For our latest Startup Spotlight Series interview, we spoke to Alex Ramsden, the founder of Collabed. He talks to Trendscout about their mission to bridge the gap between University and the Workplace and help solve the skill shortage within the Construction Industry.


Alex Ramsden is an Architectural Technologist graduate who founded Collabed in November 2020. He has worked in the construction industry for 8 years and has experienced the industry’s issues first-hand. He is hardworking and focused on helping solve the skill shortage within the construction industry.


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Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?


I’ve always wanted to start a business but didn’t know what it would be. After finishing my course in June 2020, I saw the issues that graduates were facing during the Covid-19 pandemic. These graduates had finished their course and gone into a lockdown, unable to find work or network, and wrongly blamed themselves for their situation. 


The problems graduates faced were not mentioned in the news, and no one seemed to care. I wanted to do something about it. In November 2020, I set up a group on LinkedIn where construction industry members could come together and participate in CPDs. This idea then evolved, and we started a website in early 2021.


What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?


Winning a young entrepreneurs award with Virtually There was a turning point for me. Due to the pandemic and lockdowns across the UK, it was the first event I did in person for Collabed. 


Meeting other entrepreneurs and hearing their feedback and their own stories made me realise I could make Collabed work. It was the motivational boost I needed. I came away from the event with pages full of notes and a passion for driving the business forward.


No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?


Delegating tasks is something I’ve struggled with. If I can take the time to explain a task to someone, it would save me so much time in the future. I’ll continue to focus on it as it will also help my time management.


There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?


It is so important to make sure a startup is inclusive of everyone. The construction industry is male-dominated, and more needs to be done to create an equal industry. Equal opportunities must be provided for all industries, whether construction or startups.


Investors are key to making the workplace equal so that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference. Investors need to take responsibility and be mindful of whether the startup they are looking at will help create a more inclusive environment or make it worse.


If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?


Collabed would want to bring a positive change to the industry by having an equal community. Offering opportunities to graduates regardless of gender or ethnicity will be key to a balanced industry.


Collabed has to actively start conversations about this with employers, however difficult the conversation could be. A movement can only happen if everyone is working towards it.


If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?


The person I’d speak to would be Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. His business experience and philanthropy should be something that all entrepreneurs should look up to. The three questions I would ask him would be:


  1. If you were to start Microsoft again today, what would you spend the first 3 months doing?
  2. If you could start any company in 2022, would you build Microsoft again, or would you do a different company that is potentially focused on a different industry?
  3. What does a day in your life look like?


Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?


“You never lose in business. You either win, or you learn.” Melinda Emerson. This is my favourite quote and something I’ve experienced myself. If something goes wrong, but you learn from the mistake, then it’s not a loss. Making sure you don’t make the same mistake again is a win for your business.


Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?


My “A-ha” moment for Collabed was during a lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brexit and the pandemic had worsened the construction industry’s skill shortage, yet graduates could not find work.


I graduated at the start of the pandemic and saw that most students in my class could not find a job. They were at the start of their career, and they had no one in the industry they could ask for advice.


That was when I saw where the gap was. How many people would not enter the industry each year because they couldn’t find anywhere straight after university? This is an issue that the industry needed to fix, and my solution was to bring them together in a new community.


As the company progressed, I discovered that companies would prefer to hire someone with experience rather than a graduate, and they did not want to spend the time training a new hire. I wanted to see how Collabed could help make it easier for employers to hire graduates.


What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?


Our startup focuses on the community side of the construction industry, and we wanted to create a specific platform for those in the industry. Collabed also aims to have a job board that is a step above what exists currently within the industry—focused on quality rather than quantity.


Our plan today is to screen and vet candidates to save employers time. We also want to help the candidate be prepared for the working environment as they can be.


What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?


One of the misconceptions/comments I’ve seen is that you need at least 2 or 3 people to launch a startup. As an entrepreneur in my first startup, I felt like I needed to find other founders to go into business with.


As time went on, I realised as long as I could surround myself with advisors who had the experience I was missing, I didn’t need another co-founder.


If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and a small business, what would that be and why?


I have only had experience working on a startup, but I would say that a startup takes a lot more preparation. Traditional businesses can start small quite quickly and then grow over time.


In my experience with Collabed, it has been a lot of preparation to get all the data/research needed before getting to this stage. We’re still pre-revenue, but in my opinion, once we get moving, it will scale quicker than a traditional business.


What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?


In my opinion, adaptability, resilience and perseverance are my top 3 traits for launching a startup.


Being able to adapt your business is so important.


I’ve had to go through the process myself by changing the focus of the business to the job/recruitment side of the construction industry. I’ve gone through a few changes in the business after talking to advisors, and now I believe we’re in the strongest position we’ve ever been in.


Resilience is needed, especially when going through a funding round.


I’m still going through this journey, and you will come across many investors who will turn down the opportunity to invest in your business. Keep the focus on your objectives and block out the noise; otherwise, you will lose motivation to keep working on your business.


Perseverance is so important as well.


There is no right or wrong timescale for any startup. Don’t compare your business with other startups because there are always different factors depending on the customer/industry on which their business is focused. Just keep going, opportunities will always come up, and if you do get stuck, you can always adapt your business plan to suit.


Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?


I believe that ego is one of the biggest things that causes a startup founder to fail. Someone who thinks they know everything about the industry their business is in. In reality, no one knows everything, things are always changing, and you don’t need to be an expert in everything.


Poor time management is another thing I believe can cause a startup founder to fail. Planning and blocking off times in a day will help stop a founder from feeling overwhelmed. Being able to delegate is so important to growing a business, and it’s something I need to improve on myself.


Not being able to see the big picture and take a step back will also, in my opinion, cause a startup to fail. As a founder, your main job is to know little about everything in the business, and it is more difficult to step back in the early days of a start. This is because you also have to do all the tasks in all aspects of the business. I’ve had this issue myself several times, and every time I’ve stepped back, I’ve been able to drive the business forward.


As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.


Don’t take criticism to heart. Someone taking their time to look through your business is only trying to help you. Very rarely would someone criticise you as an entrepreneur, and if they do, it’s something they think you can change. I’ve been guilty of this myself and sometimes feel annoyed when I hear criticism. However, by taking a deep breath and getting more information about that criticism, I can see that the comment is justified, and I can then change something to solve the issue.


Talk/network with people. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without other people offering their support and advice. I started by reaching out to the community and seeing who else liked the idea and if they could join a what’s app group to discuss ideas. Just having that focus group helped me choose which direction to go in. I then got to the stage of bringing advisors into the business. This took Collabed a step further, allowing me to fill the gaps in my knowledge.


Grants/support networks are a great help at the beginning of your startup journey. Spending the day with other entrepreneurs helped me more than I could have imagined and gave me the boost to keep going with the business. Talking to my university about grants also gave me the financial support I needed to keep the business going. There are a lot of other places to get business support from (in terms of advice and grants).


Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.


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