Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker is a pretty amazing woman and entrepreneur. Selin founded Goodsted, a digital platform that is used to collaborate for social impact. They offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution to help organisations act on their social purpose, by effectively engaging employees and stakeholders in volunteering programmes and empowering them to take action. The platform is also an open community platform for all individuals and organisations to join and collaborate on causes and shared goals. In this interview, Selin shares everything from, how the idea came about, finding and securing investment as well as the challenges that naturally come when starting a business. Selin was the winner of the Family Business Network (FBN) Next Generation Entrepreneur awards back in 2018 and has continued to take her business from strength to strength, despite COVID-19. Read Selin’s interview with us today.   

Name: Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker

Profession: Founder & CEO

Company Name: Goodsted

On finishing university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do afterwards? 

It wasn’t a clear-cut path – but I was interested in marketing & advertising as my mother worked in marketing for many years and we have a family business in Turkey so I felt it would be good to study business at University. So I went on to study my Bachelor’s degree in Business & Management at University of Exeter. I had done many internships in marketing & advertising throughout university, and when I graduated I wanted to get a job in a marketing department of a multinational company which proved to be very difficult – primarily due to competition but also because I required visa-sponsorship as a non-EU citizen. 

In the end, I received a job offer from a brand valuation & strategy consultancy that I had interned with before. They wanted to hire me as a Marketing Manager, and had clients in Turkey therefore were interested to hire a Turkish speaker for the role – and this is how I was able to receive sponsorship for a work visa.  I spent two years working on a variety of tasks; business development, event management, branding, marketing, consulting…. One day I came across an article on ‘Design Thinking’ in the Harvard Business Review, and I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. 

The concept of user-centric design, and design-led innovation really spoke to my creative roots, and drew me to Goldsmiths University of London, where I quit my job and began exploring a new path of service design and product innovation. This was also my first foray into creating a company, and I designed my first digital platform business with a co-founder alongside my studies. I applied my masters classes to this digital platform project, learned how to research, design and prototype, and spent more hours than I care to count with hammering away at my keyboard. Sleep was a luxury, but I really fell in love with the adrenaline rush that came with the responsibility of learning as much as I could and bringing a company to life. For various reasons this first business never made it off the ground, but it gave me a taste of what was possible and what it really meant to be an entrepreneur. I was hooked.

At this point I had graduated with a first in my Master’s Degree and began working part-time for my family business in the dairy industry while I figured out my next steps. It was during this period, while working part-time and looking for volunteering opportunities, where the initial idea for Goodsted first came into being.

What is Goodsted and when did you launch?  

Goodsted is a digital platform to collaborate for social impact. Our software as a service solution helps organisations act on their social purpose by effectively engaging stakeholders in volunteering programmes and empowering them to take action. Members can share their time, skills and other in-kind resources to progress causes they care about, and scale innovation locally and globally by collaborating with other individuals and organisations while gaining new skills and improving their mental health and wellbeing. 

We are unique in our aim to help individuals, organisations, and communities of all shapes and sizes, breaking down silos across sectors, and involving all stakeholders and citizens in delivering social change. 

We launched our beta platform in May 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis engaging individuals and furloughed professionals in skilled volunteering opportunities. We also had our first organisation clients sign up to receive support with running their volunteering programmes. The platform helps reduce admin work, increasing visibility for employees and all members engaged, as well as making it easy to track this engagement and report on impact. Due to the lock-downs and furlough schemes, most companies will be  kick-starting their engagement this year, and we’re looking to run more pilots with companies from May to September 2021. Interested companies and organisations can book a discovery call with us through our website – https://www.goodsted.com/ or emailing me at selin@goodsted.com. 

How did the idea for Goodsted come about?

After I graduated from my Masters in late 2017, I was determined to find opportunities to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While working a few days a week for our family business’ UK marketing operations, I also started looking for opportunities to volunteer my professional skills to create a positive impact but opportunities were hard to find and weren’t matching my availability, skill sets and interests. 

Throughout my masters I’d worked on digital platform design and development and I thought ‘Why isn’t there a platform that is used by everyone to help contribute to SDGs and see the impact we help create? A platform like this could help leaders of projects get voluntary help in a more structured way’. This was the beginning of my journey with Goodsted. 

What was the first thing you did to set the wheels in motion for Goodsted?

