Greatest Challenges faced by Start-up Founders

Running a start-up is not easy. It takes a resilient and resourceful team to ensure that their start-up manages to take off and prosper. At BLOCK71, we talked to few of our start up founders to understand what are of the greatest challenges they face in their start-up journey. Two major trends we see are 1) Balancing Social Lives and 2) Engaging with Customers.

On Balancing Social Lives

Balancing a start-up and relationships with family and friends can be tough. Running a start-up requires energy and commitment and that takes away the available quality time spent with family and friends.

Here 2 of BLOCK71’s start-ups, TenderBoard and Vouch share their experience and tips on how to keep work and family life going.

Ken Ooi from TenderBoard talks about accepting the imbalance of the life of a start-up founder

Many people have this idea of being an entrepreneur, even today when I tell people I work in a startup, they think it’s very glamorous, the first reaction is “Wow you’re so great, you’re your own boss” but the truth is that it’s not like this at all. The day-to-day part of running the business and doing stuff that nobody talks about, that’s tough. I think it’s important to remember that entrepreneurs don’t wear just the entrepreneur hat. Some of us are also dads and moms, some of us are sons and daughters, we also have friends and social lives. It’s the ability to balance all of that out which I think makes it really tough. How to overcome this is by knowing what you want to do and what you have to do at any one time and just being focused on that for that point. I have accepted that there will never be a balance, it will always be tough in one place and there’s a tradeoff somewhere else. While making that tradeoff, just do it justice and do your best, and maybe if there’s an opportunity later on, you come back and sort that thing out if it’s also important. So I think just having that presence of mind and knowing what you’re doing, why you’re doing, when to do it, will go a long way.

Read the full feature on TenderBoard here.

Joseph from VOUCH shares about the time he went all in and pivoted.

As a start up founder, I think there are many challenges that you’ll face. You’re going to run into all sorts of problems, whether you’re running out of money, how to reach product market fit, things like that.

For me, the greatest challenge we faced was this: one year ago, Vouch actually almost ran out of money. We were doing something completely different then, and things were not working out. At that point of time, the company had less than $500 dollars in our bank account, my personal bank account had less than $3,000 and my wife told me she was pregnant with our third child. So that was a period where it was really trying for me. At that point in time, I had thoughts about giving up, about finding a job somewhere. In fact, I was offered a job that was paying really great money at another start up. I had a long conversation with my co-founder, and that was were we decided to give it one more shot, pivot again and try once more. I learnt something about myself from that experience, which was how far I would go to make my dreams come true, how far I would go to make something out of my life. Things have been looking up since then, we’ve been getting a healthy stream of revenue, and I’m glad we persisted.

Read the full feature on Vouch here.

On Engaging Customers

When you run a start-up, a huge part of communication goes into educating your customers about your product or service. Often when technology is new or disruptive, the learning and adoption curve is not linear. For most start-up founders, it typically starts as a one man/woman show and therefore, it is up to them to shoulder the responsibility of both strategising, marketing and engaging with customers.

Below, Holitics, Good for Food, Savioke, Real Estate Doc and GTRIIP share on their journey in debunking assumptions about their target audience and tips on winning them over.

Vincent from Holistics explains the gap between customers perception and what’s important

I think the greatest challenge is identifying the language that resonates with the audience about what we do. If you look at what happens in the business intelligence space, often the output is the same, it’s just dashboards, charts, and reports. So how are we able to communicate it to non-technical audiences who don’t work with data? How is it we can improve the lives of their data teams? How is it we can get them faster time to answers? I think we’ve actually iterated a few. Through talking to our customers, through interacting with different groups of people, we’ve found out what the core problem that we are solving is like. The problem that people have is about their data operations. If it takes you a long time to get answers to your data, if you have friction to access those data, then no matter how pretty your charts are, you can’t get them out in the first place. By focusing on this area, we get people to resonate and say “Hey, BI is not about pretty visuals and charts. It’s about how can you get faster time to your answers and how can you automate the mundane so you can free up your team’s time.”

Read the full feature on Holistics here.

Rayner from Good For Food talks about the challenges in educating the public on sustainability

When we first started about a year and a half ago, our greatest challenge was engaging businesses about the topic of food waste. Back then, the conversation about sustainability and food waste hasn’t gained that much traction yet. I think for a lot of them, what’s on their priority is the top line revenue. They don’t spend much thought about how can they improve their bottom line. But I’m really encouraged in the last 6–8 months that the conversation is shifting, the conversation about sustainability, climate action, and the UN sustainable development goals. I think hoteliers especially are more aware about the value of being more sustainable.

Read the full feature on Good for Food here.

Matthew from Savioke shares about overcoming customers’ fear of adopting new technology

I think the greatest challenge for us is the worry of the unknown from the customer’s perspective because robots in public spaces are so new. Though technical challenges can be really tough, we have a great team and we are able to find solutions to just about everything we need for safe and smooth operation. Customers and owners are unsure of the risks to adopt a new technology and how to fit it into their business processes. Even here in Singapore, we are very lucky to have grants to reduce some of the financial risk, it’s still a bit of an uphill battle that we have to fight to convince the customer “look at this new tool you can use in your hotel or property to make life better for your team and your guests”.

Read the full feature on Savioke here.

Ivan from Real Estate Doc expands on how finding the right target market is key

Averspace is a C2C brand. We were bringing homeowners and home-seekers together and allowing them to transact on our platform through digital contracts and electronic signing and now we actually have payments with a tie up with Xfers. What was actually challenging was the challenges of building a marketplace and that’s about traffic. So we have actually built a decent amount of traffic so far and at the same time being able to make sense of the unit economics for a C2C platform. Now that’s usually a challenge when you get direct users to pay for your service. So that was the main challenge. But we were undaunted, we took our technology, what we knew, and we went to solution for businesses and hence that’s why we have actually moved and pivoted to REAL ESTATE DOC. So far things have been running pretty good for us, for REAL ESTATE DOC and we are very excited for this journey that we are moving towards.

Read the full feature on REAL ESTATE DOC here.

Maxim from GTRIIP shares that having tenacity and grit will help you overcome challenges

When we started, the technology and the very concept of binding biometrics to a human identity was still new. It took us some time to work together with relevant parties, often government agencies to ensure that this is safer, and more secure than paper documents, and make it fully compliant with regulatory frameworks. This is a typical example of an innovation, just like ride sharing or accommodation sharing, that is ahead of regulations that are currently in place at the time. It took us two years to get to this stage.

We have overcome most of the challenges by being proactive and cooperative. We cannot just hope for new regulations to accommodate a new process or technology to take place overnight. In Singapore context, organisations like Singapore Hotel Association and Singapore Tourism Board were very supportive of innovations like this, and through them allowed us to further our conversations with Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Checkpoint Authority to ensure this technology that we are putting into the product and our customer hotels, a biometrics-based digital identity, is secure and compliant with all the regulatory frameworks and benefits everyone. Taking initiative to engage with authorities early from research and prototyping stages of our product features was important.

Read the full feature on GTRIIP here.


All start-up founders have faced various challenges and managed to overcome them in spite of them. However, start-ups need not face such challenges alone. In an incubator such as BLOCK71, start-ups can receive support from mentors as well as from their peers from other start-ups in the ecosystem.

To be a part of the BLOCK71 community and work alongside other start-up founders such as the ones above, apply for a hotdesk here at our website.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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