This is an entrepreneur's journey into SPCE
Leon Ifayemi, CEO and co-founder of SPCE, shares the trials and tribulations of moving from corporate investment banker to entrepreneurial start-up
With multi-million pound IPOs and record-breaking crowdfunding rounds, it’s difficult not to be inspired by the sheer amount of entrepreneurial talent on offer across the UK. Taking advantage of the alternative finance platforms on offer, young companies with immense growth potential have been turning to private investment opportunities, appealing directly to the masses of investors keen to get behind our nation’s startup community. In turn, many of these innovative companies are using new tech to disrupt traditional markets – everything from finance and property to healthcare and marketing – to the benefit of businesses and consumers alike.
Harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit
For budding entrepreneurs, all you need is an idea that addresses a profound, common problem. Of course, this is much easier said than done. In my case, this idea struck me during my time as a university student ambassador; it became immediately apparent to me that transitioning from halls into the private rental market was a stressful, difficult process for students. Not just for me but for the other students I was attempting to help, the lack of transparency and communication often made it a confusing and daunting process – this lead to me recognising a clear gap in the market for a tech solution to address this problem.
I didn’t drop everything and embark on creating this solution straightaway. In fact, it wasn’t until I found myself working as an investment banker in London and noticed that nobody had created a way of improving the student lettings process that I returned to the idea. I was fortunate enough to meet with people who believed in my idea, and applying my knowledge of business development gained through my experience as a banker, I realised that to transform my idea into a reality, I needed to take the plunge. A couple of years later and we have just launched SPCE – a student lettings app that takes the pain out of finding somewhere to live while at university.
Overcoming the initial challenges
During the early stages of a new business, levelled thinking is required, supported by a development strategy that caters for the long-term growth of your company. This is one of the key challenges every entrepreneur will face, made more complicated by the nature of the market you’re attempting to break into. Sustainable growth should always be prioritised over rapid scale-up, and an awareness of unfolding political and economic trends is invaluable. With half of UK start-ups failing within the first five years of trading, entrepreneurs must be realistic in their targets and be mindful of not overstretching resources at the beginning of the process.
More specifically, amid an explosion of new start-ups, entrepreneurs can often be faced with unnecessary stereotypes that do little but undermine the brand. As someone commonly classified as a 'millennial entrepreneurial', I found it incredibly difficult initially for people to overlook my age and recognise the business proposition of SPCE. Thankfully this has subsided over the time, but it demonstrates how a great idea or product is not always enough – there are other barriers to overcome to gain the support you need.
Making entrepreneurs the lifeblood of the economy
With SMEs accounting for 99.9% of all businesses in the UK, there’s no denying the vital role played by small businesses in driving productivity, innovation, employment and growth. For this reason, I’ve always been a firm advocate of government measures that nurture and positively encourage start-ups. The pay-off is well worth it – not confined to a hierarchal structure and legacy systems commonly seen in massive corporations, start-ups and entrepreneurs have a drive, flexibility and urgency about them which makes this category of business so exciting and, equally, so important.
Make no mistake about it – the path of the entrepreneur is a difficult one, and while there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing first-hand the transformation of your initial concept into a fully-fledged business, there will be no shortage of hurdles to face that will truly test your dedication, commitment and resolve. But as you build a team that believe in the company, these challenges become less of a chore and more of an opportunity to develop your idea further. At the very core, this is what both makes and defines the entrepreneurial journey.
As someone commonly classified as a 'millennial entrepreneurial', I found it incredibly difficult initially for people to overlook my age and recognise the business proposition of SPCE