Founder Stories'The Tinder for Startups' - Interview with Nina Lovelace, Founder of Kandu
Noelle Baquiche
Head of Growth at SeedLegals

1. What does Kandu do?

Kandu matches digital-first startups and small businesses with trusted experts and advisors to help them grow better, faster. We’re the ‘Tinder for startups’ if you like.

We officially launch to founders this week, after spending the last few months signing up and validating experts and advisors! We created Kandu to help startup founders feel as if they have somewhere to go for support, no matter where they are in the UK and hopefully, beyond - as entrepreneurship can be a lonely business sometimes.

On our platform, entrepreneurs and startups can find experts who will help them validate and improve their ideas, and avoid common mistakes, saving time, money and stress.

We also aim help more great experts and advisors find interesting startup work easily - especially all those people out there who are interested in tech, but struggle to find opportunities, as they’re not part of the accelerator or incubator scene.

Frequently, people will cut their corporate day rates to help startups on a flexible basis because they understand the learning they gain, will make them more valuable in wider business circles. This is especially true of the growing numbers of independent experts out there, who are often parents not able to do the usual 9-5.  

2. What made you start Kandu - was it a personal passion, or a problem you identified, or a market opportunity?

My cofounder Jenni Young and I have both worked with several startups as mentors or consultants, and both came to the same realisation separately that many were struggling with a lot of the same problems. They were using existing platforms to find and ask for help, but often jumping to (and paying for) a perceived solution without getting enough help to analyse the problem.

Take for example, a startup putting a ‘I need help with SEO’ request on a Facebook group and getting hundreds of replies from SEO agencies. On the face of it this is great, but in mine and Jenni’s experience startups often need more help generally understanding their target audience, and how best to capture them. SEO is just one lever to do this. Also, they often don’t need an agency on a fixed contract, just a chat with an experienced, knowledgeable, independent person who may then work with them flexibly depending on what they can afford.

Also, startups often don’t know what they don’t know. What I mean is, its hard to navigate towards success if you don’t know all the things you need to consider, or the resources which are available to you that can help you, whether that be growth hackers, investment advisors or just a coach to help you tackle any personal blockers. A lot of people don’t realise the benefit of user experience and product until they’ve launched a product that noone is using because of poor or flabby design. Kandu aims to help startups to make sense of all this, as we provide a handy list of suggested to-dos based on a company’s stage and sector.

3. What’s your advice for choosing a great mentor?

I think the term mentor is overused in the startup world. To me, mentor means someone who has been through what you’ve been through, not just in terms of business, but also the personal ups and downs. It’s someone who recognises themselves in you, and actively wants to help you in the long term.

I think the best way to find a mentor is to try a few advisors first - people who know more than you do about business, product and so on, and can practically help you solve problems, now. If you do that, and over time also realise you can talk honestly about your business concerns and fears with that person too, that’s when you are probably moving into more of a mentee/mentor relationship.

I don’t think mentorship is easily attainable by everyone, so I also think you can figure out a lot of what you need to do to progress your business and yourself by other types of self-reflection, whether that is prompted by reading or perhaps working with a coach, who are another type of expert we have on Kandu. Coaching may seem unnecessary, but if you can’t admit honestly to yourself that perhaps you have, for example, lost passion for startup, you may be wasting your time continuing with it in its current form.

4. Which founders or startups do you most admire right now?

I’m currently focusing a lot on health and wellness startups, as is our first specialist sector. So I am reading a lot right now about ‘patient’ or ‘consumer’ innovators who have a health concern and who have become so tired of current resources not working for them, that they create a solution for themselves. I love this approach and attitude and think it needs stronger support.

Some health examples of this are Mumoactive, set up by a dad with two kids with Type 1 diabetes, Wavelength VR, a new business set up by a woman dealing with chronic pain and wanting to harness VR to tackle this for young people, or 11 health, a company set up by a ostomy patient that produces sensor technology.

Often patient or consumer entrepreneurs have a great idea, but struggle to find the right experts to help them understand how to make their idea work for not just patients, but prescribers (ie GPs) and purchasers (such as NHS trusts). Our platform will help these founders to get the advice and traction they need, faster.

5. What aspect of your work are you most passionate about?

I hate to see a good idea go under because a person just didn’t meet the right people to help them make it happen. People who are geographically isolated or perhaps not so well networked are immediately at a disadvantage to the likes of a PhD student at the London university, for example.

This is not to say however that the ideas they have aren’t just as relevant to solving today’s problems. The startup support world is still too fragmented. Our approach is, why can’t we just ease the flow of startup knowledge in a much more frictionless way, where we leave it up to individuals how they want to engage with each other depending on their interest in the business? This is why we have a flexible compensation choice for both experts and founders signing up.

6. What's next on the horizon for Kandu?

Kandu is preparing to raise SEIS this quarter to further develop the platform beyond simple matching. We’ll be using funding to kickstart revenue generation through development of a membership model for experts and a SaaS service for innovation hubs and accelerators, to help them track startup progress. We also want to start to take our matching to the next level by starting to harness machine learning, using the data we are collecting on startup information needs. Follow us on AngelList to find out more.

Noelle Baquiche
Head of Growth at SeedLegals