At the end of 2017, I was introduced by a friend to Jake Cingel who had the vision for creating Civic Makers Craft Space in South London to create a space where students and experts in woodworking can circulate waste wood materials and create purposeful wood products. He was searching for £10,000 through crowdfunding, but was struggling. I said ‘Okay, you’re searching for money but, like me, there might be others who would love to be part of it—let’s create a plan for piloting your idea and raise this value through in-kind and voluntary support’. This became the first pilot of the digital platform idea.

I set up Goodsted’s website using [free website builder] Wix and started promoting the project there. Peckham Levels donated temporary space, students from Goldsmiths and woodworking mentors volunteered and Martin Speed donated waste art crates to repurpose into multifunctional market stalls. The total value of in-kind support raised in the end was over £20,000. 

Once the pilot was successful, I started improving the user experience design on the platform and shared these with potential users. During this, Ruben Campos, now our tech advisor, provided his feedback and guidance. After many iterations, I decided to bring in a development team to create a basic version of the platform.

During one of my trips back home, I visited Yasar University, which was founded by my grandfather. In the incubator of the university, I met Murat Odemis, founder of Univerlist, a university evaluation platform. His product was fully developed so he offered to help out and provide his services within my budget. 

This was very early days for Goodsted, and when starting out my initial aim was to help community projects find volunteers and in-kind support to achieve their goals. But as I continued working on this idea, I realised that companies and organisations had a wealth of talent and resources to contribute which were going unused. I realised that those running volunteering programmes for employees and stakeholders experience  many pain-points when it comes to finding opportunities, tracking engagement and reporting on the impact / outcomes of these activities. This is why I shifted my focus going forwards to providing a solution to these organisations, realising that this would in turn also help scale the support available to community projects, nonprofits and impact startups, while  helping to create a revenue stream to make the platform sustainable.

What were the initial challenges in getting started?

One of the biggest challenges in getting started  and building a software platform has been getting the user experience right. I didn’t have many years of experience working on this when starting Goodsted, so I did a lot of research and asked for advice when guiding the user interface designers and developers to build the first version of the platform. Not having enough resources to hire a great UX lead is a challenge we’re still facing – and we’re looking to find one as soon as we raise our next investment round. 

Tell us about your success pitching Goodsted 

I had been selected as a finalist for the Family Business Network (FBN) Next Generation Entrepreneur awards. The pitch for being selected as a finalist had taken place virtually, one day after my wedding day – which was a challenge! I was happy to be selected as a finalist and had the opportunity to go up on stage to deliver a 7min pitch to 500 people in Venice. In the end, I was selected as the winner! This was such a thrilling experience – and it was a confidence boost for me as this was the first time I had pitched Goodsted to a diverse group of businessmen and women. Also up until then to speak in front of that many people my voice would tremble and my hands would get sweaty. I still did show signs of being nervous but after the first minute, I had this really interesting sense of comfort. I knew my content, and what I was saying, and I just started enjoying every minute of it. To everyone who faces fear of public speaking, I would say it’s really important to practice and know everything by heart. Then when you get up to that stage, just think ‘Whatever happens this is an experience I will learn from’ and just enjoy sharing your story. This was such a milestone in my journey of being an entrepreneur, and a memory I will always cherish.

How did you go about finding investment for Goodsted? 

I created a pitch deck, iterated it many times by receiving advice and feedback from my network. I wanted to raise £150k SEIS investment to cover the cost of development, to hire our first employee, to improve our marketing and grow our community. I already had investors who had shown interest when I won my first award back in 2018 in Venice, so my first move was to get in touch with them to let them know that I was looking for external investment. As they weren’t going to invest the full round,  I also started looking into angel investment networks, and sharing the pitch deck. There was some interest from a Turkish angel investment network, then we also got an opportunity to list Goodsted on SeedTribe, the impact focused arm of the Angel Investment Network in the UK. I received a message on Linkedin from JCDecaux’s Nurture programme about the support they were offering to startups – I didn’t have the budget to afford this offer, however despite this they offered to share our pitch deck with their investment network. A couple of weeks later, we heard the news that Mariana Investments were interested in Goodsted, and we progressed to raise a £150k SEIS seed round with them. Later on all the other angel investors invested in addition to this and we closed our first round at £225k. 

Any 3 pieces of advice would you give to others looking to raise seed money?

