Launching a Startup with MVP (minimum viable product): The Successes and (mostly) Failures by Johann Rymill (Startup learning , Entrepreneur Mindset)

 Launching a Startup with MVP (minimum viable product): The Successes and (mostly) Failures by Johann Rymill (Startup learning , Entrepreneur Mindset)

Three days after graduating from Bath in the summer of 2019, Johann Rymill was on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa to launch an MVP of the last-mile delivery startup he had been planning for over a year. 

This was an on-demand grocery and pharmaceutical delivery company aiming to scale across all major African cities, a market he calculated to be growing from 27bn to 47bn in the immediate future due to increasing smartphone penetration and city population density. 

After returning to base and raising half the seed round in London and securing experienced co-founders, he flew to Latin America to pitch to the co-founder of a $3.5bn last-mile startup for strategic support in Africa. 

In the end, it failed. 

Entrepreneur Mindset and Startup learning By Johann Rymill 

 firstly thanks very much for uh

coming to the talk

i am when i first got asked to do this

talk i was pretty taken aback

so after graduating from university i

decided to turn down a competitive grad


offer in order to talk in order to start

a tech startup

which statistically had a 90 chance of


and those job offers that i was going to

take they weren't postponable either so

they would take it or leave it

well it failed and i became part of that


after being invited to do this talk i

was speaking to my brother about it who

encouragingly and completely seriously

ask me

aren't ted talks supposed to be success


so this is true this talk hasn't got a

happy ending to it

i have failed i haven't come up with a

new brilliant idea and then turned it

into a monumental success

it was about my fourth attempt at

failing to start a successful business

and it was by far and large my most

ambitious yet

but you know what it failed less than

the previous three

what i want to share with you today is

the lessons i've learned from trying to

build a successful

tech startup straight out of university

with no industry expertise

but just sheer determination and an

abundant curiosity to learn

and fail a lot so

looking back on how i've lived the last

few years of my life is a pretty simple

philosophy that is at the core of it all

in that you miss 100 of the shots that

you don't take

deciding not to take the shot boils down

to our

innate fear of rejection and failure

but if the upside of shooting the shot

in the back of the net significantly

outweighs the toll rejection and failure


on your ego i say shoot your shot and

take your chances

so i'm just going to be talking about a

few questions you might want to ask


some of the pitfalls you and i want to

avoid in the future and what i've


so firstly if you're if you're deciding

do you want to start a

startup straight out of university you

need to be honest with yourself

why do you really want to do it a lot of

startup founders are driven

by the lucrative financial rewards and i

totally get that

i still don't know anyone that went into

investment banking because they're just

crazy about corporate finance

we are driven by financial rewards for a

variety of reasons

power influence the best education and

healthcare for your family or loved ones

the ability to give back to your

community and the world

even putting yourself higher in the

pecking order for potential mates

but if you have a creative streak are a

builder have a risk appetite

and are completely okay with uncertainty

and chaos

start a startup worst case scenario is

it fails and was interesting in the best

case you become

very rich and have a profound impact on

the world

born and raised in england to a

colombian mother and english father

i was fortunate enough to experience two

very different cultures

and personalities when my parents began

their somewhat dramatic separation

age 13 i got moved around school after


home after home friendship group after

friendship group

and although this really sucked at the

time i realized how it gave me that

comfort with settling into new

environments and cultures

and this innate desire to explore the

world and mesh with all walks of life

most crucially i developed an eye for

how brilliant businesses didn't always

transcend borders

and if you didn't you don't have to

reinvent the wheel to be successful

for a lot of businesses the key is in

its execution

at the point of graduating university

i'd held positions

interned or shallow people in every

career choice you can think of

i always felt replaceable dispensable a

cog in this

this huge machine this big company

and as soon as the steep initial

learning curve and novelty of settling

into the teams

autopilot with no motivation to speak um

and then one day

over christmas spent in bogota colombia

the capital

i was sat in a cafe i'd forgotten my

wallet at my uncle's where i was staying

and i couldn't pay

instead of an hour and a half round trip

