Anyone looking to launch a tech startup should think long and hard before jumping in, says Anil Stocker, co-founder and CEO of MarketInvoice
To this day, I can remember the feelings of both dread and excitement that I had when quitting my job to start MarketInvoice. At the time, in 2010, I had been working for a large investment bank, earning a good salary and seeing my career progress quickly. But I knew deep down that it wasn’t making me happy and that I needed to take action.
Alongside my friend Charles Delingpole, who I’d met at Cambridge several years prior, we’d come up with this great idea: using technology to create an online marketplace for invoices. This was a product that didn't exist and we knew it had the potential to become something huge. We found a third co-founder, Ilya Kondrashov, and felt confident we could build a tech company that could change the market and challenge the banks.
Of course, this was one of the most difficult and riskiest decisions I’ve ever had to take and I had plenty of friends who thought I was crazy. But five years later, I haven’t looked back once.
That's not to say it's been an easy journey. Being a tech entrepreneur is hard work. If all goes well, it's a ten-year commitment so you need to dedicate yourself to the business entirely. Even today, I'm constantly thinking about how I can improve our products, our service and our company.
Ronald Cohen, the father of British venture capital, said budding entrepreneurs should “start young, think big and stick with it”. Having a good idea is the easy part. What is much tougher is actually implementing it and executing your plan. And this part is fraught with angst and difficulty, no matter how great your idea is.
Having a never-say-die attitude is key. When starting a new business, you have to be a great salesman and be entirely convinced that your product is what the world needs. If you can’t believe in your own product 100%, why would anyone else?
The fear of failure is what drives your motivation. You will do anything possible to not fail. For me – and, I’m sure, for every tech entrepreneur out there – this meant pulling many all-nighters, never giving up and just working tirelessly to make the business run.
This is where having a co-founder can help: you provide each other with support and can give each other a reality check about how things are truly going. It also means you’re not taking the leap on your own. Without a doubt, MarketInvoice wouldn't be where it is today if I didn't have Ilya and Charles by my side.
Above all else, you have to believe in what you are doing and have a mission. A large part of this is accepting that things will go wrong. Not every day is easy and you will have crises of confidence – trust me, I know. But if you’re able to see past the day-to-day struggles and make things work, the long-term prize is entirely worth the effort.
This month, MarketInvoice is celebrating having reached £500m of funding for UK businesses and I’ve never felt more proud of the whole team. We can confidently say that we’ve used technology to transform the market, making it easier and quicker for businesses to manage their cashflow.
That’s what taking the leap into entrepreneurship was about for me: making a positive change to help other businesses grow.
But I also know that this is only the beginning.