Having embarked on her Startmate accelerator journey in Melbourne in July, founder of surplus food platform Bring Me Home Jane Kou now has an app up and running, and big plans for the future.
The Bring Me Home app allows restaurants and cafes to list surplus foods at discounted prices — whether that’s sandwiches, salads or soups — for users to pick up at an allotted time.
It launched in Melbourne’s CBD and in Carlton and Brunswick two weeks ago, and saved 100 meals from the bin within its first week. This more than doubled in the second week, and to date the startup has saved more than 330 meals.
Kou tells StartupSmart she started working on the Bring Me Home concept in September last year, and went full-time in January. The Startmate opportunity came at the right time, she says.
“I hadn’t figured out how I was going to operate … I needed an accelerator to actually accelerate me.”
Out of more than 300 applicants, Kou was in the 10% selected for the interview stages, she says. Initially she didn’t make it any further than that.
It wasn’t until a week before the accelerator started that Kou got a call saying the team “really liked me as a founder”, and had chosen to accept Bring Me Home after all, making it the 13th startup in this year’s cohort.
“When I got the phone call I jumped,” she says.
With more than 90 mentors available to Startmate participants, “the support is so good it’s actually a bit overwhelming”, Kou says.
“I’ve never had this many people reaching out trying to help me.”
However, she has tried to identify the mentors she can “really bond with”, while also being helpful to her business.
Kou says there are also benefits to “being surrounded by the most ambitious founders”.
After working alone for 10 months, for Kou it’s an “ecosystem and family”, and a place where entrepreneurs can bounce ideas around and share updates.
“Everyone is really supportive,” she says.
“I can always take a break and talk to any one of them … that’s the best feeling,” she adds.
Life after Startmate
In five weeks’ time Bring Me Home will graduate from Startmate, but Kou says she’s not about to take a break. Instead, she will be working on breaking into more suburbs in Melbourne, before expanding to Sydney.
In two to three years the plan is “to saturate the whole Australian market,” she says, with “people actively buying every day”.
Kou is also working on building up some connections in the startup space.
“I wanted to talk to as many people as possible … and keep them in my network for the long term,” she adds.
And she’s starting to think about funding, with hopes to secure something “before this year ends”.
For other startup founders thinking of entering an accelerator, Kou recommends being “super clear what they want out of the program”.
That way, they can be clear about the kind of support and expertise they need, and proactively identify the mentors that they think will be the most helpful to them.
She also advises founders to “always take care of mental and physical health”, noting that in an accelerator environment, that’s not always easy to prioritise.
For her part, Kou meditates on her commute every morning and makes sure to squeeze in one yoga class and one gym session per week.
“It’s a bare minimum, but it’s still good,” she says.