Founder and Lightning is a Unique Hybrid (Accelerator + Agency + Incubator) #14
Lots of people are trying to build a business, and they’re all making the same mistakes. Accelerators, incubators, agencies and investors are essential to support, but none of them can do everything a startup needs. So does bundling them into one make sense? This week our guest is a unique startup that helps other startups to grow. Founder and Lightning [former ucreate] has a business model that covers almost all in one place.
If you have an idea but no technical background, Founder and Lightning has a framework just for you. Their pay to play model allows you to validate, build, launch and grow your business at any level with different pricing for each framework level. Listen to the interview with the Founder & CEO, Matt Jonns, to better understand what they are doing and how you can get on board.
Watch the documentary:
The journey of the business
Growth comes in different types and ways. In Founder and Lightning’s case, they’ve been growing in team size and portfolio base throughout the years.
Matt and his cofounder in India built the business from day one. The first year it was just the two founders and was all about learning from their mistakes. Then, in 2018, seven or eight startups in their portfolio raised substantial money. At that point, they realized that they’re creating a significant value for the founders. And today, they have 20 startups in their portfolio which have a combined valuation of £130 million.
In terms of the people side of growth, they’ve become a big team of 80 people in 4 years spread worldwide, including Poland, London, and India.
What do they do?
Founder and Lightning’s framework consists of 4 different models designed for the founders at every single stage of their journey. They tailored their services to meet the needs of any business where it doesn’t matter what technology or solution it is.
- Spark – this is the accelerator program where people are coming in with just the idea to test it and see if it’s worth building before spending a lot of money on it.
- Flash – this is the program where they build the product and get it to market as quickly as possible because one of the reasons to fail for a startup is taking too long to build.
- Strike – At this stage, the founders can outsource an in-house team. Then, they provide a customized team based on the need of the business.
- Bolt – provide developers as an extension to their team.
The first-ever investor they’ve worked with ended up not paying them, so they continued the business by bootstrapping in the early days. But, of course, founders also have to pay to play. So that’s how they’re getting cash flow to grow the business. Adding up the latest investment they received in July 2015, they managed to get £100K.
As Matt mentions, more funding will be received soon within 3 to 6 months.
Everything they’ve been doing for the last 4 years was learning for the team. They experimented with different ways of delivery, different business models, different founder portfolio and so on. Their motto is “Always test but make sure it doesn’t kill the company.”
It’s vital that an entrepreneur understands the market and makes quick adjustments when necessary. So it’s time for a change for Founder and Lightning at the moment. Now they’re in the process of iteration in their framework to make it clearer and simplified.
Dealing with challenges
“The uniqueness is great but there’s also often a challenge. Because if no one has ever done it before, how do you communicate that and get that across the potential founders?”
Since Founder and Lightning’s business model is unique, their biggest challenge is getting people to understand what they’re doing basically. The need to showcase the value is that 90% of the startups fail, but 90% are still going. So each time, they have to get that across to people.
Common entrepreneurial mistakes
Don’t love the solution, love the problem.
We wanted to ask Matt what are the common mistakes that entrepreneurs are making. His first answer was “Being obsessed with their solution in their head before defining the problem.”
Another mistake they’re doing is the opposite: “People skewing on an idea for too long.” You don’t need to raise £200-300K to get going. Sometimes, founders are just getting too obsessed to make perfect what Ucreate is suggesting, just getting it to the market as quickly as possible and experiment along the way. It should be a combination of both, as Matt mentions.
Hiring process & the culture
“We hire for culture and DNA first. That’s the absolute most important for us.”
Founder and Lightning literally has a DNA document that they’re sharing with the people who will join. They want autonomous people where they can work based on the given task without a need for micromanagement. They’re also looking for candidates who are super ambitious, risk-seeker and flexible.
Matt says that the main component they’re keen on achieving is being 100% transparent with the staff. They’re sharing all the numbers internally with them. The more transparency, the more context you can give people better.
Tech tools to depend on
Matt’s personal favourite is Slack as he says he couldn’t build the business without it. Not just to communicate among the team in London, it’s also handy to get in touch with the team members in other countries. Another SaaS tool basically doing the same job for them but in terms of video calls is Zoom.
For the daily business tasks, Trello and Github come to Matt’s mind first. For the accountancy processes, they’re only using Zero for now.
Future goals & milestones
They’re mainly targetting geographical growth. In the future, they want to expand the business among the greatest startup ecosystems of the world, such as Sydney, New York, places around Europe and the UK. This is a massive ambition for them. They have 20 startups in their portfolio, but the goal is to make it 200 in the upcoming years.
Founder and Lightning need to ensure they are giving the attention and the expertise needed to the current startups before scaling too fast. In the meantime, they want to raise money to grow the business globally.
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Each week, we will be visiting a new startup office to meet with their team & founders. Stay tuned!