Danielle Dodoo is Founder and CEO of Piin and Pintro, apps that connect users in real-time and facilitate community support.
Where did your business idea come from? Tell us about your start-up journey
Throughout my corporate career, I’ve had various side hustles and I have experienced the challenges of taking a vision from the idea stage to launch, more than once. Despite my experience, it has never ceased to surprise me how hard it is to search for and connect with the right people and communities that I needed to unlock doors and support me on my journey.
As an entrepreneur and freelancer, and particularly as a female founder, my need to find a community and a support system is a priority for my success – because no one can succeed alone, but with the plethora of social networking tools, it can still be incredibly hard to make the right connections. I remember having to rely heavily on books, Google, YouTube, articles and blogs to help me get my head around the process, tools and various stages that I needed to take to get my apps live. The advice and narrative were always from a third-party perspective; from people I hadn’t met, couldn’t relate to, who couldn’t tailor their advice to my specific challenges and I really felt a void in regards to feeling supported. Not knowing who I could turn to for help really took a toll on my motivation and my ability to maintain momentum to move forwards.
I tried to leverage communities wherever I could but when I was at a coworking space or an event, it became very clear that I was missing out on opportunities to make valuable and meaningful connections. Networking events were the worst. My inability to identify the right people in the room was like Russian roulette. I found the whole process exhausting and had no tools to help me navigate the room. Apart from a few serendipitous encounters, I left events deflated and feeling like I had wasted my time.
My goal in 2018 was to help individuals connect with like-minded people in real life, organically whilst encouraging people to socialise offline and in the real world. So I built and launched Piin which allows people to match based on preferences with the goal to network, date or find friends. Piin is currently available on both AppStores and the user-base is growing organically at the moment, with around 3000 users. But the challenges I faced during the journey to get Piin live inspired me to research and understand why a large number of entrepreneurs and freelancers like me continue to feel like we don’t have a support network to support our goals and continue to find it difficult to tap into the communities we are already part of.
Getting our products and services live would be a lot easier if we could lean on people who have already been there and are willing to share their knowledge and contacts.
I really believe that knowledge is a resource. It’s the power that can be shared and recycled throughout our communities. We should be able to tap into this power and be a lot more efficient when it comes to networking and sharing experience and connections, in a non-transactional way.
So I decided to build Pintro, an app which serves as a community manager and facilitates engagement within communities by making it easy to ask for help amongst your community and peers, request introductions and offer your support based on the skills you have. It’s also a great replacement for people who don’t like the cold, transactional nature of LinkedIn and who want to build and maintain meaningful, valuable connections.
What is your background? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to you as a tech founder?
I’m a first-time founder of mixed White and Black African heritage (Ghana and Uganda). My father was a Diplomat so I spent my childhood at different schools in different countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Czechoslovakia. I went to King’s College London and studied English and Classics then decided to move to New York and study Computer Science and follow a career in I.T. I’ve now spent 18 years working in the technology and financial sectors, delivering digital transformation projects. As such, I’m used to often being one of the very few women, not to mention women of colour, in my working environment.
Despite my substantial experience of working in technology, as a first-time founder, I still felt challenged in launching my first app. I faced similar problems to most tech start-ups – namely finding trustworthy and competent service providers – both in development, finance and marketing. And then, of course, there are the challenges of raising finance, particularly as solo, female founder. There are also so many facets of starting a Business that are not technology related, like understanding how to stay positive, how to maintain a balanced work-life, how not to beat yourself up when things go wrong. For these, you need to have a support network of people who understand your journey and have experienced similar pain. I’ve had to build up my networks, and in fact, this is what my apps will help others to do.
How has OneTech supported you?
When I found OneTech I had already launched Piin. It had been on the app store for a couple of months and I’d had about 1000 users downloaded. I was selected as a later stage start-up potentially looking for investment. However, being a solo female founder, I was keen to understand how to best showcase myself in order to attract financing. Whilst I understood that there were various routes I could go down for investment and finding a team, I was grateful for the workshops and advice on everything from storytelling, pitch decks, pitching and what to expect when raising funds. The most valuable workshop for me was the pitch readiness day. They showed us how to project our voices and carry ourselves confidently on stage.
The ongoing Mindful sessions with Emma have been invaluable. They keep me focussed on moving forwards and knowing that there is always someone experienced and positive to reach out to as part of group sessions, or individually, has been incredibly appreciated.
How has OneTech helped you overcome challenges you have faced?
Partly from the practical lessons I learned in the workshops, I think one of the most valuable things to me was meeting other black female founders, understanding the challenges they’d faced, whether it was looking for investment or having their ideas taken seriously.
One Tech really helped me in understanding the ecosystem and knowing how challenging it is as a female founder and a black female founder and how difficult it might be to get investment.
It’s been a blessing to connect with a few wonderful, inspiring and talented women and remained friends with them. It’s so important to meet and be supported by other like-minded female founders and grow together.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve recently taken on a contract role for a Saudi Bank in order to supplement the business and raise capital. However, as with my first app Piin, I will still continue to put in the work outside of my 9-5 and get Pintro launched, piloted and get feedback and continue to gain traction. I already have five communities signed up so I’m excited to see what product-market fit will look like in the next year.
I am also open to angel investment. I believe I am highly investable (wink).