Hi Kai, could you give our readers a quick introduction?
I’m a 24 year old entrepreneur who was born in the South West of England. I studied engineering at Cardiff University and in July 2012 I started my first business, Socialite. It is an app that automatically updates and alerts you about events that you might be interested in based on your preferences. I then moved on to co-found Bark.com, a local services marketplace that helps connect people looking for a local service with local service providers.
You co-founded Bark.com with Andrew Michael, how did the collaboration come about?
As often happens, we met through a mutual friend. This led to us talking about potential business ideas and we seemed to have similar business minds. We both shared a passion for seamlessly connecting businesses with customers and saw a massive gap in the market, so it made perfect business sense and it has gone from there.
As a University graduate, do you think University prepared you better for running your own business?
University helped further develop my logical way of thinking which is key to solving problems, making decisions and running a business successfully.
Another big benefit is the contacts you make. I don’t think that having a degree is a necessity for starting out on your own; there is always a value to learning, and of course studying a degree can help open doors with big businesses, but the people you meet and your self development can be key to your success.
What is it like being your own boss and what aspect do you enjoy the most?
Being your own boss is great, but it comes with a lot of responsibility and requires hard work. You have to be highly motivated, driven and prepared to take risks but it’s extremely rewarding when things go right and this seems to suit my nature pretty well. I love being able to have an idea, run through it with my team and then get it live on the website, often on the same day.
Bark.com is creating a great buzz in its industry, what would you say is your greatest tip for just getting out there and doing it?
It’s great to hear that we’re creating a buzz - we get a lot of positive feedback and reviews everyday so we must be doing something right! The best piece of advice I can give is to be bold, prepared to take risks, make sure you’re flexible enough to pivot another way if something isn’t working and to just get on with it and learn as you go.
How have you funded the business so far?
We have been lucky enough to have private investment since the start. As a result, there is a lot at stake for us with Bark.com, but it does ensure that we are committed, driven and motivated to succeed.
What advice would you give to other start-ups trying to start a business out of University?
It’s vital to work with quality people who share your passion and can add real value in areas you can’t it’s the most important part of any business. Also never be afraid of failing - everyone fails and the winners are the ones who learn from their mistake and change direction or fix the problem quickly.
There is also a lot of support at university for entrepreneurs and for people looking to start their own business. Most universities offer financial support in the form of grants or loans to any students looking to start their own business and at the very least they have a group of advisors who can help and guide you.
If you could choose one mentor, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I always like to keep up to date with what the Samwer brothers are building at Rocket Internet. They build great businesses and they build them well, their execution is spot on. I love seeing things done well and I take a lot of inspiration and ideas from what successful and great products are doing.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before launching your businesses?
There’s a lot of things I didn’t know and wish I knew before I started, but I wouldn’t know them now if I didn’t throw myself in at the deep end and get on with it.
It took me a while to realise how important networking was, how important being agile and learning from your mistakes is and also how important it is to listen to your customers and take feedback on board when prioritising new features. All are things which would have saved me a lot of time and stopped a lot of mistakes.
What plans do you have for Bark.com over the next 3 years?
We are continuing to develop the product and make it even easier for people to find local services online. Also at some point we will be expanding across the rest of Europe and aim to become a household name and the one stop shop for anyone who wants to find a local service professional.
What is the greatest advice you were ever given?
The best piece of advice I was ever given was to not be afraid of failing because as long as you learn from the mistake and act accordingly, it is just another one of life’s lessons.
Click here to head over to Bark.com.