How many years have you been a Founder?

3.

Are you a first-time or serial Founder:

Serial founder.

What's your backstory. How did you come to be a Founder?:

I got involved in the tech/startup scene in Newcastle upon Tyne during my PhD, basically by attending startup events and working out of a local (free and amazing!) co-working space called Campus North. I met some great people, made a lot of friends, tried out loads of ideas, and ultimately founded my first real startup - Fair Custodian. After Fair Custodian I joined Entrepreneur First where I met my current co-founder and founded Gensyn - which we’re working on now.

What has been your highlight as a Founder?

Finding that combination of concept and explanation that makes people say “wow, of course” at all levels of technical detail. I’ve been involved in, and explained, a lot of different ideas - some more niche and technical than others. Finding the one that makes sense and resonates at all levels of technical detail is a fantastic feeling that comes with a huge amount of clarity and purpose.

What has been your lowlight as a Founder?

Two points - both from previous projects, early on in my startup journey: For a singular moment: Walking 4 miles home at night, exhausted, after a 16 hour day juggling startup fundraising and writing my PhD thesis. I was waiting for a credit card limit extension and didn’t have the £2.80 to get public transport. More broadly: Being naively lost in the VC “not at this time” cycle, iterating on the small points they would make that ultimately weren’t the pivotal factor in an investment decision, or the best thing for us to be working on as a business.

How did you come across Landscape?

In a previous life, Joe went through the same accelerator (Ignite) as I did with Fair Custodian so we’ve known each other through that network for a while. I love the idea of Landscape and it’s been awesome to watch it develop so far - I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.

Biggest challenge right now/thing you need help on:

Understanding the challenges that come with the next step of growth - hiring the best team and building our company culture. I’d love to hear different opinions and contexts on this. So far, chatting with other founders at the same, and next, stage has been really helpful. The Landscape community (particularly Anonymous Founders) has been pretty good for this, with some candid insights that are traditionally quite hard to find.


What's the biggest mistake you’ve made so far and what did you learn from it?

Not recognising a clear turning point quickly enough. As is typical for a startup, Gensyn has evolved somewhat from its initial goals and concept. With hindsight we spent longer than we should have in a sort of limbo before fully recognising the signals that we were getting from the market and making the leap to tackle them directly. I’ve learned to take the time to properly listen to those back-of-the-mind thoughts that often gather before a conscious realisation.

What piece of advice would you give to other Founders?

You are the expert on your startup/idea/thoughts/plans/etc. It’s a piece of advice that was given to me a long time ago and has come up constantly ever since. It essentially means that you should take the external advice/mentorship that you get in the context it is given, by acknowledging the experiences and potential biases that sit behind it. This way you can more objectively understand what’s being said and accept or reject the principles - not the raw content. You always have more context on your idea than someone else but it can be very easy to be swayed into the wrong choices by awe or perceived authority.

What is the most frustrating thing you find about the startup fundraising ecosystem?

The disincentive for potential investors to say no or give true reasons for declining to invest. There are strong market reasons why this is the case so I’m not attributing fault, but it constantly trips up first-time founders (I was one of them), wastes a huge amount of their time, and creates an unfortunate “us vs them” view in the founder community that can be quite negative. I’m sure a number of teams that could have done brilliant things have been lost to futile iterations based on misinformation and come away with a jaded view of the space as a result.

What you would like to see change in the startup fundraising ecosystem within the next 5 years?:

More regional decentralisation of investment capital and startup programmes. There are fantastic people building amazing things outside of the usual hubs and major cities. I’d like to see programmes that can nurture these teams (and individuals) and show them the routes that are available - I was lucky to find a community in Newcastle that did exactly this and it shaped a lot of the choices I made by showing me that those choices existed and were viable for me. I have no doubt that there are great investment opportunities there but they take a bit more effort to uncover - I’d like to see someone properly test that assumption.

Ben is the Co-Founder of Gensyn which is building a decentralised ML compute network. His LinkedIn profile can be found here & his Twitter here.

His email address is also ben@gensyn.ai and he is happy to be contacted.