In October 2018 Turbine, ran the first edition of the Test Drive Program. Katapult was one of the 30 projects pre-incubated at Turbine and one of the 4 of them that followed through into the incubation program. Today, Katapult is an award-winning start-up that’s making ripples in the African region. Jade Li chats to us about this fantastic journey in becoming an entrepreneur.
What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurial journey?
I was working as a medical device engineer. I designed and developed medical devices from conception to implementation in production. This involves defining specifications for the product, along with the CAD design, prototyping, testing and finally setting up procedures for manufacturing.
What was your thought process when you saw the ad for Test Drive in 2018?
At that point, I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but I didn’t really know where or how to start. When I saw the Test Drive ad, it was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
What was your experience of getting started? Was it more difficult than you thought it would be, or was it different?
When I started in January 2019, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and I think that’s probably why I took the plunge. Thinking back now, it was a lot harder than I could have ever imagined. Over the course of the year, there were weeks when I thought: “Oh I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing” and then there were weeks where I felt like everything was out of control and I was overwhelmed. The one thing I’ve learned this year: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am sure that I am only at the beginning of my roller coaster journey and there will be more twists, turns and dips ahead.
How did the Incubation at Turbine help?
Where Turbine really helped for me was the support that they provide. Meeting with my coach Aysha every week has been so helpful. The entrepreneurial journey can be very lonely when you don’t have the right people around you. Aside from the weekly meeting, the people at Turbine are always here to help.
What went wrong?
Things did not go according to plan. At the beginning, I had assumptions about the market that turned out not to be exactly what I thought. So, I’ve had to change my business model a few times. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer.
What were the milestones you were able to celebrate?
There were so many milestones to celebrate this year!
- Leaving my job to work on Katapult full time
- Doing my first workshop
- Doing my first workshop at a school for the after-school activities
- Hiring my first team member
- Winning the 2nd prize for Total Startupper Challenge
- Winning the Peer Review competition at an accelerator called Yher in Johannesburg
What would be a piece of advice that you would give to anyone with a business idea in mind?
If you have an idea, make a prototype and go out there and test it. And apply to Test Drive to get the support you will need!