It’s not every day you get to meet a UN Young Champion of the Earth (there are only seven in the world), let alone do yoga warrior one poses or work alongside them every day.
Meet conscious enviro champ, ex-mechanical engineer and Alpha Alumni Hugh Weldon. Motivated by the Paris climate accord in 2015 to limit Global Warming to 2 degrees Celsius, he and his co-founder built Evocco, an app which tracks your ecological footprint the climate impact of your food purchases. He talks to us about imposter syndrome, purpose, and the growing pains and mistakes of the first year.
ON EARLY-STAGE NAIVETY
Age is relative, not just relative to the task but relative to your perception of success. I always associated youth with inexperience but now I see that youth is a real advantage with no ties or commitments and fuelled by 100% excitement.
“You don’t know what you don’t know”…
There’s a beautiful naivety that allows you to start building a product with only a few facts, compensated by a lot of passion and motivation. But that first-year excitement can only get you so far. You quickly need to figure out how you keep the motivation as the facts build and how you add a layer of discipline.
ON YEAR ONE GROWING PAINS
On my 25th birthday, we held our first event at Trinity College. 60 people attended and I thought, this is amazing. Fast forward one year later and I’m on a panel addressing the UN. In just 12 months, the team of Evocco went from just being a couple of labs lads to being invited to the UN Environment Champion’s of the Earth dinner in New York and presenting at the environmental assembly in Kenya. Our profile sky-rocketed, and I’m grateful for that, but no one prepares you for what’s going on behind the scenes. We weren’t keeping up to speed with that type of growth and our timelines and processes were unraveling.
Looking back now, from a technical point of view, I wish I knew how long product design takes and how to communicate ideas more clearly to a developer. I remember someone told me that when you’re reading stats like 90% of startups fail, that you shouldn’t silently exclude yourself from it.
Know how unlikely it is to be the 10%, understand the risk involved, and if the cause means enough just do it anyway.
ON CO-FOUNDERS OR GOING SOLO
We couldn’t do any of this without our co-founder Ahmad Mu’azzam (how good are teams with co-founders?). If it was me on my own, I wouldn’t be able to last this long and I’d probably be going nowhere. Our dynamic works and our personalities and skills are split down the middle; he’s more self assured, more organised, a methodical thinker bringing all the business skills. I’m more scatterbrains, activist and focus more on product. It helps that we went to university and entered competitions together so we know how the other operates.
ON BEING TERRIFIED
Once a month, we have ‘Voxbox’ at Huckletree D2. A group of founders come together to talk about what’s killing them this month. It’s a chance to speak to more experienced, more senior founders to gauge their perspective on everything from talent through to hiring. It helps me to feel less alone and totally terrified.
The dangerous thing is that imposter syndrome carries through to your product, so if you believe your product is shit, then you’re not really going to share it with people to get the feedback. So somehow you need to fight through the fear and learn not to care.
ON GETTING PEOPLE TO CARE
Human nature is what we’re fighting against. As a generation and a society, we’re really bad at thinking long-term and we get caught up in the immediacy in life. When something affects us on a global level it’s so hard to conceptualise it.
I love Patagonia’s mission – every decision we make is for this company to exist in 100 years time. For Evocco, the goal is to make environmental impact a part of everyone’s purchasing behaviour. Everything you buy is a vote for what kind of future you want. Because if you’re buying a shirt for 3 euros, someone else is paying for that….
ON WHO HE WANTS TO LEARN FROM IN THE COMMUNITY
I need to sit down with Sleep Score labs to learn about what they’ve been working on in behaviour change and Earnest Research for some data science advice. We enjoy candid chats with Syze and VicoBay about company stage and Kontainers to get a broader business perspective.