What inspired you to start a tutoring app?
At university, I started a small business in teaching to pay for my degree. It worked out well, and I made enough to cover the cost of my degree pretty quickly. What was exciting was this notion of the 'educator brand'. My first class was really hard to build, but my fifth class was easy. People knew who I was – a kid who could teach economics. So, my plan is to help make educators around the world get the recognition they deserve. 😊
Is it smart to start a company with friends/family?
It's smart to start a company with people you trust, and people who are extremely intelligent. I started Scoodle with my friends. The alternative would be to start it with strangers, and I definitely wouldn't recommend that!
What kind of things should you think about when looking to build a team for a company or a project? Is there a difference between the two?
Huge difference. Usually, cool projects lead to great companies. Just look at Facebook.
If you have an idea, start it as a project. Do it in the evenings and weekends. See how it goes. If it starts to pick up, find a friend to help you grow it. If it continues to pick up and you can't focus on whatever else you're doing (working or studying), it may be a good time to look for some investment. That way, you can pay salaries and really focus. That's when it starts looking like a company.
How did you go about finding a technical co-founder?
We almost grew up together, so I was really fortunate. They're really smart, and I trust them more than anything. The next best thing is to find people you study with. If you've already graduated, start going to hackathons!
How can you assess whether your business idea will be a success?
You can't. Luck and chance play a much bigger role than people imagine. But there are indicators that can be useful:
- Are you the right person for this business? What makes you say that, and what makes you better than everyone else that has had this idea before?
- Why are you doing it now? Timing is a huge factor. Is now better than five years ago?
What are the first steps to starting a company and how do you get it off the ground?
Just start. Whatever idea you have, think of the most basic form it takes to exist in a week.
For example, if I wanted to build a tutoring app, I wouldn't start with any code. I'd make a Google form, and send it to my entire network. I'll manually match students and tutors, and spend time learning about what works and what doesn't.
Now, you exist. Everything else is built from there. The worst thing you can do is spend time optimising something that doesn't even exist yet. Usually, this is because your assumptions are almost always wrong. Test those assumptions by making something basic.
When starting a company, how much time should you allocate for the planning phase?
I'd prioritise starting as quickly as possible. Over-planning can be a problem. A start-up is measured by its speed of execution. It's fine to make mistakes. But you want to make mistakes quickly. As soon as you iron out the mistakes, you'll get closer to the right answers!
Want to hear more tips from Ismail? Check out his full interview over on Jamma.