of rush hour traffic

and convincing the cafe manager i was

actually coming back to pay

i instead had it delivered by motorbike

in 15 minutes using an app i

i downloaded literally just bought

myself more time and at a price

lower than the round trip home by being

connected to someone in the right place

at the right time

i went crazy ordering pharmacy items

groceries and small

packages and having them delivered in

under an hour on this app

this was like amazon prime 2.0 and i had

to tell my friends

i concluded that leveraging tech to

create a more connected urbanized world

was the future

and i was totally hooked and obsessed

with the idea

i decided i want to replicate the core

of this business model and launch it

anywhere in the world where there was a

big enough market with no established


so firstly recognize your advantages as

a graduate

the fallout of failure in real terms is

close to non-existent startups are

all consuming to do it properly you

can't just dip your toe in and out of it

if you're the one driving

however most of you have this advantage

of not having kids

a husband wife or other serious

commitment straight out of university

if you fail you're only taking yourself

down so you can and should throw

yourself completely into it

you also have the advantage of being

accustomed to living poor and being

tactical with your spending

you've lived in shared accommodation

done pull-ups on the door frame

taking the bus everywhere and beans on

toast is still considered a delicacy

so there is no downgrading quality of

living so the transition to the scrappy

nature of a startup

is relatively painless

so after weighing up my options and

identifying south africa is the perfect


to replicate this business model i

started putting together a business case

cape town was emerging as the tech hub

for africa

the unemployment levels were extremely

high which meant the gig economy was


smartphone penetration was the highest

in the continent and e-commerce on the

continent was projected to grow from 17

billion dollars in 2017

to more than 75 billion by 2025

and i really wanted a piece of that

swelling pie

so i entered pitch competitions bounce


off anyone that gave me their time and

planned my next steps

and i pretty much had no idea what i was

doing but i had a good vision

so next things yeah

there's a balance between overconfidence

and ignorance

this is pretty crazy so i

a final year politics and international

relations student believed i could build

a successful last mile delivery tech

startup in africa

starting in south africa and scaling


other major markets of nigeria kenya and


but it felt achievable and that's the

beauty of being inexperienced

you think the world is your oyster to

take and you end up hatching plans

that's full

somewhere between overconfidence and


that there is a beauty to ignorance and

that we are capable of lots more than we

give ourselves credit for

so when we shoot our shot it hits a lot

closer than we think

and i can't re-emphasize how much of an

advantage this is

this youthful naivety or even ignorance

that you have at your disposal

another thing i'd recommend hunt for

formidable co-founders whilst at


i saved everything i could in my final

year of university so i could spend the

foreseeable future working without pay

and the highs are euphorically high and

the lows are depressingly low

and the best way of keeping up momentum

is by spreading the workload between two

or more of you

at the time i thought industry expertise

was what i needed in my co-founders

as that is exactly what i lacked not

another recent graduate

so in hindsight this is probably exactly

what i needed

my experience co-founders had more to

lose and thus didn't have the ability to

just take a plane to south africa with


there were far more conditions attached

to quitting their lucrative jobs

as they had far more to lose than me

they were in their 30s

even 40s with with kids

having a fierce and committed friend

from university with equal skin in the


and complementing skills would have been

had a significant impact in the

direction of the company and how far it


another thing you need to be wary of and

is based out of this inexperience

is building credibility so having skin

in the game

i couldn't ask investors for half a

million dollars to launch a business in

a country i'd never been to

so i got on a plane to south africa

three days after graduating to launch

a mvp or minimally viable product and

scope out the market

i pedaled around cape town on a bicycle

doing deliveries to friends i'd somewhat

forced the order through the landing

page i'd built in a couple of weeks

i interviewed delivery riders to

understand their pain points pleasure


rubbed shoulders in the investor

community and snuck into some private

university events for entrepreneurs

kind of like this one and all of this

helped me feel confident going into

investor pictures it bolstered this


and made me feel i wasn't just blowing

hot air at people and i really was going

to do this and they could put their

faith in me

