Wayra start-up diary: growing a team

We love it here in the Wayra Academy for lots of reasons, the support of the Wayra team, the enthusiasm of the other startups and the beautiful office itself. These are all things that we are going to really miss when it comes time to leave and predictably, as we approach the halfway point, my mind has already started thinking about what happens next.

My experience as an entrepreneur to-date is confirming to me that the most important aspect of any business is the people.  Yes, I'm afraid Night Zookeeper is one of those 'Innocent Smoothie' style stories of best friends wanting to work together. However, we had to wait seven years until the world and our professional skills were ready for the Night Zookeeper challenge.

In 2011, I called my great friend Paul, who was a primary school teacher and he agreed to give it a go.  Our involvement persuaded Buzz, a graphic designer and one of our close friends, to join the cause. Then our collective charm/bullying convinced Mathieu, a full-stack developer that we had met at Startup Weekend Education, that someone should probably do these guys the favour of turning their dreams into a digital reality.

Now that we have financing, we can look to grow the team further and my great hope for our time in Wayra, is that we can find some great new members to help build the web product and deliver the school projects. (If you are interested in education and creativity please get in touch!)

The importance of a team was revealed to me sharply a few months ago.

I attended a Smarta 100 Academy event where we heard from Shaa and her panel of guests about the trials and tribulations of raising business financing. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs, of varying experience levels, who were full of ideas and just needed that first seed to get their business off the ground.

After the talks were finished, I was standing near the exit by the drinks bar, when a young man nervously shuffled towards me. He was clearly torn between leaving the room altogether, (maybe to save himself the embarrassment of nerves that can come with any cold introduction) or daring a quick hello. Remembering how I had felt at my first networking event I helped him out by chancing a hello before he had completely shuffled past me. He smiled, clearly pleased that he had a reason to stay, and we talked for ten minutes or so about his business idea.

Now, I won't reveal it here but I was very impressed with the ambition of the idea.  The problem he wanted to solve was ginormous.  "How many people are in your team?" I asked.

"Just me." He replied, almost proudly.

The response reminded me of myself just over a year before. I was alone, with huge ideas and ambitions before I was lucky enough to persuade my friends to help me.  I now know that the only way to get any ambitious business off the ground is to build a team that care as passionately as you do about it.

I got very lucky with Night Zookeeper but the next time I'm thinking of business ideas, I'm not just going to think in problems. I'm going to think about the people around me first. What are their skills and passions and then, how might we work together to improve the change the world for the better.

For more information about Night Zookeeper, click here.

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