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Founder F*ck Ups Leeds and Manchester review: Talent, burnout and investor woes

The North’s tech community recently came together for two special events, where industry leaders shared their candid founder stories.

As part of a special event series brought to you by Prolific North, Exchange at Department, Praetura Ventures and thestartupfactory.tech, Founder F*ck Ups kicked off in Leeds on 20 September as part of Leeds Digital Festival.

Hosted at Department in Leeds Dock, Praetura’s investment manager Tania Rahman chaired a panel discussion with Chris Rabbitt, founder at MEEOW; Paul Hallett, founder of VET AI; and Mitali Mookerjee, co-founder of CastRooms.

Credit: Ruaa K Photography

This event series is designed to be a judgement free zone, encouraging an open dialogue and a safe space for founders to share their battles and mistakes along the way.

There were a number of important themes emerging from the panel discussion. As a founder, it’s imperative to form the right team. Move out of the “trenches”, know when to let go and let your team bond and get involved when they need to.

Once that’s in place, you need to listen to both your team and customers as it’s important to push your ego to one side. Be a sponge, soak up advice, but be cautious and pick your mentors “wisely” were some other key words of advice.

On what the panel wished they knew before receiving investment, it’s that money doesn’t solve all of your problems. Have a clear idea where that money needs to go, test your MVP as it doesn’t matter how well you build it if you don’t test it, and don’t spend all your money before it’s in the bank.

Finally, burnout is always a big talking point. You can prioritise your mental health by setting a criteria for prioritisation and understand that you can’t do everything, delegation is key.

Manchester Founder F*ck Ups event

The following day, Founder F*ck Ups returned for another sold out edition in Manchester on 21 September, held in partnership with RBC Brewin Dolphin.

Richard Morley, a director at Brewin Dolphin, welcomed a room filled with guests at The Stables in Manchester. As there’s lots of turns along the way as a founder, whether it’s Covid, interest rates or disgruntled clients, he said it’s important to hear from other founders and learn from mistakes, so you don’t have to make them yourself.

Before chairing the panel discussion, Praetura’s Tania Rahman added that many events tend to focus on the glitz and glamour of the industry but there’s a real need for more events where founders can share their honest stories.

She was later joined by a panel of industry leaders including Elizabeth Clark, co-founder and CEO at Dream AI; Leon Wilson, founder and CEO at PollenPay; Laura Pomfret, co-founder of Financielle; and Andrew Barlow, founder and CEO at Chatloop.

From going into administration, grappling with burnout, investor woes to hiring the wrong people – the four founders have had their fair share of scar stories when building their businesses.

Talent was a big talking point. Hiring the right people can be “hugely transformative” for businesses. A word of warning given to other founders in the room: take talent really seriously, don’t cut corners and focus on the people in your team first.

On investment, you need to “kiss a lot of frogs” to find your prince and more needs to be done as a community in Manchester to support other founders who are going through a tough time.

A big challenge is “getting advice from the right people”. If you stay close to your customer and  take on guidance, you’ll be a winner.

There’s often a sense of “perfectionism” with founders but there’s no need to waste time on things that aren’t important. Move quickly, learn from your mistakes, and don’t worry about being perfect. 

“Don’t let great get in the way of good,” was a key takeaway. “Good is good enough.”

When quizzed about burnout, the panel agreed although it’s difficult to switch off it’s important founders take time for themselves and realise when “enough is enough” especially as a business scales.

The founders concluded that more ambition is needed. Unless founders “think big”, Manchester’s next upcoming tech giant like Google or Meta won’t be on the horizon.

A huge thanks again to our partners for bringing this event series to life:

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