13 Apr 2015

Doing BGV right – a challenging journey to success with Walacea

By Glen

This is the second in a series of case studies of how startups got accepted on the BGV accelerator – the best thing you can do is speak with us to get some feedback on your idea before you spend several hours putting your application together.

Walacea is the UK’s first crowdfunding platform exclusively for science.  We first met Natalie, the Founder of Walacea through one of our open office hours – she came in through hello@bethnalgreenventures.com and asked if she could speak with someone about her idea. She showed a real passion for science and experience in the sector – specifically pharmaceuticals. We were caught up by her energy and enthusiasm and encouraged her to apply, but to find some technical talent for her team.

She brought a team to interview along with some technical talent and really impressed us for a few reasons: she knew what there was to know, and she also wasn’t afraid to admit what she didn’t know. We’re big fans of that on BGV, and we invited her on to the programme.

When Natalie turned up at the startup of the accelerator programme one of her team members had got cold feet and decided to carry on with their career, so she was bringing along somebody new that looked great on paper, but that she hadn’t known very long. Six weeks into the programme they decided to go their separate ways. Starting a business is hard with two people let alone one so we were a bit concerned as in general we prefer to work with teams rather than sole founders. Throughout all of this, however, Natalie kept her focus on the long game – making sure that the tech was good enough to learn from early users on her product, finding a good suite of launch projects, identifying customers and getting the word out there.

I was speaking with Natalie the other day and she was talking about the pros and cons of being a lone founder. On the pro side you can make money last longer, you make all the decisions and do not need to discuss them, which has some advantages in terms of speed, however on the negative side some decisions are difficult to make alone, and also having the mental capacity and time to do all of the work needed to start a tech business is challenging for two people let alone one! Natalie said it definitely is not for everyone but she enjoys being a lone founder and manages the business by working with freelancers and building the team gradually.

Walacea have made it over the hump and made their first revenue just three months after completing the BGV summer ’14 cohort, and they’ve even got a very exciting current campaign up that, at the time of this writing, has nearly doubled its goal. Go have a look and support it if you want.

There’s just over two weeks ’til the close of our Call for Ideas for Summer ’15. If you’re interested, get in touch to talk to us and apply here.