In conversation with Wai Foong, Founder at Matchable and Upwards fellow
The Outward team have been working closely with Matchable, who are the latest start-up on Upwards – a bespoke D&I initiative by Outward and Investec which involves hosting one company at a time in our offices (now virtually) and bridging the gap - be it network, skills or advice - wherever we can. We had a call with Foong to hear more about her entrepreneurial journey so far and how the team are pivoting the business under Covid-19.
This talented team have taken on the role of Matchmaker for social impact projects. Through an online platform, Matchable connects teams and individuals with unique upskilling projects at non-profits and impact start-ups. All matches have one criteria: projects must be either highly innovative or deliver high impact. Over the next five years, the team is on a mission to deliver 500,000 impactful hours and £422m worth of value to organisations that are committed to changing the world. Whether it’s connecting the Red Cross with lawyers Ashurst to legalise cryptocurrency as a form of donation, or working with amazing tech-for-good start-ups like Xploro, who use AR and AI to prepare children with long term illnesses for their stay in hospital – Matchable are certainly delivering on their promise of going beyond the norm.
How it all began
I was at PwC for 13 years where I was a Director in the M&A tax team until summer 2018. I always had an interest in start-ups and eventually decided to take the leap! The idea behind Matchable came out of The Good Lab incubator – a collaboration between 8 of the UK’s largest charities (including the RSPCA, WaterAid, the British Red Cross) and a group of innovation consultants called Good Innovation. They were looking to develop viable ideas for start-ups that they could invest in, to prove that charities could create a new income stream by investing in for profit businesses that solved some of their collective problems.
Starting a company in 2019, growing a company through Covid-19
As companies began to cut down on discretionary spending (and any kind of spending!), it became clear that for some of our larger clients, the sales cycle would be much longer. We were however still seeing a number of individuals coming to us, eager to pick up projects and provide support. We therefore built and launched our Matchable Membership – a more affordable B2C model, giving individuals access to our database of pre-curated, ready to go projects. We supplemented this with a programme of dynamic meet the founder events, access to our community and 1 to 1s with some of the UK’s best fitness experts, to provide a holistic membership package. We launched at the end of April and the response has been amazing so far! Especially since we launched our Buy One, Give One campaign, where for every membership bought, we gift one to a non-profit or impact start-up to get them the resource they need too!
Covid-19 to the side. Starting a company in London
Coming from a corporate environment where things can get quite competitive (!), I imagined this attitude would be replicated in the start-up world because you would think you have so much more to lose but actually the whole startup ecosystem is incredibly friendly, encouraging and very much about helping each other out. It’s a great community to be a part of and I’ve met some incredibly inspiring and generous people.
Women navigating the start-up ecosystem
The network and how the start-up ecosystem is set up is still not quite ready for female founders where I found, the idea of an ‘old boys network’ can still be quite prevalent among certain VCs and angels. There are however some incredible initiatives in place trying to redress the balance – so I am hopeful things are moving in the right direction.
There is also something fundamentally different about the way that females approach things which can sometimes be misinterpreted. For example, by nature I might be quite conservative in giving a forecast of my numbers in comparison to some of my male peers. This doesn’t mean my startup doesn’t have as much potential, just sometimes women’s confidence manifests in different ways to men.
Experience on Upwards so far?
Only taking on one start-up at a time means you get a level of really personalised support that is unlike any other incubator or accelerator I’ve been on. It’s a very customised experience where the doors to every resource available at Investec are opened for you. Any help you need, whether it’s marketing, financial, research – the team are happy to provide.
The team at Outward are also incredible – so friendly, engaged, supportive and generous with their time and resources. It has truly been an incredible experience for me and the Matchable team. We can’t thank them enough.
Get in touch with Foong and the Matchable team here.
We’re always on the look out for new companies to join Upwards, please get in touch here.