When Massera graduated with a BEng in Chemical Engineering in 2015, she was not looking forward to the conventional career in Engineering. She always had ambitions of starting her own business with the hope of solving problems in her community. Starting with the idea of launching a farming project in her family’s country of origin, Sudan, she began seeking out ways to build the skills & resources she would require to make her dream a reality. This was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey.
In Kenya for 3 months in 2016 with the ICS Entrepreneur Programme, she learned about the lean start-up methodology. She also started building her network by attending events and e-meetings and sharing her ideas. It was through this experience of attending e-meetings that she realized the power of finding the right people to help you achieve your goals. She decided to help people learn from her own experiences while continuing to pursue her dream and founded AGT (Achieving Goals Together) to help others achieve their goals.
Massera and her co-founder Josiah, have managed to grow the community around their startup. In 2018, they organized the first event and a new initiative to keep young professionals and entrepreneurs more focused.
In this exclusive interview with MyStartupLand, we walk through her experience as a startup founder, as well as understanding some key learnings for herself as well as other fellow entrepreneurs around the globe.
1. Massera, let’s get started with a common one in the startup world. What’s the Elevator Pitch for AGT Group?
AGT Group is a community organization for young professionals and entrepreneurs. AGT stands for Achieving Goals Together. We leverage our network to offer support, guidance, and resources to our members and enable them to achieve their goals.
2. How did you come up with the idea for AGT Group?
AGT Group started as a group of ambitious university friends trying to support each other in the pursuit of our goals in the post-graduation period. It was actually my co-founder, Josiah, who suggested we have monthly e-meetings. It proved to be very effective for us and we thought we could help others in the same way while expanding our community and leveraging our collective networks.
3. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
This is a simple one! I wanted to help people with my knowledge and skills.
4. Startup founders go through a lot of ups and downs, what keeps you motivated and focused on the target? How do you manage to keep that motivation up within your team?
What keeps me focused is my initial vision. I have learned to take inspiration from little and big things happening around me. For example, hearing about success stories of our members or celebrating milestones and the satisfaction of overcoming obstacles, all these keep me motivated. I have found that consistent effort, constant communication and keeping myself motivated first are the best ways to keep those around me motivated as well. I think it’s important that team members have a similar attitude, however, understanding the people around you and knowing how to communicate with them also goes a long way.
5. Mentors and advisors are important figures, especially for young startup founders. However, finding the right help can be challenging. Can you walk us through how you managed to find the right support? If you could summarize in 3 keywords the key qualities you looked in an advisor or mentor, what would these be?
Finding a mentor is beneficial because you gain the insights of someone with experience and the right mentor won’t suffocate you with a “know-it-all” approach. What I found instead was AGT, a group of people with different skills and experiences that together helped guide me through this journey. There are organizations that help match you with mentors however in the absence of one I advise people to look for community organizations, you are going to find what you are looking for.
I would say the 3 key qualities to look for in an advisor or mentor are:
- Communication – An effective communicator, who “speak your language”
- Skills / Experience – Transferable or industry-specific skills
- Network – Someone who can make meaningful introductions
6. The best advice you have got so far?
Learn to outsource and delegate.
7. Stress is a natural companion in the journey to success. Can you suggest to other startup founders, who might be going through some rough waters, what’s the best way, in your opinion, to deal with it?
Learn to detach and learn to sweat it out.
8. How did the startup life change you? [compared to the time before your startup journey]
It taught me that results aren’t always immediate and not to give up because consistency pays. It also taught me the power of self-confidence.
9. When running a startup, there are several components that become priorities: product, team, culture, funding, and so on… what’s your top priority when running AGT Group and why?
Product (or in our case, service). This is my priority. I believe that the service we offer is invaluable as we work closely with our members to make sure we understand their needs and guide them to bring them closer to achieving their goals. Everything else has to revolve around that because when trying to find new team members or “clients” or even funding if the service doesn’t make sense no-one will invest time or money in it.
10. Did you raise venture capital? If yes, what would you suggest to other startup founders that are getting into VC funding? If not, are you going to look for funding and how would you go about it?
No, so far all projects and events have been self-funded by myself and my co-founder, Josiah Idowu. We’re not in a hurry to get funded. However, we have been documenting our processes and activities, building case studies, perfecting our pitch and essentially putting together a business plan in case we do decide we need it.
11. How much influence did customers interviews have while building AGT Group?
They heavily influenced (and still do) everything we created. As we started building based on the feedback from our members, from just having e-meetings we went to hosting events and meetups. We started also collaborating with other brands to bring members services they might be interested in. Right now, we are developing also webinars, to bring tailored premium content.
12. How has AGT Group been perceived by the market so far? How does your current growth look like?
Admittedly, at times the market had difficulties to grasp what we offer. As we’ve spent more time developing our service and branding, however, it’s been easier to communicate who we are and what we do. Since developing a digital strategy, we have seen growth in social media engagement, website sign-ups, and new members overall.
13. What advice would you give to first-time startup founders?
Make sure you hold on to your idea firmly and believe in it wholeheartedly. There will be plenty of people trying to tear it apart, so you need to be strong. Try to surround yourself with people who will help build it up, either by adding to it or encouraging you! Also, be flexible, ideas should change.
14. In which country is your company based? How is the startup environment?
AGT Group is based in London but we are accessible internationally and currently also have members in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. London currently feels like just the right place to be if you have an idea or startup. There’s plenty of comrades on the entrepreneur journey, talent to work with and opportunities to grow.