At Startup Runway Edition 20, three exceptional winners emerged: Joshua Afolabi, Founder of Tuggo Technologies Inc (2GGO), Shaun Andrews, Founder of Mind HAC, and Laura Valentine, Founder of Lavni. Each of the winners received $10,000 in non-dilutive capital.
We had the privilege of conducting exclusive Q&A sessions with all three of the founders delving into their journeys, challenges, and exciting plans for the future.
Q&A with Joshua Afolabi:
- How did your company get started? We began building 2GGO just before the pandemic struck. Initially, our focus was on assisting local boutiques with delivery services. However, after recognizing the prolonged wait times customers faced when ordering online, we shifted our attention to solving this pain point. Partnering with a software developer, we built an MVP and gained traction in Atlanta, thanks to the ‘pay it forward’ spreadsheet created by Bombas CMO Kate Huyyet.
- What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? Validation, discovering product-market fit, and securing financing have been the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of entrepreneurship. It’s crucial for entrepreneurs to validate their ideas by presenting them to customers and offering solutions to their everyday problems. Raising funds, especially for underrepresented founders like us, has been a strenuous process. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic about 2GGO’s potential and adaptability to evolving consumer behavior.
- What has been the most exciting/best part? Customer validation and recognition have been incredibly motivating for our team. Receiving emails from customers inquiring about ordering from 2GGO in their cities reaffirms the value we provide. We are thrilled to address consumer behavior and empower retailers by increasing accessibility. Being customer-focused and receiving positive feedback is one of the most exciting aspects of being an entrepreneur.
- What is your priority in the next six months? In the next six months, our primary focus is raising our pre-seed round to strengthen our technology stack. Additionally, we aim to secure our first retailer for a pilot program in Atlanta. Partnering with rideshare delivery services will enable us to expedite order fulfillment while scaling our operations. We also plan to expand the 2GGO team with experts and invest more in marketing to introduce our platform to a wider audience.
- How will you use the funding you won at the Startup Runway showcase? We are immensely grateful to the Startup Runway team for providing us with a platform to showcase 2GGO’s capabilities to the judges and audience. The funding we received will be allocated to launching our go-to-market campaign, running advertisements, and streamlining legal processes. This grant will be instrumental in our expansion plans while allowing us to give back to the Atlanta community, which we are proud to call home.
Q&A with Shaun Andrews:
- How did your company get started? I founded Mind HAC after witnessing the suicides of two former teammates and experiencing my own battle with depression. The stigma surrounding mental health prevented me from seeking help openly, but I found solace in music and therapeutic messages. Recognizing the lack of content tailored to my demographic, I decided to create a solution. Starting as a Title 1 teacher in Charlotte, NC, I developed my app, gaining valuable insight into my future user base.
- What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? The loneliness of entrepreneurship has been the most challenging aspect for me. Coming from a family where everyone pursued traditional careers, I lacked guidance from loved ones who couldn’t fully grasp my entrepreneurial journey. Dealing with issues specific to entrepreneurs without a support system meant I had to figure things out on my own and face the inevitable setbacks alone.
- What has been the most exciting/best part? The most exciting part of being an entrepreneur is witnessing my idea come to life. It’s awe-inspiring to see my company evolve from a mere concept into a revenue-generating business that positively impacts many lives. Knowing that my creation creates a ripple of positive change in humanity, ultimately making the world a better place, is immensely fulfilling.
- What is your priority in the next six months? In the next six months, we aim to conclude our research and expand our offerings directly to customers in addition to our current B2B approach. We also plan to expand our team, filling key roles that will enable us to achieve rapid growth in 2024.
- How will you use the funding you won at the Startup Runway showcase? The funding from the Startup Runway showcase will be used to enrich our content library. We will introduce additional channels in French and Spanish to cater to the immigrant populations we serve, ensuring our app resonates with a diverse audience.
Q&A with Laura Valentine:
- How did your company get started? My co-founder Marcus was one of many who experienced new mental health struggles during the beginning of the pandemic. As a man of color, he felt as though the mental health services available weren’t built for people like him. On the other side of that coin, as a mental health clinician serving families in rural and underserved communities, I saw and heard the struggles firsthand. I knew that much work was still needed to help break the stigma against seeking mental health care and that people were suffering in silence until they were in crisis. A mutual friend of ours knew that if we joined forces, we could do more together to accomplish our joint vision and mission of providing accessible, convenient, safe, and affordable services to underserved populations.
- What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? I saw a video the other day that depicted founders of a start-up and the pace at which they were completing everyday tasks. Although hilarious, it resonated with some current pain points for me. Depending on the day, it could be balance, decision-making, our lean team size, or workload; funding has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur. Acquiring funding to help us scale while performing the day-to-day tasks can, at times, feel overwhelming.
- What has been the most exciting/best part? Implementation. Watching the evolution and execution of the idea from thought to development was amazing! Knowing that I had a hand/voice in creating a product that will positively transform the lives of millions still gets me excited every time I sign on to the platform and conduct my sessions.
- What is your priority in the next six months? Marketing and sales so that we can achieve the goal of signing up 500 clients.
- How will you use the funding you won at the Startup Runway showcase? For marketing (branding and advertisements). Lavni means future in Creole. We need people to know that Lavni exists so that we can do our part in reducing barriers for someone in need. The future of mental health needs to be in a society that embraces conversations about mental wellness. We are in the fight to reduce stigma and need the visibility to be able to do so!
Laura Valentine, Founder of Lavni, took home the Women’s Empowerment Grant.
The stories of Joshua Afolabi, Shaun Andrews, and Laura Valentine exemplify successful entrepreneurs’ resilience, determination, and vision. Their innovative ideas and relentless pursuit of solving real-world problems have earned them well-deserved recognition at the Startup Runway Showcase.
Calling Savannah’s Entrepreneurs: Seize the Opportunity to Shine!
Following the inspiring footsteps of these winning founders, we urge Savannah-based startups to take the leap and apply for our upcoming pitch showcase. The eagerly anticipated Startup Runway 21st Showcase, held in partnership with SHEHustles, is designed to empower Savannah-based founders and provide them with the essential support needed to thrive.
By participating in this dynamic pitch competition, founders can open doors to funding, mentorship, invaluable networking connections, and more. Mark your calendars for June 22 and join us at The Clyde Venue for an unforgettable event that has the potential to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey.