byflock_EA_imageWe’re delighted to present another guest post from one of our Entrepreneur Academe mentees, Anna Dahlström of byflock.

When I started Entrepreneur Academe I hadn’t done a single official presentation of byflock, or our products. If you look at my application form I had very few answers to the questions that were asked. Nearly all of it were areas where we needed help. That’s why I applied.

My name is Anna. I’m a UX designer by trade and the founder of the product studio byflock. At the start of this year it was only me. As of today we’re a team of six working across our first two products, Tilr and Glimt.

It’s early days. Glimta gift finding platform based on person and occasion – has only just gone live as a basic proof of concept. Our second product Tilran app to help you get more of what you want from social media – is in development. We’ve got ambitious targets for the next few months, not to speak of years, and Christmas 2014 is our biggest opportunity yet.

Since we kicked off at the end of January we’ve come a long way. The byflock website is up. Glimt has gone from idea to a live product, and Tilr is soon to follow. The journey to where we are today has been hard. There are a million and one decision to be made and equally as many things to figure out. The fact that my team, all of whom I’ve worked with before, have decided to join because they too believe in byflock, Tilr, Glimt – and in me – is the biggest compliment I’ve had in my life. But it’s also a great responsibility. Despite our best intentions and hard work there are no guarantees. So many things can happen along the way to a bootstrapping startup like us. That’s why getting accepted to a program like Entrepreneur Academe was such a relief. Someone other than us believes in what we’re doing, and are here to help guide us through all those things we need to figure out.

I’ve worked in the field of User Experience (UX) for nearly 14 years. When I moved from Copenhagen (though I am Swedish) I learnt the value of having good mentors. I’d just started my second job in London and went from mainly having worked client side to agency land. It was a big shift in many ways. From one client and, at most, working on two projects at the same time, to working across multiple clients, industries and projects. From a company with pre-defined templates to base my work on, to almost blank canvases. And from an environment where I worked on tax applications to a creative agency where I quickly had to develop my strategic thinking as well as how to present and sell it verbally and on paper.

I was fortunate to have line managers who mentored me and it made all the difference. It’s thanks to those people that I am where I am today. And I have no doubt that when our year of Entrepreneur Academe is up, I’ll be saying the same thing with regards to where byflock, Glimt and Tilr are then, as well as myself as a founder and CEO.

For an early stage startup like byflock, having experienced people to learn from, to turn to and ask for advice is invaluable. I’ve always been rubbish at asking for help, and I still have some way to go. Being part of a program like Entrepreneur Academe where incredible individuals offer their time to provide advice has pushed me to reach out. And the other female entrepreneurs has not only given me new friends but also a support network. People who understand. Who have been through, or perhaps even go through the same things as I am right now. Who can advise me on the what-not-to-dos and the what-to-dos instead. You can’t put a price on it.

Our monthly sessions are not just highlights to look forward to. They’ve also been great for giving us deadlines. To force me to work on our business plans. And to put together and give a three-slides-and-three-minutes presentation to introduce byflock, our team, products and goals for Entrepreneur Academe and beyond. The first presentation of what I hope will be many to come.

We still have a lot of questions unanswered. And there are a number of logistical aspects related to bootstrapping that I haven’t worked out. Yet. Startup life and bootstrapping is hard. It’s the biggest roller coaster I’ve ever been on. At times you get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done and figured out. There is very little money to make it happen and everything is up to you. It’s resulted in some sleepless nights, an exponentially increasing need for hugs from my partner D, and a fair few tears. But not once have I doubted where we’re heading, why I’m doing this or that we’ll get there. It might have been different had I not been part of Entrepreneur Academe. I know for sure that we wouldn’t have made as much progress as we now have.

Through being part of the program and hereby accountable to making some progress, we’ve hacked things together quicker than we otherwise would have. And we’ve gone from thinking that we need to raise funding to reach our goals this year, to focusing on what we need to build and doing it. Besides all of the prep, planning and research we put together Glimt in 10 days. It’s no where near our vision just yet, but it is live and we can test the waters and grow a customer base.

There is no doubt that having a big – or even just a small – pot of money in the bank, would help us take Glimt and Tilr where they need to go for Christmas. But for the next few months we don’t have the time or resources to focus both on fundraising as well as building our products. It’s one or the other and the choice is simple. Our situation is forcing us to build Glimt and Tilr the old fashioned way – grow a customer base and figure out how we’re going to make money.

It’s a challenge on top of everything else, but it’s the challenge to solve. Without customers for whom we are solving a problem, and a way for us to make money, we have nothing. That’s why I now find myself in the peculiar situation where I get excited hearing people talking about frustrations related to buying Christmas gifts. Or, all the updates that they keep seeing on Facebook and Twitter that they’d rather be without. And, the ones from friends they feel they never see. It’s the problem areas Glimt and Tilr are working on solving. And if all goes to plan, myself and others will soon be able to say “You should use Glimt for buying Christmas gifts” and “Have you tried Tilr [for getting just what you want from social media]?”.

In October we’re moving out of working from home and into WeWork so that the teams can come together in time for November. That month holds our next big milestones in the run up to Christmas. We’re incredibly excited about everything that lies ahead, and I look forward to sharing what we’ve achieved and learnt along the way as my time at Entrepreneur Academe comes to a close. In the meantime you can stay up to date with both Glimt and Tilr. I’m confident it’ll be worth it.

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  1. […] You can read the full post for Entrepreneur Academe here […]

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