Claudia caught up with Joshua Uwadiae, founder and CEO of WeGym, the personal training on demand platform that's giving people affordable and convenient access to become fit and healthy. Only just into his twenties, Joshua has not let his bad boy roots affect his chances of fulfilling his ambitions to make a difference through his tech startup. Watch out for this guy, he's going places.
1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up?
It’s that despite your optimism, treat your business idea like a hypothesis. When I started WeGym I was very emotionally attached to it but I learnt that businesses need to be proven. And to prove they work, it’s important to take a neutral stance and apply the thinking in de-risking, identifying the risks and demonstrate that they can be overcome.
2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?
It’s the above! When I first started I didn’t understand the external context of the business and I was too emotionally invested to see that there had to be proof points for it to work. It’s not enough for your mum to think your business is a good idea. I came across a podcast about de-risking. I started to apply this philosophy to each possible scenario that the business could go through. You need to identify whether what you are offering is something people want and need - test it and test it again. And test it again.
3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
There was a time when I didn’t necessarily want to quit but I thought I could. It was a month after the accelerator programme had finished when we realised that we still hadn’t proven the model worked yet and we were at the end of available cash. Added to that, my co-founder left. That was a dark time - I was in bed for a couple of days, I didn’t want to exercise. My friends in the startup world helped me through it with sound advice.
4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
I think navigating out of the chaos I’ve described was pretty significant. It led me to crack on, bootstrap and refocus.
5. Who is your inspiration?
I'm inspired by my opportunity to change the lives and direction of my family so the next generation doesn't struggle like we did. I grew up in the ghetto and was tied up in gangs and crime. Good people have helped me out of that way of life. I'm very much connected to that past and where I've come from and how hard I've worked to better myself. Now, it's about doing something meaningful that inspires me. Democratising personal training is the meaningful treadmill that keeps me going.
There are some important people who inspire me too; one of which being my mentor Gabbi. An investor and branding wizz by trade, he's a man who cuts through the bullsh*t and noise. He was a little naughty like me growing up so he's become a bit of a kindred sprit to me.
6. What keeps you motivated?
I think my own hard work ethic keeps me motivated. I am committed to what I set out to achieve (in WeGym) and have a very personal attachment to solving a problem - namely getting people fit and healthy. Fitness made a difference to my health and I want to do the same for others. I think also seeing progress keeps me motivated to carry on and do it.
7. What business or brand do you look up to?
Nike - they have this fantastic way of separating their product from their messaging. Nike will bring the story of the athlete, from their performance to their energy, opposed to the trainer. And I would put Apple up there for their ability to build curiosity in consumers. When I quit my job to start WeGym, it felt like a momentous thing to buy a Mac, like it was the start of something great. Then there’s Snapchat; they really get the user.
8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
Building another startup. Or in the media; I’ve always wanted to be a presenter.