For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we spoke to Nicholas Martin, the CEO and founder of Investigate the unknown, a startup company focusing on technological and media solutions for various unknown phenomena subjects.
Born and raised in London, Nicholas has a professional background in digital marketing. He often applies a calm and considered focus to solving problems that provide very positive and visionary results.
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?
So long story short, I have had a few different jobs in different industries, from car mechanic, customer service, engineering, moderation & creative writing to digital marketing and even some acting.
As far as my personal life’s concerned, I was a sick child and spent most of my childhood in and out of the hospital. Thankfully, I stayed away for now!
Concerning my business, it started as I daydreamed and stared at the stars in the back of a bus on my way home from a friend’s place. I was thinking of a way not to be in a dead-end job for the rest of my life. Suddenly, this idea for the app popped into my head.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
We have had a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Some of them have been exciting: being in discussions for receiving large investment sums to helping secure the future of one of our team members.
However, the interest and a very positive reaction from so many people seeing our product being created and coming to life is probably the most exciting part of our journey so far.
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?
One of our biggest mistakes was overreaching.
We spent a long time designing the vision for Investigate the Unknown. After the design, we had a very grand idea for our launch product, the Nanu application.
We wasted a lot of time contacting developers and were getting huge quotations to produce it, in the ranges of £150,000 – £250,000. On the back of those quotations, we sought large investment opportunities to acquire the funds to develop the application.
We then realised that scaling down our initial product to its base features would drastically save development costs, and we would be far more likely to secure smaller investments.
In hindsight applying that strategy from the beginning would have saved us a huge amount of time.
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 the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
We totally agree that diversity is great when it comes to teams. We do not discriminate against people based on race, nationality, gender or anyone in general.
Our team is international and includes people with mobility disabilities. We are very happy to include anyone with the right skills and attitude in our executive team, and part of that attitude is to accept all individuals.
If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
We would love to be able to make an impactive change to many world problems.
One of the most significant impacts on societies across the world is technology. Modern technologies have helped people all across the globe have easier access to some of the most basic human needs.
One of our biggest ideals is to help people with their sustainability. We aim one day to help communities around the globe by creating a movement that focuses on providing technologies that can help people live independent self-sustainable existences at as low a cost as possible.
Ideally, one of our biggest goals is to use this process to provide free water, food, and energy. Although realistically, without severe innovation of technologies and economic practices, this may not be possible.
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 only person apart from my future self would be Nikola Tesla. I have so much respect, interest, admiration and just pure awe for him as a human being.
My three questions for him will be:
- When was the first time you had your visions for electricity?
- How could I help you create your vision for free wireless energy?
- Toward the end of your life, what one thing do you wish you could accomplish?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
“Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and make a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I feel that everyone should have their own path and journey in life and not just become a copycat but create new grounds and invitations and make your trail inspire others. I have had this quote in my head for many years now, and now, it could not be more important and true in this startup journey, and I am now creating my own trail!
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?
I remember the day clearly. I was on a bus on the way home from visiting a friend. While staring at the stars, the idea popped into my head about an application for “Investigating the Unknown.”
I had often been interested in stories of unknown phenomena and realised a whole audience was not being catered to in this time of information at your fingertips.
The whole idea started from there and snowballed into a company with a vision. I had previously worked in an independent team filming and producing media, and after some careful planning with one of my colleagues from our media days, we created a very fleshed-out roadmap for our company and its goals.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
We have a hugely ambitious plan for Investigate the Unknown that will make it a unique company that is, in ways, forging a new industry.
Our mobile application is just the beginning, and in itself, it is a very unique product. Nothing currently in the marketplace compares to what we are building. This will give our company its own identity, and we will enhance that identity moving forwards with our publication, media and game development plans.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
I would like to say that having business knowledge to make a startup company, I had pretty much zero knowledge when starting, but you learn along the way. Don’t let this scare you away from not starting a startup.
Also, you’ll hear people say, “if your MVP is taking a while to develop, then it’s not an MVP.” That’s not necessarily always true.
I have seen this mentioned in a few different podcasts and so on. Everyone’s MVP is different. Apple’s first iPhone was technically an MVP, which took two and a half years to develop. I would say, like our MVP, we are taking our time with it to make sure it’s a lot more polished for our release.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
Founding a small business is more about the trading of goods or services. Small businesses generally have simple goals and, once established, should produce revenue with some degree of consistency based on their industry.
Startups are about executing a vision, often introducing new business concepts to existing marketplaces or innovations of existing products. They focus on the growth of the business and establishing the concept in the marketplace.
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?
1. A rational, considerate nature.
When running a startup, many problems can spring out of nowhere, and dealing with them calmly and carefully is key.
2. Open-minded and adaptable.
Being able to adapt to situations and always remaining open and mindful of all of the possibilities, there is usually more than one way to solve a problem.
3. Being honest with yourself and others.
It’s easy to get carried away with your success just as easily as to ignore or dismiss your failures. Either way, not being honest with yourself will lead you to become ungrounded in your vision.
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?
1. Allowing yourself to become frustrated.
Many things will not go according to plan, and it’s vital not to become frustrated if things don’t go exactly how you expect or as fast as you want them to. Your frustrations will likely come out on the team around you, creating negativity that can affect healthy progression.
2. Poor organisation.
Fairly obvious that there are many roles you may have to cover as a founder until you can afford to delegate to a hired position. It’s very easy to mismanage yourself and your team, and it’s important to ensure you are on top of everything. You need to keep organised, from clear communication and ensuring everyone is aware of what is expected of them to managing your business accounts.
3. Not understanding your marketplace.
Having a good startup idea is one thing. Understanding how to execute your vision and bring it to life is the real challenge. To do this, you must understand where your idea fits in its marketplace.
Not doing the research and expecting your idea to work is a recipe for failure.
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.
1. Make sure you believe in your startup, idea, or product.
When the hard times hit (because they will hit), make sure that you and the rest of your team really believe in what you are doing. Otherwise, at the first signs of hardship, you will most likely start to give up.
This has been important in my journey as the nature and idea behind it are not easy to pull off.
2. If you have a vision beyond your first product, company and or idea, make sure you create stepping stones and a roadmap to achieve the next stage of your vision.
For my company, I have a generational vision. But in creating this, I needed to ensure I had a realistic way of achieving each stage.
This is why I say creating stepping stones to help with progress in your vision, small but progressive steps to the next stage.
3. In the early stages of a startup, spend as little money as possible.
Because the failure rate is incredibly high, around 90%, making sure you save and being really efficient with your money is key. As my project has been entirely self-funded up until this point, I would highly recommend it if you can do it.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
Investigate the Unknown is Raising!
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