After completing the UTS Hatchery+ accelerator program, FindMyPlan, a startup that sells overseas sim cards from all over the world to anyone in the world, is projecting one million dollars in revenue over the next 12 months.
Despite the success, the path for the twenty-one year-old co-founders Rabieh El kadi and Cameron Muller has been anything but smooth. They claim to have experienced more angst, suffering, failure and rejection than any of the six teams in the inaugural program. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, they believe, it wasn't a bad thing.
In fact, it was on the back of failure that the Bachelor of Business students commenced the Hatchery+ program. They had entered the UTS 3P Business Plan Competition with great hopes of winning.
"Not only didn't we make it into the top three out of about a dozen teams, we didn't even make it to the top six. We didn't even get to pitch," says Muller.
The rejection hit hard. "We thought, 'how can you not see our vision for this?'" says El kadi. After a period of wallowing, they decided to prove the naysayers wrong. Part of that plan involved applying for Hatchery+.
In the meantime, they pushed ahead despite not knowing what to do. "We made some mistakes," says El kadi. "Entrepreneurship takes a combination of naivety and agility. We certainly had the naivety."
This included making direct contact with the CEOs of telco companies in the hope they would recognise the vision's brilliance. They struck luck. A CEO from interstate began mentoring them. After months of communication they set up a meeting with him. Muller and El kadi donned suits, went to the agreed CBD location and waited. And waited.
"He was a no show," said Muller. "We rang him but got no response. Nothing."
"'Is there something wrong with us?" El kadi asked Muller. "Do we smell?"
After a period of despondency they made a pact not to be beaten. "I said I don't care what it takes, if I have to camp in the offices of telcos. We are going to get a meeting," said El kadi.
Within a week and a half they were sitting in a boardroom with management of a major telco. Negotiations followed. There was just one little problem. The telco needed approval from head office in the UK. "They wanted to do the deal," says El kadi, "but there was all this red tape."
In the meantime, they entered the Hatchery+ program. They poured everything into making the most out of using the co-working space and getting advice from mentors and guest speakers.
But waiting for their business deal to go through began to take a toll. Disagreements between El kadi and Muller abounded. "I was ready to give it all away," said El kadi. His health was suffering from the stress.
Muller decided to take a step back. They had been so focussed on the business that they'd lost sight of their friendship. "The second biggest reason startups fail is because of problems between the founders," says El kadi.
Muller instituted a weekly meeting where they shared personal goals – from health and fitness to learning coding to reading books. "We realised we're not building a business, we're building ourselves. When we build ourselves, the business grows."
And grow it did. From stepping back they realised they'd been asking telcos for the wrong thing. They turned their business model on its head and reframed their asking. "Oh Rabi," said the business development manager in the telco they'd been negotiating with, "we don't need approval from head office for that."
FindMyplan has agreements with Lycamobile, Vodafone and are now in negotiations with universities to supply sim cards for international students. While they have lived, eaten and breathed FindMyPlan for the past twelve months, it's just the beginning.
Next up is business for social good. "We want to empower people, such as refugees, to be able to help themselves," says El kadi.
The two are grateful for the support of Hatchery+ and their mentors in the program, that helped FindMyPlan take off.