founder, TransferWise

“If you want funding, you need to stand out from the competition”
Startups always say that they’re the only ones doing what they’re doing and that there’s no competition. There will almost always be competition. In the six-month period when car-sharing was the current trend, we saw 25 similar projects. We’re now seeing waves of companies focusing on AI. The more you can differentiate your company, the stronger your chances are of convincing an investor that you can do something different and special.
Pauline Roux – Partner, Elaia Partners

“You need a great startup team to attract an investor”
The three of us work well together because we have complementary skills – Frank is responsible for marketing and networking; Marc does everything legal and business-related and I’m the technical guy. So when we’re considering investing in a startup, we want to see that the startup team has a good range of complementary skills and that each person is fully behind the business”
Alex Koch – Co-founder, Freigeist Capital

“What can I do right now?”
Everybody has a different way of trying to rebalance themselves when things go wrong. The one thing that always helps me is asking myself: ‘So, what am I going to do now?’, because that’s the only thing you really have control over. It’s easy to think: ‘Everything’s going wrong and there’s nothing I can do.’ To snap yourself out of it, you have to think: ‘Yes, it’s awful and I hate it, but there must be something I can do to alleviate the situation or find some kind of short-term solution.
Timo Rein – Co-founder, Pipedrive

“My job is different every six months”
Just as you have to evolve with your business, you also have to evolve in your own role. My job as CEO changes frequently. As long as I feel like I’m doing a good job and the board feels like I’m doing a good job, I’ll just keep on doing it. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone, which isn’t always easy or fun, but it is important. You don’t know what’s coming, so you have to be ready to just jump in that black hole and go for it”
Felix Van de Maele – Co-founder, Collibra

We live in an era of technology democratisation like no other, so there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. Each month AWS will be releasing a new issue of founder interviews to accompany the Pioneers, introducing you to the Innovators, Disruptors, Challengers and Changemakers of our times.

The series is dedicated to the founders you’re about to meet, their stories and the grand visions they’ve helped turn into a reality. Join us in celebrating these true heroes of the AWS startup community, and we hope their stories inspire the next generation of tech founders to come forward with their own take on new solutions to old problems.

Read Issue One here.