Step by step...
We hope this blog reaches everyone safe and healthy.
A fun fact to begin with. Did you know that Vector Homes is a real COVID start-up? I, Jonas, have never met the others in person! At the moment we’re even divided by borders and time zones and still, we’re making progress every day. And our progress is what we wanted to talk about in this blog post.
Communicating our Vision
One of the first challenges we faced in the beginning was how do we get our ideas visualised? Drawing on paper and holding it into the camera during a zoom call wouldn’t do the trick. We soon realised we needed some powerful software to get this done and someone who can handle the software accordingly. For us, this was Tiago, an incredibly talented architect who helped us to bring our ideas into Revit to create 3D models, which made it invaluable easier to communicate our ideas to partners, customers, investors, and other stakeholders.
While working on our 3D Revit Models, we engaged with the Masood Enterprise Centre of Alliance Manchester Business School and participated in two start-up competitions. After a few meetings and some paperwork, we managed to win not one, but two awards, the Adam Sanders Kickstarter Award, and the Flying Starter Award. Great achievements for our young venture and important positive feedback to further validate our business idea.
We first had a hard time with investors, “How many houses have you built and sold?”, “Interesting venture, but you’re too early for us”, “Have you demonstrated product market fit?” were just some of the questions of our first investor conversations and engagements, unfortunately most of them, we couldn’t provide satisfying answers. We were in a real catch 22 situation, a classical chicken-egg-problem. No-one wants to make the first jump into the unknown and invest into a young and talented team before anyone else. But there was hope, what lifted us out of this situation were letters of intent which we got from several housing associations. We ended up having letters of intent for more than 700 houses a year only about 1.5 months later.
In the research world we’ve been engaged in two projects with different research organisations: The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester and the Construction Futures Research Centre (CFRC). The two projects go hand in hand but are focused on different facets of our proposition. At the GEIC we’re testing out the initial material formulations in order to identify the materials and processing parameters to optimise the mechanical property benefits; enabling increased durability and sustainability. We’re also ensuring that the material’s we’re producing fit within the parameter windows that our manufacturing partners can handle so that the winning formulations can immediately be scaled up. We’re working with the CFRC to look at the structural design and how our standardised components can be manufactured most efficiently. Both projects will be coming to completion in the coming weeks. We’ll be moving onto second phase developments with both these esteemed institutes.
SEIS and EIS
During the same time, we contacted and had meetings with the housing associations for the letters of intent, we took care of the SEIS and EIS application. After hours of preparation and perfecting the business plan, pitch and all the other necessities we did it, we sent the materials out and sure enough only about a week later we got the message from companies house enterprise centre that our application was successful and Vector Homes is officially SEIS and EIS eligible and approved.
What does every company or startup need in order to reach their customers and potential investors without forcing them to read? In today’s picture and video-driven world of course, we needed a commercial. So that was the next crucial step for us. You remember Tiago? Exactly the gentleman who helped us with our first 3D renders, he was crazy enough to take on the task and do his best to create a proper video for us. Even though that was the first time he did this, the outcome was great. After adding some professional voice-over, as well as some specifically made background music, it was done and even without actively promoting it, we have more than 120 views so far and we’ve been ready to go in our promo offence once we finished dirty hands week.
Dirty Hands Week
Our next milestone towards seed investment readiness was what we named “Dirty Hands Week”. What happened in this last week of April was that we built our first full sized MVP wall, 3 meters long and 2.5 meters high. We needed three days to prepare all the off the shelf components and assemble it, and only a couple of hours to disassemble the entire structure and get it out of the lab we built it in. Other than getting something tangible and marketable, the most valuable thing we got out of that Dirty Hands Week was a massive pile of organisational learning and testing on what we must improve in future versions of our wall. An essential step in every start-ups journey.
Our next goal is to build a prototype home, working with our partners to obtain the requisite certifications to ensure the houses are mortgageable and will stand the test of time.
So, everything that is left really is to get investment in. In order to do so, with now all our boxes ticked, we’ll go into investor conversations again and might also launch a crowdfunding campaign. By now we’re extremely confident we’ll convince investors that Vector Homes is the future of housing, because housing is a right, not a luxury.