We hear from Ritam Gandhi, founder and Director, Studio Graphene, a startup which has just celebrated its fourth birthday. He told GBI Magazine:
When it comes to countries boasting innovative communities of startups and entrepreneurs, it is nigh on impossible to overlook the UK’s position as an epicentre for disruptive businesses. By cultivating an environment geared towards encouraging and supporting startup growth, the country is a popular destination for entrepreneurs seeking to a launch a new venture.
There are many contributing factors underpinning the UK’s success as a hub for entrepreneurs. For one, greater access to funding through alternative finance platforms and private equity investment has opened young businesses to new funding instruments, connecting them to a community of investors keen to back innovative companies (particularly thanks to the SEIS and EIS initiatives). The rise in co-working spaces, incubators, accelerator programmes and general startup networking has also encouraged more people to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
Four years ago, inspired by the number of startups rapidly springing up across the UK, I took the decision to found my own business. Ask any founder how they felt on the day they launched their own company, and the responses you’ll typically receive lie somewhere between excitement and anxiety. Taking that bold step into the unknown is no easy feat, yet having previously worked as a consultant for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, I was keen to apply my knowledge and experience to my own startup – Studio Graphene.
The concept behind Studio Graphene
When I was working as a consultant, I gradually began to notice a list of common challenges facing newly-launched startups. Young companies were rapidly sprouting up around the UK, and particularly in London, but what became immediately apparent to me was their general lack of awareness towards existing tech and digital solutions. Entrepreneurs were often overwhelmed by the range of tech available on the market, and this was leading them to overlook digital innovations that could have been effectively integrated into the business model – or worse, looking to the wrong type of technology.
Of course, not all startups are driven by a tech service or proposition, but given the mass proliferation of internet-enabled devices, consumer demand for digital services was clearly rising. Whether it be enhancing an existing product or service through a seamless and intuitive app, or incorporating existing AI or IoT technology to improve internal business operations, there were significant time and cost saving measures to take advantage of.
The time, resource, stress and planning involved in the launch of a business can be daunting during the formative stages, and entrepreneurs can easily miss opportunities to improve the functionality of their product or service. Moreover, entrepreneurs can often feel isolated when attempting to seek appropriate and relevant advice. Indeed, this contributes to many companies failing to turn into scalable businesses – just over half (53%) of the businesses launched in 2014 survived until their third birthday.
It was for these reasons that I launched Studio Graphene in August 2014. The business offers digital product design, app development, web development and IoT solutions for scaling tech companies to improve their overall efficiency and ensure they are ideally positioned to grow. In addition to these, Studio Graphene also boasts a digital marketing capability to support scaling businesses. I’m proud to say that over this four-year period, we have worked with over 120 companies offering them tailored and high-end solutions.
Advice on business success
Of all things I have learnt in my years as an entrepreneur, there is one important lesson I believe all startups need to adopt. Quite simply, instead of focusing narrowly on revenue and profit maximisation, a startup must also be willing to offer something back to the community. Moreover, I don’t mean limiting this to charity work; rather, startups should consider how their product and service can be used to improve a particular area of society.
Take, for example, an initiative Studio Graphene launched this year called ‘Build My App’. To demonstrate how any organisation can effectively leverage existing tech solutions, we called for entrants to propose a not-for-profit app idea that would help bring about positive social change. Based on their feasibility and their potential for good, the winning app idea would be built over a couple of days.
We received a significant volume of applications, and selected an idea proposed by UK-based charity Signalong as the winner. We created an app which allows people to take photos of everyday objects on their phones and then uses image recognition technology to inform the user of the correct sign to use for that object.
This simple yet effective initiative delivered some fantastic results. The initiative allowed us to demonstrate our app development capabilities while also being able to contribute to a charitable cause. In turn, this led to more charities getting in contact with Studio Graphene to propose their not-for profit ideas. Most importantly, it provided a morale boost for the entire team, giving us the chance to deliver a project that helped benefit society.
Amidst the constant effort to enhance profits, it is vital that startups consider how they can help other people – and not just their customers. Doing so delivers a greater sense of purpose and perspective to the daily struggles of entrepreneurial life.
What does the future hold
Having celebrated our fourth birthday in August this year, the future looks promising for Studio Graphene. The business is regularly supporting startups and SMEs to help them overcome the challenges they’re facing, and we have some really promising projects on the horizon. This includes plans to build our own intellectual property toolsets to help businesses and startups build and launch their new digital products. Overall, having developed a team dedicated to the goals of the company, I’m excited to see where the future will take us over the coming years.