The polar ice caps are melting at an irreversible rate and, earlier this year, storms nearly eroded the south of England. It’s safe to say we need more environmentally friendly startups – but how do you go about setting one up? We spoke to Drummond Gilbert, the founder of GoCarShare, for turning an idea into a planet-helping bonafide business. Every little helps, right?
Drummond got the idea for GoCarShare while walking down a street looking at cars, turning it into the success it is today with the help of Wayra UK (O2′s digital start-up wizards who provide funding and mentoring for great ideas). “I noticed there was one person in each car, and thought maybe could do something to help people going in the same direction – the idea was to make it safe,” he explains. “If you can see a user’s Facebook profile, their likes and a bit more about them then you’d be more likely to car-share.”
Here are his tips on setting up a startup that won’t erode the world:
Get some mentoring
“When I started out it was just me, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. We went through Wayra who then helped turn it into a proper thing – we became a full team with a full board, all from people we met through them. They also got some really great people in to speak, like the CEO of Uber,” says Drummond. Getting advice from other sources can be really useful, especially considering you want to make sure that your idea is valid and business-worthy rather than just a nice idea to help the planet. “You’ve got to go in there really looking to learn – don’t approach someone like Wayra already thinking you know everything. You’re learning all the time.”
Work for a startup before you set one up yourself
This gives you a really good grounding as to how they operate, so you’ll find it a lot easier to start doing it yourself. “I would have learned a lot more, if I’d have worked at a startup before trying to set one up, rather than just going straight from a corporate job. You need to understand the whole methodology of how it works,” says Drummond. “Keep an eye out for internships and work experience at startups so you get a feel for it.” Even if it’s a receptionist job answering the phones, you’ll get an insight while also making a bit of money.
Don’t guilt trip people
It’s easy, if you’ve got a really planet-friendly idea, to ram it down people’s throats – but that’s actually quite a bad idea in terms of getting investment (and encouraging people to use your product). “If youre trying to guilt trip people who are, for example, using lots of emissions and don’t care about the environment at all, then they might start actively avoiding using us,” explains Drummond. “We want everyone to use the service. While I definitely think theres an ethical movement progressing, you’re never going to convince everyone.”
Don’t try and go it alone
It’s always good to have a team of like-minded people around you to help keep you motivated. Oh, and it’ll also help things move along a little more quickly when you’ve got more than one brain/set of skills focused on developing the business. “I started on my own which meant it took a lot longer. If you’ve got a team of good people around you, then you can bounce ideas off each other,” says Drummond.
Find a niche
“When I looked at other car sharing sites, they were anonymous and I think it’d only attract a certain sort of person,” Drummond explains. “With GoCarShare, we started to think about the kind of websites who did the same thing, and they hadn’t put any effort into the brand. It’s a really cool, aspirational thing to do so why not make it experience led?” Next month they’re launching an app, too, which is something no other car sharing sites have done – see? Repeat after us: find a niche.
Do your research
If you’ve got an idea for a startup, don’t immediately spend thousands of pounds on an idea unless you really think it’s going to work. And how do you know if it’ll work? Test it out. “It’s important to start with something you’re excited about, then see if it works. Set up a simple web page and see if it gets traffic, conduct some surveys, really look into your market and what they want,” he suggests. “If you tell people about the idea, and they’re positive, then that’s a good sign – don’t keep the idea to yourself!”
GoCarShare are currently looking for brand ambassadors at unis across the UK, get in touch if you want to get involved. Plus, they’re raising money on crowdfunding app Seedrs, so check out their page if you’d like to invest!
If you liked this article, why not take a look at…
- Starting a startup – tips from an expert
- How to get funding for a great idea
- Five things to consider before starting a business