I spoke to Novo Abakare and Jack Beaman, co-founders of Syft, about their entrepreneurial journey to date, the challenges that come with raising from venture capital investors, and the advice they wish they’d known before founding their own company.
Tech vertical: Flexible staffing marketplace
Staff count: 62
Location: London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham
Founded: October 2015
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Q: Where did the idea for Syft come from and why?
J: The idea really came about partly from inspiration from many marketplace apps such as Airbnb and Deliveroo, and partly due to my experience of working for temp agencies throughout my years at university.
N: Jack and I were catching up during Christmas 2014, and he told me about an idea he had. Given our complementary skill sets, we agreed that the business stood a much better chance of success if we teamed up, so, we did.
Q: What were you doing before?
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J: I had spent the previous four years at Fuse Universal working across many roles in what was a highly innovative enterprise software startup. Prior to that, I spent a few years in Cardiff doing my degree in Political Science, along with many summers working in a bar in Mykonos.
N: I had been a derivatives trader for six years, after graduating from Bristol University in Economics and Philosophy. During my many years spent in the City, I had tried my hand at a couple of entrepreneurial ventures – starting my own business is something I had always wanted to do.
Q: You’ve raised a relatively big Series A round. What were the biggest challenges that you came across when trying to convince investors to invest in your early-stage company? How did you overcome these?
J: I think the two biggest questions investors usually require answering is how do you build defensibility and scalability into your business. Of course, that being said, all other aspects have to match up too such as the timing, the idea, the team and the metrics. If you have those then it largely boils down to how can you rapidly scale without being open to attack from competitors. You have to think carefully about these issues and craft a solid and believable story, along with a clear roadmap to achieving it.
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Q: Who are your main competitors and how do you set yourself apart from them?
J: Interestingly, from the outside, this appears to be a highly competitive sector which was always a big concern for VCs looking to invest in the space.
There is healthy competition within the space, which is something that excites us, as it encourages Syft to constantly advance and grow. Our key differentiator from others out there is the fact that we are a true marketplace; providing complete control and choice to both our clients and community of workers.
Q: What has been the hardest part of running your business so far? And the highlight?
J: The hardest part is always the hiring. We have put so much effort and dedication on hiring the very best people out there, which is incredibly time-consuming, but absolutely vital to a successful business.
N: For me, a personal highlight was knowing that PROfounders Capital and Creandum had met all our competitors yet decided to invest in us both at Seed and Series A level.
Q: What advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you first started out?
J: Looking back I wish someone had told us to target the biggest clients far earlier and build out our sales team far sooner.
It took us a year to start on these. Despite this, we have still come out as the market leader in the largest temporary market space.
Q: Where do you see your business going in the next 12 months?
J: I think within the next 12 months we will have already raised our Series B. We’ve also got plans for expansions into different sectors, and different cities.