Ritam Gandhi, Founder and Director, Studio Graphene – studiographene.com
In 2014 I launched Studio Graphene. Having previously worked for big corporate firms like Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, making the decision to launch a startup was not an easy decision, and to be frank, not one I was entirely prepared for.
I would venture to say that few first-time founders are fully confident in starting a business. And despite the strong entrepreneurial spirit in the UK (660,000 new companies were registered in 2018), the reality is that nothing can really prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead. Statistics suggest that around half of all businesses fail within the first five years.
I’m proud to say that Studio Graphene celebrated its 5th birthday this August, defying these odds. Today, we are a leader in the development and creation of app and software solutions for businesses and organisations. I like to see Studio Graphene as a case-study that demonstrates the long-term rewards that come with growing a startup.
To help other founders pave their own road to success, below are a few takeaways I have learnt over the last five years.
What were the main obstacles we encountered, and how did we overcome them?
Initially, and like many entrepreneurs embarking on their first venture, I battled with a fear of failure. This transpired in many ways, from a fear of things not going exactly to plan, to uncertainty about building a client base from virtually nothing, to the overshadowing fear of being unable to pay the bills and being seen as a failure by friends and colleagues.
You soon realised that these feelings are normal. I would encourage people to tackle these fears head on and acknowledge that there is no reward without risk. Put in the grunt work, stay motivated, and believe that the risk will ultimately pay off.
Working with startups who required the high-quality delivery of products within short timescales, and who had extremely low budgets, was another challenge we faced at Studio Graphene. The positive side effect was that it taught us how to act efficiently, completing projects to the highest standard possible in our first attempt.
By persevering and delivering projects we were proud of, this helped us overcome our next obstacle – building up a client base. Although it was initially difficult to convince people to give us a chance in the early days, we quickly built up a portfolio of quality projects and credentials that we could showcase.
How do you inspire a rewarding business model?
The reward for most founders and their team is projects and experiences that they’re proud of. This is something we strive for at Studio Graphene, and is encapsulated in our tech-for-good projects.
Generally speaking, all of our projects have a special place in our hearts, but the process of working on tech solutions that will help further a good cause has been the most rewarding experience for us. Our annual “Build My App” initiative has seen our team build free apps for two not-for-profit causes to date, Signalong and Semble. Such initiatives have boosted team morale by revealing the positive potential of our products and uniting employees in helping to give back to society.
How did I build the dream team?
On the subject of team, having a dedicated and supporting group of employees is what really drives a business to success.
Forget CVs – cultural attitudes and people skills are far more important qualities in the long run. After all, you may be able to train someone to undertake a technical skill, but the values that people bring to the team will ultimately shape the culture of the business.
It’s crucial for founders to establish what traits they want to see embodied in their colleagues. For me personally, these were empathy and honesty because I was determined to create a transparent and supportive culture. Having chosen people with these qualities, we’ve managed to build a tight-knit and supportive team that values each other and strives to help the business grow.
What are Studio Graphene’s plans over the next five years?
The road so far has been paved with exciting milestones – from moving into our own office just a year after launching, to completing our 100th project. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Studio Graphene, but we have one mission at the heart of our long-term plan: to bring more ideas to life and leverage technology to make the world a better place. To that end, we want to learn from every product or service we build to make the next one even better.
Ritam Gandhi, is the Founder and Director of Studio Graphene – a London-based company that specialises in the development of blank canvas tech products including apps, websites, AR, IoT and more. The company has completed over 100 projects since first being started in 2014, working with both new entrepreneurs and product development teams within larger companies.