Apr 24, 2019
How to raise early stage investments
“Invest in your dreams. Grind now. Shine later.”
At Swisspreneur we value gaining experience from day one and grinding hard for a vision that can benefit other lives. That’s why we loved the incredible hustle story of KORK founders Daniel Lagnaux, Lars Hulsbergen and Noah Faoro. They saw a problem in their community and wanted to find a solution that can engage the young and nurture community trust. To achieve those milestones, there was a common need for a service that could build bridges between supply and demand in daily chores, and they didn’t hesitate to close that gap! As of today, these 19 year-old founders have managed to launch a product and gather a platform of more than 2k users. Here are some of the major landmarks of their hustling journey:
Giving the community its own cork board
How road bumps can make you fly
Enjoying the ride
To learn more about inspiring hustling stories and overcoming hardships, check our blog post on Pascal Caversaccio’s startup Alethena, or take some time to hear Estefanía Tapias on great hustling advice.
In the old days, the Yellow Pages were a daunting opponent to overcome whenever you needed… well, just about anything: a plumber, a babysitter, someone to look after Sparky… Those massive tomes are now a thing of the past, and yet external sourcing is still our go-to when it comes to everyday tasks that no one really enjoys doing. Whenever the garden is begging for that overdue trim or we need a hand with the kids, we rush to someone that can bring us much-needed relief.
Young people in Switzerland have a hard time finding a flexible income source that fits their specific schedules. Just across the street, adults are bending over backwards to get all of their chores done on time: in fact, 57 million hours are spent on chores in Swiss households weekly. Plus, we can all see how a global pandemic holds a magnifying glass to our everyday struggles.
We know all too well that young people could use some extra cash, and overworked folks long for those precious bits of leisure. So, what if we started looking among familiar faces? KORK believes all you need can be found within your own community: browsing through your neighbourhood might just be the answer to stronger bonds, less stressful lifestyles and better conditions for young people.
KORK’s peer-to-peer service is very intuitive: after downloading the app, you just need to create a profile to start posting orders and receiving offers from young helpers anytime, anywhere. All KORK taskers are ID-verified and insured, and, if your helper totally rocked your ironing in no time, you can also leave a great review on the platform. If you’re looking to earn some money in your spare time after classes, you can propose for offers whenever it fits your availability. The community has now more than 1,500 taskers willing to give a hand, and remember: no task is impossible!
The KORK founders have been friends since high school, and it’s easy to see how navigating those challenging years creates lasting connections. Still, shaping a cool product with no formal programming skills was a whole hustle in itself. So, they had to learn the art of programming on their own: blogs, YouTube videos, books, content on lean startups, podcasts… every bit of knowledge was welcome!
Thriving on your own and following that self-learning groove is an awesome way to claim your independence, but remember that struggling with your first steps can also be your most valuable lesson. As KORK soon realized, spending too much energy and funding on a final product can be detrimental to your project’s early development. This is bound to take too much of your time without many visible benefits, and it doesn’t hold any guarantee that your product will have sustainable traction that justifies those costs. So, try shifting your focus to a test-MVP that can get the job done and launch it. Then, evaluating how the market engages with that service is the best way to test the concept early on with minimal risks.
That is precisely how they kept the ball rolling on their early days. Rather than spending their limited resources on an expensive product that could possibly have low traction, they decided to keep it simple. Connecting a group of willing taskers from their friends’ groups to people who needed stuff done on a WhatsApp group was a total breeze. This test-system had its perks: a free-of-charge platform, cheap form-filling, communication on-the-go… What more could you wish for?
The WhatsApp system seemed pretty effortless at first. Orders were placed through a Typeform request. Managers copied e-mail notifications to the WhatsApp group and checked for available taskers. Then, service offers were sent back to the customer, along with tasker information taken from an Excel sheet.
Soon enough, demand grew like wildfire, and mediating hundreds of tasks and offers without any automatization became an absolute nightmare! However, this hustling experience has had its silver lining. After all, knowing those basic mechanisms and interactions that keep your project alive is a guiding star to understanding what a well-executed app needs.
Still, projects can’t survive on air. Paying developers, managing loss, fuelling cool marketing strategies… man, do expenses ever end?! Living at your parents’ place with no stable income really is bootstrapping 101. Your traction may be awesome, but in early stages that turn over is hardly enough to cover everything. For KORK, the solution is 24/7 commitment: they build their product during the day and work on pizza delivery during the night. The team has also jumped on the wagon and performs KORK tasks like gardening and handling garbage disposal.
Their choice may look like an exhausting hubbub, but hustling can also be seen under a positive light. When funds are low, you really learn to get by with less — as a young entrepreneur with a big vision and tiny resources, it’s the only way to make the dream happen! After all, entrepreneurship is all about dreaming big and grinding hard, whether you’re a 20-something student on late-night delivery or an experienced founder scoring their third exit.
It’s not hard to see how COVID-19 has taken a big hit on sustainable product development. However, no pandemic can mute creativity and motivation, and things are definitely looking up for KORK! The app’s first version officially saw the light of day in January 2021. Word-of-mouth supported the product in its early days, but now media exposure on television and newspapers has really skyrocketed performance. As we write, KORK has already mediated more than 80k CHF in tasks, and more than 2k users are now enjoying the benefits of community-based exchanges: what a score in early traction!
What’s next for KORK? Surfing these unexpected waves has been quite the adventure. For now, the founders are busy taking their app to the next level, hub networking with ETH Zürich Rocket Hub and attending events like Startup Night Winterthur. However, entrepreneurs can’t have enough of dreaming higher, and playing a major role in the European gig economy is for sure their number-one goal!
All mountains seem impossible to climb when you’re standing at ground-level, clutching your backpack and wondering “How am I ever going to overcome this?”. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and hustle if you believe in your unique vision. Investors are not your only chance for growing. There are always new ways to find funding, and bootstrapping might just be where you’ll get your footing right! Your dream-vision is only yours to conquer, but there is no better way to ease the journey than by being a team-player and leaning on your peers for support.
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