Daniel Garcia & Jonathan Haralamabakis are the cofounders of Pinboard.me, a skill-sharing platform where students and alumni can share their skills online and on campus, one-to-one. Daniel has a background in Corporate Finance and Investment Banking, working recently in PE / VC for a private investment holding company in London. He studied Strategy and Innovation at Said Business School and St. Hugh’s College. Jonathan has a background in Investment management and trading, with experience in strategy consulting and venture capital for Touchstone/Imperial Innovations.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Daniel - Most of my family, especially on my father’s side (Portuguese immigrant in Brazil), is formed by entrepreneurs in retail and food services business. I grew up in that environment, however pursued a corporate career after finishing my undergrad course in Business Administration. Years later I met Jono when we were Management Consultants in London, and he had an idea to start-up a skill sharing platform, where anyone could teach and learn any skills in a simple a very effective way. After few months discussing, planning and testing our various assumptions, Jono built the prototype and we tested the idea with students. We then got together and brought the project to Oxford University Innovations (OUI), where Pinboard.me is now incubated. We officially launched the platform on the first week of October at the Freshers' Fair at Merton College, and now we have over 300 users and 100 tutors in the platform.
Jonathan - Having been born and raised in South Africa, I was able to witness the difficulties of establishing a business in a developing nation. My family has started several businesses, mostly in the food and beverage industry where I actively involved from a very young age. I worked in my family restaurants, bars, supermarkets and hotels and decided, from a young age, to start a business. I was able to create a number of small entrepreneurial ventures that exploited several business opportunities which ranged from running burger stands to creating a small online import-export business that took advantage of exchange rate arbitrage through selling products worldwide.
After university, I realised that students in universities have a vast array of skills and time but need money. Many cultures, nations and specialities descend to the UK to study and so the amount of skills available are not in short supply. So Dan and I decided to build a skill-sharing platform where students and alumni can share their skills online and on campus, one-to-one. From then on, Pinboard was born.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Taking an idea off the ground, coping with the risks, and being resilient and overcoming hurdles such the many “no’s” you will face.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
We started testing the idea from the very beginning, we asked our friends and family their thoughts, we built a basic website to get the idea out there, got some feedback and started testing it, step-by-step. We then went out and conducted a number of surveys with over 200 students in various universities, we tried to understand if the market for our idea was there. We identified that students were the best demographic and found out the various skills that students are willing to teach and learn, how much they would like to pay and where they would like to learn, either online or on campus. Having gathered the data, we realised that the market is there and people wanted to use it! So we joined the Incubator and launched in Oxford with much success.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Resilience, perseverance, and partnership.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Seeing the idea taking form and turning in something real, along with the networking it brings.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Elon Musk from Tesla Motors and Space X. His ideas are revolutionary, and although Tesla now is well known and well covered by the press, years ago he was heavily criticised for being so visionary. If you haven’t checked the developments that SpaceX has been making, please do, it’s outstanding.
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
How to drive ideas that now most people consider too visionary or even delusional, and how to shape them in solutions for the society. I would be fascinated to understand better the mindset behind those ideas and visions.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Postponing talking to people that can help you out, either in terms of networking or ideas validation. No one can sort everything by herself / himself, external views work as fresh air.
How have you funded your ideas?
Self-funded / Oxford Startup Incubator
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
In our case, we do not see any downside. As an online platform, we are scalable beyond Oxfordshire, but starting from Oxford has been amazing as the best and brightest minds are found here. Not only in terms of having the support from the University, but also due to the thriving entrepreneurial community in Oxford. It’s been a great place to test our business model and steer it in the right direction to expand. Everyone within the tightly knit community has been extremely helpful in connecting us to the right people and places and so being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire has its many benefits!
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
Oxford Innovation Centre, Oxford Foundry, Entrepreneurs Society.
Any last words of advice?
Start narrow, test your ideas, fail fast, and restart. This is how it works. Be persistent.