This month we are featuring not one, but two rockstars in the Startup world, Kwame Boler and Claudius Mbemba of Neu! Kwame and Claudius are both in our Seattle chapter and are in the running for Geekwire’s Young Entrepreneur of the year — take a moment to support your fellow Startup Haven brethren and… vote for them now!
We enjoyed all of their tips on communication and making sure to connect with your customers right off the bat. We’ll let Kwame take it away for us:
What was the inspiration for your company?
I discovered the problem after co-founding an Airbnb property management company, experiencing hyper-growth, but struggled to find a cleaning solution that could keep up with my business. Frustrated by the status quo, I co-founded an independent vacation rental cleaning company which opened my eyes to the pain points of cleaners within the industry.
With a fresh perspective and understanding of both customer’s pain points, Claudius and I later co-founded neu as a dual-marketplace that creates value and introduces efficiencies for both customer segments.
Describe what your company does in 25 words or less.
neu streamlines hotel-style cleans for Airbnbs. As a managed dual-marketplace, we provide a turnkey experience for Airbnb hosts and cleaners by augmenting them with technology and linens.
What were you doing before you started working on your company?
I worked as an Electrical and Systems Engineer at the Boeing company. My primary focuses were in fault isolation and automating detailed test procedures for the 737, 747, 767, and 777
What do you like most about being a founder?
The challenge, problem-solving, influence, and growth. I get progress highs all the time by how far we’ve come and with so little. I’m genuinely excited by what’s to come once our chains are removed.
What do you like least about being a founder?
The capriciousness. Tons of ups and downs where some days you feel like the king of the world and others you just want to never get out of bed. Often, those days are the same.
If you weren’t building your company, what else would you be doing now?
I’ve always had the entrepreneur bug so I’d probably be working on another startup, project or business.
What’s your best hack for dealing with the demands of running a startup?
Network and ask for help, find ways to healthily unplug, and definitely dedicate/create “me-time”. I’m an early riser and I appreciate the silence/calm of the morning as a way to decompress, strategize my day, and then begin execution.
What has been the biggest barrier to progress for you as a founder?
Capital and resources. We’ve been fairly resource-constrained which has limited our ability to rapidly experiment, test and iterate.
How is/was your company funded and how does it make money?
We’ve raised some angel capital and have won several competitions/grants but primarily we’re bootstrapped. However, our business is in market and to date, we’ve grossed over $500k in revenue.
“Why this problem?”
The future of on-demand services is in scheduling and quality. Status quo agents like Task Rabbit or Angie’s List do a good job of helping people find the contractor/agent but a bad job of ensuring that the job is done, let alone done well, consistently or at a fair price.
We believe we can do this with cleaning and our goal is to become the defacto leaders within the industry.
We’re starting with vacation rentals because it’s an industry that we know intimately but ultimately, we’re confident that we can disrupt the cleaning industry altogether and bring it into the 21st century. For years, we’ve tested and iterated to build a platform and scalable supply chain model that’s derisked and ready for rapid expansion.
What advice do you have for founders who are two stages behind you?
Talk with your customers. Become customer advocates who not only digest their problems/pain points but genuinely desire to improve their experience.
What has been the biggest win for your company?
We’re currently participating in the Techstars Seattle 2020 class – which has been a game-changer – but we’ve also had a lot of incremental victories along the way.
Not experimenting enough or talking to our customers early. When we first started neu, we didn’t communicate with customers enough and were blinded by my domain expertise. Constantly talking to customers and figuring out how to taste before you bite – or test before you build – is so critical to avoid mistakes, wasting time and compound learnings.
What do you need… what’s your “ask”?
Claudius and I are currently in the running for Geekwire’s Young Entrepreneur of the year award and we would greatly appreciate your vote. Click👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽and thanks in advance!
What help can you offer to other Startup Haven member founders… what’s your offer?
For anyone wanting to learn more about the gig economy, supply chain, on-demand, marketplaces or what’s it like being in an accelerator, we’d be more than happy to help, offer advice, or share insights.
What would make life better for founders in your city?
A condensed directory of founders and their skillsets would be very helpful. Also, a directory consisting of contractors, freelancers, agents, brokers, and sponsors that founders have hired and had positive, neutral and negative relationships with would be amazing!
How has Startup Haven helped you on your journey?
It’s been a great outlet.
I’ve met some phenomenal people at Startup Haven along this journey and Bob does a great job of getting Founders together to destress/decompress, ideate and address/solve pain points.