Like some interesting app ideas, mine was born in my room at university. Although it started off as a budgeting spreadsheet (which I sold for a £1 per copy, received over a 1,000 no’s but still managed to make the £850 I needed for a competition to fly to Moscow for 5 days), I was inspired by a friend to think bigger. I decided to spend most of my time working on my budgeting app that consisted of too many features because I believed that ‘many features’ meant that it would be awesome, everyone would like it and it would get acquired by eBay, I’d go live in America and spend majority of my time driving my Bugatti. Not only would students be able to budget their finances, they would also be able to compare prices in different food retailers, message students in their uni and buy and sell their unwanted items to students on their campus. Now I have no coding ability what so ever so you’re not going to hear a story about how I locked myself in my room for days coding away and submitting something to the app store so great that the Alibaba Group and Andreessen Horowitz threw their money at me without asking to view my initial users or retention rates (I didn’t even know what these were at the time). I did however use to draw Dragon Ball Z characters in primary school and although I can no longer do this, I do own a pen…and many sheets of paper. So with the aid of my pen, my papers and the ‘shapes’ tool in Microsoft Word, I started to draw how I envisioned my app. I spent all my time doing this and I when I finally came up with a design that I liked, I decided to show it to a friend who I thought would be my partner. He said it was good but that my dream of us becoming partners would never happen because he could only make websites and was planning on working for an IT company immediately after his degree. I was shattered but decided to put my task of finding a partner on hold. Instead I decided to research how the features were going to work. For the next few months (before summer 2014), I took several trips down to London to meet with people I thought could help. I look back and laugh at the memory of their puzzled faces when I would talk about my app and tell them how much I needed the feature they offered to link to my app because it would attract investors. Then instead of bringing out my phone to show a demo, pull out pages of stapled A4 paper with my rudimentary designs. By the time it got to summer 2014 managed to find a computer science student who said he would help me but wanted money (£12,500 to be exact) instead of part of my company. You may be thinking “come of Eman, you didn’t say yes?” but I was so desperate (*key elevator music - please note that if you’re someone who’s currently got an awesome idea but need a partner, please don’t be as dumb as I was and consider forking out money. If they are serious and believe what you believe then they will work for an uncertain share rather than immediate payment. Now back to the story*) that I said “yeah sure I’ll find an investor and get you you’re money, just give me a week or two”. When I tell you that I reached out to every single VC, nearly every seed/angel investor, start up fund and start up Loans Company in the UK, you best believe that I’m telling you the truth! I printed out hundreds and hundreds of copies of my business plan (using up all my churches black printer ink on one occasion) and posted them in houses in Kensington, The Bishops Avenue and Hadley Wood. Since these houses were valued way into the millions, I believed that this was where all the investors and venture capitalists lived so why not show them how enthusiastic I am by personally posting my business plan (more of a letter begging them for money) in their letter boxes. I even stood outside an investors office (who shall remain unnamed – let’s just say he’s an ex dragon) for 7 hours for him to tell me that I’m “chasing a rabbit into a hole; sometimes we think that our first idea is great but it’s not”. It took me months (after I got over the hype that I met a millionaire) to realise how stupid that advice was. I mean seriously, what kind of advice is that?! By the end of the summer, my so called developer/friend quit and told me that my idea was “dumb” and that no one would ever be interested. What made his words hurt even more was the fact that although I knew he agreed to help me because I promised that I would find an investor, I truly believed that we were friends and that we would one day be official partners and co-found a company so awesome, that Mark Zuckerberg would personally hop on a plane and get an Oyster card just to meet us (he probably would have got an Uber tbh). It was obvious that this wouldn’t happen so I decided to give up and head back to uni for second year. Before Christmas, I spent a lot of time sulking in my room and thinking about how much of a failure I was. I even had a pity after party with an open bar and all. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about my app and all the students that would have benefited from it, the awesome team members that I would have had the privilege of working with, the look on my mum’s face when she saw what I had accomplished and all the striving entrepreneurs that I would have given hope to. Then a few weeks before my Christmas break it hit me – the greatest endeavours since the dawn of time, have all experienced failure. It took Thomas Edison over 10,000 times to develop the incandescent light bulb and all I’ve done is manage to not find an investor – so bloody what! I read stories about entrepreneurs who made millions then lost hundreds of millions and I was still crying about the £300 “deposit” that my ex developer refused to give back to me. Although I had no co-founder, no app and no investor, I had many invaluable lessons that I learnt and could use to make wiser decisions in the future. So I got up from my chair, attended [some] lectures and decided to not only start working on my app again, but read as much as possible to avoid certain pitfalls and tune my mind to the end goal because I knew that there was a chance failure was waiting around the corner - with a bat…and a few boys. Fast forward to summer 2015 and I began my search again for my co-founder. I called hundreds of app development companies and all but one said that they “do not work for just equity”. The one company that said they were interested asked me to send them my concept but never replied to my email. I even got laughed out of Airbnb’s London office but I guess that was my fault. It was only when I attended one last event on Meetup that I met my cofounder (Harry – he’s a cool dude). The funny thing is that he wasn’t even at the event. He dropped his details into the group and my optimistic nature said “go on, message him!” So I messaged him and after about a day or two he replied and said he would be interested in meeting up. I can’t remember exactly what I said but all I remember was that I pitched like it was my last opportunity. It must have worked since he decided to partner up with me. He challenged my thinking and made me focus my efforts more. As a result, we decided to scrap all but one of our features. UnItrade. Since the time I failed and returned to university, I realised that UnItrade is more than just a good idea or a way for me to make money (it has to be lol, since we don’t plan on making any right now). I now have Harry who’s writing the app and my good friend George who is helping a lot with design – I use to think that I was a good designer but his skills are at a ‘boss man’ level wayyy beyond my comprehension. What do I do, you make ask. In the words of Simon Sinek, “I’m the why guy”. My job is to ensure that we fulfil our ‘Why’ – to positively impact the lives of students all around the world. UnItrade has come a long way and I believe that we will go further and if we do, please do not focus only on our achievements, look at all our previous failures and weaknesses and be inspired. If we can achieve incredible things despite how we started off then I dare you to strive for greater. “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s thinking drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”. Steve Jobs, 2005

Emmanuel (Eman) Akinkuolie Co-founder of UnItrade