another thing to be wary of just be

prepared to feel incompetent

incompetent in a startup there's no

hiding your mistakes like you can in a

big company

if you're a small team trying to do

everything it becomes blatantly clear

who is good at something

and who sucks at something else

you know what on earth are you to

economics learn them

no idea how to do financial modelling

tough luck watch youtube videos until

your eyes are read

fill your weaknesses with people better

than you and sell them on the dream

give them equal equity don't treat it

like your baby

don't focus on equity dilution at this

stage like i did

one percent of something big is better

than 100 of nothing

at this point i had a business case

boots on the ground and several

conditional co-founders from competitors

these were seriously experienced people

i felt incompetent around

but their knowledge started rubbing off

on me i got pitching in london

got several verbal offers for half the

money and sent

the urgency the window of opportunity

was closing

so i didn't have time to build a tech

from scratch that would take years

i knew i needed an existing player to

back my team

by white labeling their tech or getting

them to invest and therefore become


next point is just do not underestimate

the power of networking

and a huge dose of luck after a year

making my way through the pipeline i had

networked my way

close to the decision makers at the

company that inspired everything

i got on a flight to colombia and got

office space opposite this company's

global headquarters

guessed the ceo's email and told him

about this crazy plan i had hatched up

and i wanted a meeting he didn't respond

so plan b my housemate from university's

ex-boss's friend from university's

friend from university

went to school with one of the founders

and as a fellow entrepreneur

and a successful one he had taken a


to my ambitions and stuck his neck out

for me

at the ceos what's up and sent him a

message asking if he'd hear me out

so after all of this i ended up

pitching to the co-founder of one of

latin america's only unicorns

so a privately owned company with a

valuation of over one billion dollars

my hands were sweating i realized i had

next to no idea what i was doing in

comparison to this guy and it was the

best chance i'd ever have

in the executive summary of my startup i

summarized what i'd done

who i'd convinced to come aboard and the

size of the opportunity

and why i was the one to do it and he

seemed impressed

he then told me they were looking to

launch in south africa

my stomach sank this was my worst


like the one competitor i feared most

and then he actually asked me if i

wanted to be part of the team

launching this country in south africa

i got off the call and i literally

screamed and jumped around

in the co-working offices i was at


this was literally the best startup

failure i could have ever hoped for

i was going to be doing everything i

planned on doing without the headaches

of building the tech and fundraising

however this is where my startup story

comes to a grinding hole

next most crucial piece of advice i'd

have is

don't stop hunting for opportunities


co-founders until a contract has been

signed and counter-signed

once this co-founding offer was in the

pipeline for south africa

i felt like i'd made it they offered me

a lucrative job in latam

in the interim something i was so

shocked about that i tipped

toad around instead of jumping on it and


so i sat there complacent for one month

two months any moment now

i panned my startup i was about to be

playing with the big dogs

almost there and this was definitely my

biggest mistake

i had absolutely nothing in writing i

counted my chickens way before they'd

been hatched

and after the embarrassingly public

failure of the company's latest investor

they decided they had no appetite to

expand beyond the region

it was just too risky

my tiptoeing around the interim job

offer also made me look proud

and naive it disappeared just as i was

putting defibrillators on my startup


a scary and unknown virus started to

spread around the world

countries got locked down investors got

spooked and

i missed my opportunity the whole thing

was dead in the water

so rounding up i look back

analyzing this post-mortem and

acknowledge the things that killed it

more than others

so i don't make the same mistakes again

would i change things

absolutely i did many things


would i not do it and take that graduate

offer absolutely not

i think i've learned more in the past

year than i could have done in two years

for grad scheme

i've learned exactly what i'm good at

what i'm terrible at

how to fail slightly less next time and

maybe even

succeed one day there is such a

wholesome feeling you get from working

on something much bigger than you can

ever understand and that's what makes

the chaoticness

an ever-changing journey so enjoyable

you miss 100

of the shots you don't take so if you

have this itch to start a startup

do it or at least join one thank you

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