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Founderfest 2019: Key Takeaways

Since last year’s Founderfest was a massive success, it was going to be hard to surpass the achievement of yet another event given that it was sold out last year, the line-up of speakers was incredible and so were the list of sponsors and supporters too. On May 11th, we surpassed our own expectations with Founderfest 2019.

The desire was to bring together a community of founders, investors, professionals and business leaders into one room, create connections and share knowledge. Over 100 attendees arrived at Rise London to learn, build networks, and connect to further the cause for diversity in entrepreneurship.

Below are some key takeaway points from the day:

You are not your business

This year we offered the stage to the community of entrepreneurs and professionals allowing them the opportunity to speak on stage about what was important to them. Kicking off the day, Ifey Frederick, co-founder of Chuku's London delivered ‘Killing It Without Killing Yourself’ offering practical tools for taking control of your mental wellbeing as an entrepreneur and a professional.

Ifey challenged: write a bio without mentioning your business or career… Hard right? She also spoke about “celebrating the small wins”, and practising gratitude and documenting the journey.

Too small to be hacked? Think again

Toyin Oni, spoke on Data Protection for your startup. Key to her talk was the fact that you’re never too small to be a target to scammers – know your risks and your obligations!

When you don’t do anything about your Information Security you’re accepting the risks!

It’s important to instil a security culture within your organisation.”

Dragon’s Den style

To bring an end to the first part of the day, a Startup Soapbox session was hosted. This part of the day gives our attendees the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to the audience concisely – Dragon’s Den style.

From menstrual wellbeing (see Suki) to products, services and support for children with special needs and their carers (see Lapapo). Our founders had 1 minute to share the what, why and the how of their business ideas.

Speed mentoring sessions were carried out alongside a healthy lunch (courtesy of Health is Wealth Kitchen) where attendees had the ability to sign up for sessions with a mentor of their choice ranging from investors to community leaders and technology specialists.

What’s your superpower?

After lunch, the first panel of the day was hosted, “Intrapreneurship and The Future of Working”, a topic so important to discuss in a room full of mostly millennials changing the nature of the 9-5.

Each of the panellists: Stephan Eyeson, Samira Abokor, Heather Delaney, Ishaan Malhi and Chair Matteo Scarabelli have built their personal brand within large organisations and/or have successfully managed ‘side hustles’ alongside their day jobs.

What is your superpower?Samira Abokor Product Manager at JustEat UK advised the importance of building a personal brand within your organisation by tapping into your strengths.

“Culture must be co-created to be effective” Ishaan Malhi founder of Trussle spoke on the importance of community within an organisation to build an effective and sustainable company culture.

For many young professionals, the ‘side hustle’ is the new normal. Stephan, Guest Products Lead at Uber UK advises on managing your side hustle within your organisation “Understand the terms of your contract to make sure there are no overlaps with your personal projects.”

The importance of community

The third and final community keynote came from Gary McPherson. In the digital age, it’s imperative that organisations build communities that transcend the functionality of a product or service. Gary delivered a blueprint for building a digital community answering these key questions:

What is a digital community? Why are they important? How can you make the most of them for your business?

“Building digital communities gives you a great opportunity to gain valuable insights into your business.”

“Gain feedback from your community. What do they like? What would they like to see more of?”

Black VCs, where are they?

In the UK as a whole, there are 1,703 people currently working at decision-making levels in VC. Less than 1% of decision-making VCs are black. Andy Davis, Director at Backstage Capital London came with these dire stats in hand as well as tips for minority founders seeking VC funding.

“There isn’t a pipeline problem... you’re just not looking in the right places”

“Investors want validation.” Andy Davis on the importance of proving your market with more than just your word.

If you’d like to find out more about VC funding and getting the support you need. Contact Andy at 10x10VC.

There is magic in failure

Wellbeing was a common theme at Founderfest 2019 hence it was important to touch on the topic of ‘failure’. A subject not spoken about enough in the entrepreneurial space… at least not in a positive light. The magic of failure brought together a panel of diverse entrepreneurs: Darren Tenkorang, Dr Yvette Ankrah MBE, Regina Oladipo, Urenna Okonkwo and chair, Amit Patel to have a frank and open conversation about setbacks, restarts and evaluating in their journeys so far.

“I was doing too much too soon” Regina Oladipo Founder of Mainstream on having to revaluate her business at an early stage.

“We always talk about things like business plans... where is your self-care plan?” Dr Yvette Ankrah MBE

“Stay in your lane and enjoy the ride.” Urenna Okonkwo on the importance of focusing on yourself and not comparing your own progress to others.

Final Startup Soapbox

By our final startup soapbox session, our audience was jumping at the chance to pitch with 10 founders and aspirational founders taking the stage. One innovative professional decided to pitch himself and his professional sales skills to any startup in need! (Contact Ayo Awe for details).

Girl Talk

The final panel hosted an all-female line-up of entrepreneurs and business leaders in a range of industries from Fintech to fashion. Chaired by our founder, Izzy Obeng, the panel focused on the unique challenges faced by women in business and practical ways to get out on top. From pitching for funding from investors who bear no resemblance to them, to being undermined as a boss and founder.

“Let your product do the talking.” Kike Oniwinde Founder & CEO of the BYP Network

“If you choose that you want a partnership or marriage and you also want to build a successful business as women, we have to prioritise finding supportive partners.” Fisayo Longe Blogger and founder of the Kai Collective

“Find your inspiration.” Ambreen Khasru Head of Business Banking at Monese shares her wish list for women in business.

A huge thank you to sponsors Just Eat, Monese, Monterosa and OpenSUSE, all panellists, speakers, and to the Foundervine community for making Founderfest 2019 an enjoyable event and great success!

Missed out? Check out the #Founderfest2019 hashtag for more coverage. Stay connected to hear news of future events and goings-on. Who else is already looking forward to #Founderfest2020?!

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