Keshav Bhatt is the founder of Revolution Hive, a social enterprise which aims to empower young people to take responsibility for dealing with the biggest challenges facing society in the 21st century. Revolution Hive is currently part of the London and South East 2016/17 Young Academy cohort.
We asked Keshav for some insight into what it takes to run a social start-up and what he’s learnt on his journey so far on our Young Academy programme which supports early-stage social ventures working to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged young people in England. Here’s what he had to say:
What do you think are the 3 main success factors to becoming a successful social innovation and making a positive change?
I think 3 factors that have really helped Revolution Hive grow to where it is now are:
- Give people ownership & trust. As founders we often become a burden to the business. Most people mistakenly see their social innovation as their “baby”. And I used to be like this too. I understand why, you’ve chosen this path of uncertainty and it’s required a lot of sacrifice and uncertainty most likely so you want to really hold onto it and nurture it as much as you can, you want to be involved in all the action. However, this impacts your decision making in a way that limits its potential. Instead of seeing the business as your baby you have to realise that you are your business’ baby. You are there to do a job (an important one) but that means doing whatever the mission requires. Are you willing to step aside and let someone else take things forward? If there was a better CEO for example, would you willingly step aside and follow their lead? I started the company in late 2012 and took it as far as I could. Along the way I met some incredible people, some of them were clients, or suppliers or people who helped to deliver our services to customers and as much as my ego loved being the main man involved in everything I had to put that to one side and build a credible team. So throughout 2016, I started to bring some of those incredible people on board and give them a real stake in the company and, as a result, creating a culture and shared vision that people really wanted to work towards.
- Sustainable iteration. I think sometimes we favour growth unnecessarily. Stability is massively underrated and it’s important to know the right timing for creating changes. Sometimes it’s very okay, even desirable to just maintain your current level of impact and operations so you can refine the details. Are you going above and beyond in your product development? Is your route to market as refined as it could be? How happy are your past customers? How good is your team culture? Are you building around your revenue and sales or around what you think the market wants?
- Read & research widely. If you are a leader in your organisation, and I don’t just mean by title, I mean by nature, you absolutely have to make sure you are investing time in learning. I read 50 books last year and wrote summaries of every single one. I go on CPD days every month. I speak to people much more experienced than me in my sector to try and understand better and improve every day. The more informed you are, the better your decision making is going to be. So if you have 100 books, several conversations with experts and trainings under your belt when you make one single decision, imagine how much more effective it will be.
What has been the most valuable thing you have learnt through the Young Academy so far?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far from the Young Academy has been the importance of due diligence in every aspect of your organisation and being as thorough as you can be. Social impact drives what we do, but we are still a business. When you spend time working with experts on things like a PESTLE analysis, or your Theory of Change and you go through multiple revisions (and I’m sure many more to come) it helps you understand better what to focus on and not to focus on. I’ve enjoyed this learning and development the most on the programme as I know that growth has been extremely beneficial for our venture.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you personally and for Revolution Hive when setting it up?
The biggest challenge was that I had no real business model and had to learn how to think more entrepreneurially myself. I started the company from my bedroom which I shared with my little brother, so I would sometimes be on calls with clients, trying to prove myself as a young 21-year-old, and he’s making noise in the background or trying to put me off. It really wasn’t easy. I wasn’t sure of a lot of things, other than that I knew there was a gap, and that many other people felt the same about it. At times it has been slow and unclear how and if things would change but thankfully, I’ve worked at it, gotten lots of help and re-adjusted and re-iterated continuously to develop something better as time goes on.
If you could change one thing about your social innovation journey, or do one thing differently, what would it be?
One thing I would do differently if I could start again would be to tell the 21-year-old me to trust his gut and keep at it and simply to not be afraid to spend a bit more time creating quality. There’s no need to rush the process. From making a YouTube video to designing a workshop, don’t feel you have to cut any corners in the interests of immediate efficiency. It’s better to simplify, do one thing really well and then go from there. And also to read Second Bounce of the Ball by Ronald Cohen & Doing Good Better by William MacAskill.