  1. Create a prototype of your product or service, ideally a minimum lovable product and test it with your target audience

  2. Try to secure at least 1-3 paying clients, or a list of potential clients who have shown interest in your product or service

  3. Sign up to the SEIS certification, and register your company to angel investment platforms to reach potential investors.   

How big is the Goodsted team currently and how much bigger do you expect the team to grow in the next 12 months?

The team is currently made up of 9 people  – including me, we are 2 full-time employees, and we have 4 full-time and 2 part-time contractors. 

We have a great development team who joined me at the end of 2018 and are still working with us as contractors today. Ozalp Torlak is our product owner/lead who manages the agile sprint development, his technical expertise and background has been a great help in developing and managing the development of our product. Berk Ayvali and Can Aras are our front-end developers and Yunus Gulcu our back-end developer. Murat Odemis, a fellow founder of his own digital platform, is our interim CTO, and he is serving as an advisor, until we need a full-time one. They are all amazing team members, great collaborators and very talented software engineers. We also have a multidisciplinary designer, Gizem Nur Sen, working with us part-time who brings great User Experience and User Interface expertise to the team.  

Our first full-time employee is Chloe Bousquet-Chavanne who joined us as the Community & Partnership Lead back in 2019 and is now our Partner Success & Impact Manager. Her experience in the third-sector and community building has been a great addition to the team, and helped us grow our early community.  I can’t thank her enough for all the hard-work she has put in to help grow Goodsted, and her positive energy, eagerness to learn and mentor others are great qualities to have in a team member who is part of our leadership team. She has also helped on-board and mentor our Marketing Executive, Angus Bamford who is currently working part-time to assist with growing our client-base and community.

In the next 12 months, we hope to hire 3 new team members. Specifically, we’re looking to hire a Chief Operating Officer, a User Experience Lead, and a Marketing Lead who has experience in growth hacking. 

How did you go about finding your developers? Any advice you can give on this? 

At first, I was getting in touch with software development agencies to get quotes about how much it would cost to develop the platform. However this was too expensive for me – I then met a startup founder, Murat Odemis in an incubator and he was also growing his development team in order to build other software solutions for companies to earn extra revenue. He offered to have a part of his team work on Goodsted for a cost that fit my budget at the time, and that’s how we started working together. As mentioned, the same development team is still working on Goodsted today! 

What 2 tools have you used that other aspiring entrepreneurs might find helpful? 

Seed Legals – to help with everything from legal documents for fundraising to team agreements has been an invaluable resource! 

Equidam – to help with getting a startup valuation 

You joined Hatch Enterprise – can you tell us about your experience with them and what they helped you with?

Hatch Female Founder’s accelerator has been an amazing experience! I had a chance to meet other inspirational female entrepreneurs, and learn from their experiences. Although it had to be remote due to covid – we engaged with many experts in virtual group sessions, and also had a chance to have 1-2-1 support from professionals. Over the course of 6 months, we had a chance to learn more about how we can improve our sales funnel and processes, as well as receive advice on many different subject areas including PR, marketing and leadership. The insights gained from the programme have a great help in growing Goodsted. 

What future excitements can you share with us that are in the pipeline for Goodsted? 

It’s Volunteers’ Week from 1st to 7th of June, which we’re really excited about, as it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the benefits of volunteering and showcase what we can achieve with the platform. We are offering 1-month pilots to companies who are interested to participate in this celebration but aren’t ready to commit to a year-long partnership with Goodsted just yet. 

We usually partner with companies for the full year as volunteering is planned on an annual basis, but we hope to demonstrate the benefits that a digital solution like Goodsted can provide to companies, alleviating the administrative headache that programme managers face in planning these activities, as well as providing flexibility to employees interested in participating on their own schedule. 

We’re offering these pilots at a very affordable fee to help as many non-profits and impact startups as we can during this time, and have more volunteers from companies participate. Next to volunteering, we will also help companies track engagement, and report on the outcome / impact of their participation. Any company who is interested in learning more can contact me at selin@goodsted.com

In addition to this, we are looking forward to launching the first version of our mobile app, and our enhanced AI & Machine Learning capabilities to add more value to our members. We will be raising our second investment round at the end of this year, and we’ll also be launching a crowd-equity campaign to enable our community and other stakeholders to also invest in smaller amounts. 

Link to Goodsted on their social channels below

Goodsted LinkedIn

Goodsted Facebook 

Goodsted Instagram

Goodsted Twitter