The Startup That Grew By 500% in Lockdown

Huckletree's Editorial TeamThe Editorial TeamHuckletree12/4/2020

A study by EngineeringUK saw that young people have an increased interest in STEM careers post-pandemic. However, with only 18% of females considering themselves likely to pursue tech careers, historic gender disparities in aspiration may be accentuated. We need inspiring, engaging and welcoming tools to encourage more girls to get stuck into tech – and kittens might just be the answer. 

Yes, really. The cat has long been the Internet’s favourite pet™️, with fans waving the flag for felines all the way back in the 90s net. Kittens are culturally significant. Erase All Kittens cleverly takes a meme-able icon and combines it with a half unicorn, half mermaid “Serial Entrepreneur Extraordinaire”  to create a bizarre, hilarious, adventure in coding.

Last year, CEO and Creative Director Dee Saigal was victorious in our Renegade Search, garnering praise from our judging panel for being the first game to inspire girls to code whilst teaching professional coding skills. Determined to increase the numbers of girls entering STEM fields, Dee’s goal is to inspire 10 million girls to code by 2025 – and the need is more important than ever in COVID-19 world.

Fundraising during a pandemic

Virtually every business on the planet has been impacted by lockdown. For Erase All Kittens however, it was a serendipitous case of right product, right time and right place – AKA completely virtual. As physical educational institutions closed their doors and homeschooling became the norm, Dee and the team saw their traction increase by an incredible 500%. Parents and caregivers desperate for an hour’s peace to hop on a Zoom call or handle homebound school holidays turned to Erase All Kittens for a fun and importantly, productive solution. A namecheck in the Independents and Vodaphone’s top apps to keep kids occupied and learning cemented its status as a go-to lockdown tool. It wasn’t just harried parents who saw the value in EAK, as Dee explains: 

“We were in the middle of fundraising at the time, and my initial thoughts were that it would be even harder to raise funds as it appeared as though all investors had stopped making investments. We received a lot of support from Google for Startups and The Conduit Connect, having raised £100k from an angel investor they connected us to who recently set up a family office.”

Further angel investment followed, including one of the co-founders of Shazam and a Director at Google. Right now, EAK are in the process of closing their full £600k round with an Education Publishing House. Understandably, Dee’s feeling pretty positive…

“We carried out a lot of R&D to design and build EAK – it feels amazing not having to worry about funding for once! We also recently won a $100k grant from Grant for the Web and we’re in the process of forming some very exciting distribution partnerships.”

Going through the fundraising process right now? Dee shared her tips for fellow founders:

  • “I’d recommend making a list of all of the investors who are interested in the sector you’re in, by researching the investors of similar products and seeing if there is anyone in your network who can make intros, using Linkedin.
  • Listen to feedback but don’t feel that you need to take all of the advice offered (I used to do this), don’t let ‘no’s’ discourage you, and make sure you follow up!
  • Do your own due diligence on investors who have told you that they want to invest – reach out to other startups in their portfolio to get an understanding of what your relationship will be like.”

New hires and using tech for good

Alongside from sporadic appearances at Huckletree Soho, Team Erase All Kittens have taken the eight-month working from home experiment in their stride. Their solution? Embrace the tech – but be aware of its limitations:

“We’ve maintained good communication by using Google Meet, Slack, and Trello, daily. In-person collaboration is definitely important as it makes it a bit easier to bounce ideas, make quick amendments, and it’s much better for creating company culture which requires more effort when everyone’s working remotely. I’m really looking forward to being able to work together from Huckletree, and to celebrate our wins this year!”

Alongside locking in funding, Dee added new kitten-builders to the team:

“We’ve made five brilliant new hires in the past six months, including game developers and a marketing team. I’m excited to be focusing on the game design and creative side of our business again and I love managing our team, alongside this.”

Key to that focus shift was using lockdown to hone her talent tool kit. Like 60% of us, Dee embarked on self-improvement, with the ultimate goal of benefiting the business and herself as a founder:

“I learnt how to manage my time far better. I used to have a low-level feeling that I was never doing enough, and this, along with the struggles of fundraising, led to me making a few costly decisions. During lockdown, I ended up speaking more regularly with our advisors and to more investors – since all meetings were on Zoom. I’m not sure if I learnt a new skill but I did learn about delegating more effectively, which freed up time so that my identity no longer felt completely tied to work.”

The future?

As the first-ever Renegade Champion, Dee and the team have been Entrepreneur in Residence at Huckletree Soho, where they’ve become a firm favourite with both our team and our wider community of VCs and challenger brands. We’re delighted to hear their plans for Erase All Kitten’s post-pandemic work setup are very close to home:

“We absolutely love Huckletree’s bright plant-filled spaces, creative atmosphere, and most of all, the Huckletree community who have been a huge part of our journey. The past few months have been made infinitely better working from there, so we’ve decided to stay on next year!”

The forecast for 2021? More hard work and even more kittens… Over to you, Dee:

“Our ambition is to bridge the huge gap between kids learning computational thinking and being able to create on the web, like a developer. We’re working on a more educational and gamified version of EAK that will teach the languages of all websites and web apps, and inspire more girls to code. We’re aiming for a soft beta launch for Christmas and we’ll be releasing the full game in April next year, which will be sold to parents and schools. We’ll continue to work in the way we’ve been doing, and hopefully we’ll be able to work together in person next month!”

2020 has been tough for early-stage businesses, and we want to help new founders get off to the right start in 2021. We’re looking for the most exciting early-stage startup in Food and Beverage or Fashion and Media to join us as our Entrepreneur in Residence in London and Manchester. Apply now.

Huckletree's Editorial Team

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure can’t touch the Huckletree Editorial Team. If there’s an angle, they’ll find it. A stone unturned? They’ll turn it. This gang of wordsmiths and renegades know how to spin a story. Hear from them the insights of the startup ecosystem.

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