By James Harford-Tyrer, age 26, founder of the new UK start-up Cudoni.
Business, at its core, is all about providing value to customers.
Providing value to peoples’ lives has always been of interest to me. When I was only 12 years old, I started a business out of my parents’ garage. Before long, my neighbours and parents’ friends made use of my services. From basic beginnings, this business expanded in an unexpected way, and the lessons I learnt then have since formed the bedrock of my work.
My learning, fortunately, didn’t end there. At the age of 16 I won my first business competition, and was soon accepted onto the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF). Spending time at the NEF was an illuminating experience, it’s one of the leading entrepreneurial programmes in the UK. I learnt a huge amount and met some inspiring people.
Prior to Cudoni, I was the COO of a tech SME backed by Lebara Mobile and also have experience working in equities trading. Founding and running a successful business is a huge challenge, in which you must draw on the best aspects of not only those around you, but also yourself. I feel that in some form or another, every piece of my experience and background has been instrumental in shaping me as as a business owner. Being a sole founder is an exercise in wearing multiple hats, and only a broad knowledge base makes this possible.
Our mission at Cudoni is simple: We’re the easiest way for busy people to sell their unwanted luxury goods. By utilising a data-driven approach, with new technologies at its core, we’re able to achieve exceptional sales results. We combine this with care and attention for our customers, ensuring they have the most enjoyable sales experience possible.
To excel over other market alternatives, a product must address a ‘need’ as opposed to a ‘want’. Therefore, understanding the product-market fit for your idea, before you invest any unnecessary time and money, is crucial. The fundamentals and assumptions which businesses are built on must be solid, not simply a foundation of sand.
While youth can be a barrier in certain commercial settings, it can also provide some fantastic opportunities. For example, it is easier to take risks when you have less binding commitments and responsibilities, and it is far easier to spend life on the edge without fearing the impact it might have on your spouse and children. Youth also puts time on your side, learning is an exercise in making mistakes and correcting these. As a young person, there is much more time to fail, stand up, and walk forwards once again.
Whether your idea is in its infancy or fully-matured, it is always useful to take part in programmes that support entrepreneurs. These allow you to expose yourself to like-minded people, as well as potential investors and mentors. It is critical to build a support network as early as possible in the development of your business, preferably one which draws from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences.
When searching for a round of funding, advice, or a commercial partnership, this network will prove invaluable. Simply ensure, as with any relationship, that you contribute as much as you gain. The trust and credibility which you are able to build in your support network will spread further than you might expect.
When raising investment, it is essential that you have a clear understanding of key legal terms surrounding Heads of Agreement, and knowledge of SEIS and EIS tax relief schemes which limit risks for the early-stage investments of private individuals. Having a clear product roadmap and well thought-out financial projections will also build and bolster the credibility you’ve worked so hard for.
In terms of investment, it’s important to cultivate relationships with serious private investors over a period of time – significant investments require a certain amount of trust, which is not produced out of thin air.
I have built strong relationships with investors and mentors through time. For example, Giles Brook, the CEO of Vita Coco and Matt Cooper, Founder of Capital One and Chairman of Octopus Investments are not just investors, but remarkable mentors as well. I am also lucky enough to call Anthony Preston, founder of Pets at Home, a mentor, and have taken inspiration from listening to his experiences founding and leading a world-renowned company.
To date, Cudoni has raised £575,000 in equity investment from angel investors.
“I’m very selective in what and who I get involved with and my involvement in Cudoni stems from having originally met and been beyond impressed with James, the founder.
“Whether I connect with the founder is THE prerequisite for me when I look at getting involved in any business and whilst I instantly gained excitement about Cudoni and the pre-owned luxury goods market, particularly having seen some of the USA success stories in this space, the business opportunity had to be married with a founder who could realise that potential.
“I’m really excited about how disruptive James & Cudoni can be in this space, especially looking at the success already achieved in 2017.”
This year, Cudoni celebrates its third birthday. Our latest figures show a ten-fold growth in sales over the last six months and we have a growing, loyal, and wonderful client base.
My best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs and start-up founders building their own businesses, is to understand the value of integrity for your business and credibility in your operation. Couple that with calculated risks and a perpetual curiosity and the rest will follow.