It’s been a tough week. One of those weeks you kind of fear in the deep recesses of your mind but don’t give oxygen to, can’t afford to dwell on or you’d be paralysed with doubt.
As I’m sure most startup founders know, we walk a tightrope between self-belief with high confidence that we’re doing something worthwhile – and crushing self-doubt – that we’re fools wasting our time, energy and money… not to mention our reputation.
I’ve been focused on a grant from the City of Sydney as the initial and primary seed funding for Good Local since the beginning. Our strategy is heavily based around the City of Sydney Villages and making a strong contribution to the City’s 2030 sustainability targets. Making it easy and compelling for people to access and use sharing services to reduce waste and the use of electricity and water. From numerous conversations I’ve had with members of different teams at the City over the past couple of years, I was very optimistic we were a solid candidate for a grant. Unfortunately this week I was advised we’re not a fit for the Environmental Performance Innovation Grant or the Knowledge Exchange Sponsorship. The feedback was positive though and we were encouraged to apply for the next round of the Matching Grants which open in May with funds available 1 September to successful applicants. Funds up to $10k can be matched. This could be useful to fund certain activities but isn’t enough, soon enough for proper seed funding.
So despite positive signs from pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to about Good Local over the past couple of years and several people keen to be involved and contribute their time and expertise… the first time it’s come to asking someone to spend money, the answer has been no. Though the Council is in the investor role, in a lot of ways they’re also a customer on the supply side. When looking for problem / solution fit, getting customers to pay is key.
Then comes the doubt. If a progressive council with an extensive grant program isn’t interested in investing, what’s that mean? Find someone else who will fund us? Give up? Continue bootstrapping it through more grants from Dynamic4 Good and volunteer time? Take a different approach? What did we learn? Should we have done something differently? Did I communicate clearly? Is it premature to raise funds? Does it actually mean anything at all?
I’m not ready to give up. It gives me cause for reflection but the doubts aren’t that strong. I do need to manage my expectations though. I’d hoped that as a social enterprise we could attract grant funding to do more research, design and build our product and market it… to have some paid runway to get to our self-sustaining model. When I see the amount of funding provided to one-off events and other projects with no measurable or sustainable social impact, it makes me wonder what the priorities actually are.
So that’s where we’re at. Not where I’d hoped we’d be but now some decisions to be made on how we’ll move forward. The founding team have all said they’re keen to be involved without any mention of financial return so far. As a team we need to be explicit about our expectations and level of contribution… then we can get moving on the next steps.
Part of our approach to Good Local is to treat it as a transparent experiment in the hope that our experience and what we learn on the journey helps other social entrepreneurs. A week like this with less than ideal outcomes is something as founders we would generally smooth over in the narrative. Pretend it never happened, pretend it doesn’t sting. But it does.
I’ll post soon on how we’ve decided to move forward… and move forward we will.
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