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Profile: Studio Graphene: How do you start a start-up? Ask a team of experts?

studio graphene 1You would if you could right? A bit like this article, the process of launching a new business begins with a lot of questions. Firstly, what’s my idea? Then, what problem does it solve? Next, how do I build a minimum viable product, how can I prove concept, and how can I find a product market fit? And finally, how will I tell people about it? Of course that is still vastly oversimplifying how complex and challenging it can be to get a business off the ground. And you thought all you needed was an idea!

Well, ok, here’s some good news: if all you have is an idea, but you’re the kind of person who really backs themselves and believes 100% in what you are about to do, you can get help. It’s not cheating to ask for it, it’s sensible, it will save you time, and, in the long run, it will save you money. Now for the tricky part; who do you ask?

According to Ritam at Studio Graphene, a start-up struggling with the bootstrapping blues used to have 3 options:

  1. Hire freelancers; problem, they are expensive, not necessarily as committed and certainly not as invested in the project as you are, and therefore liable to do a disappearing act at the first sign of trouble;
  2. Hire a whole team; works well, if you can afford to pay 10 salaries, or give up all of your equity whilst desperately trying to persuade 10 strangers that you are the next Steve Jobs; or
  3. Go to an agency; pay extra, in other words, for somebody to put you in touch with one of the above 2 sets of people.

Now, Ritam at Studio Graphene wants me to tell you about a 4th way. Can you guess? That’s right! Well actually, according to Ritam, there are really 2 4th ways, but the one involving Studio Graphene is much better than this one: hire a rockstar co-founder. Firstly, it’s easier said than done, and secondly, Ritam tells me a story about a recent client of Studio Graphene’s who had hired said rockstar founder. This was the real mccoy, right down from his ‘tache to his tats. The rockstar spent 3 months wrestling with a problem that involved building a small and lightweight web tool. In the end he walked away swearing it couldn’t be done. Studio Graphene built it that weekend. “We love working with start-ups”, Ritam says, “we are agile and flexible and we help to create something tangible in partnership with our clients”.

studio graphene 2Here is an expression you will never have heard used before by anybody connected to a disruptive start-up. Ritam is, Studio Graphene are, refreshingly corporate. Am I drawing a line in the sand here? Is saying that like when Bob Dylan “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in ‘65. Not really, it’s just that people making the same mistakes over and over again gets boring. Just because you are a start-up doesn’t mean you are a protected species. Doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan ahead. You know all those billionaire founders who claim that they wrote their idea on the back of a fag packet and signed all their contracts in blood whilst high. They were lying. They made it because they worked hard, and worked well. “We try to bring structure to haphazardness”, says Ritam. Quite.

You can ring Studio Graphene and arrange a meeting. Besides Ritam, and amongst others, there is Roberto, the tech frontman, Giorgia, the marketeer, Ben, the outrageous designer, Tom, the growth guru and Ringo, the drummer. I made the last one up, but the point is they are not so corporate after all, they just understand that business will always be business, and they are good at it, and they can help you. Yes, they will charge you some money, a bespoke quote will be prepared for each and every unique challenge, and they may want to meet you before they agree to work with you. They don’t like being bogged down by legal agreements but they do like working collaboratively with people. “We are type A personalities”, Ritam explains.

“Our job”, he adds, “is to get ourselves fired”. What he means is that his team will make sure you have everything you need for your journey from “start-up”, to “scale-up”; visuals, feasibility studies, technical outlines, marketing strategy, MVP, prototyping, pre-totyping. Like Yoda, or Mary Poppins, this lot don’t hang around once their “work here is done”. “But don’t you take a big chunk of equity and hang around until they get funded”, I ask Ritam, wide eyed with astonishment, “what kind of a consultancy are you?” “A start-up studio, young paduan”, he smiles with his eyes.

30/50% of Studio Graphene’s business comes from referrals, and 90% of their time is spent on delivery. The team go to events “to listen”. In Silicon Valley, says Ritam, you are either a somebody, or you are a nobody. London is not like that. It’s a melting pot. In London you have to work hard to fail! If you work hard with Studio Graphene instead, you will be investor ready in a matter of months.


Studio Graphene founder Ritam

Studio Graphene deals with the gritty reality of the start-up world, and a bit of the fun part too. That’s why they ask bloggers like me to write about them. Since they are not a corporate entity they are forced to work with the disadvantaged. Just kidding. Getting yourself off the ground with Studio Graphene will likely cost you a few thousand pounds. It will be made clear to you from the outset exactly what you will be getting. You will know who is working on what. You will know how many hours they will be spending on each different part of the project. If you would like, they will text you when they go for a crap. When they are finished, you will be pleased, and you will probably be more intelligent. They have form.

When you speak to Studio Graphene, tell them I sent you. They are very bright and they can fix your business. Or help you build it. Try their website: See you on the other side.


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