Y Combinator
Louise Broni-Mensah
Founder of Shoobs (YC W14)


Shoobs is an event discovery and booking marketplace for nightlife events. They help event goers find a great night out. For nightlife organizers, Shoobs provides a self-service platform to promote, sell tickets and connect with event goers.

Q: What did you do before starting Shoobs?

After university, I followed the traditional route of working for an investment bank. I am grateful for the time I spent in this career, as I developed great skills, which have been useful for my startup. However, I wasn't very excited by the day-to-day work, so I decided to take up something interesting in my spare time. I started managing a hip hop artist. By day, I was a junior trader and by night I was dealing with music execs, putting on live shows and spending time in the studio. Although it was a demanding period, the experience gave me good insight into the music and events market.

Q: Why did you start Shoobs?

My light bulb moment happened when I was searching for a night out with friends. After spending countless days searching for a suitable event, I finally found an event flyer, which advertised a night that looked perfect. They were offering half price entry for advance ticket holders, but the tickets were not online. I had to fight my way through the rain to pick them up in person. At this moment, I wondered why it was so difficult to discover and book nightlife events, particularly those that happened on a regular basis (as opposed to concerts).

Q: What is it like being a solo startup founder?

There are challenges to being a solo startup founder, but there are also some undeniable benefits! Firstly, I can make quick decisions and execute without undergoing collaborative decision making. I believe this has played a key role in gaining momentum in a short time frame. Secondly, without a cofounder, I have to understand every aspect of the business in detail, which means learning new things and delving into areas outside of my comfort zone. Although, there have been challenging moments, I have benefitted from this and it has made me into a well-rounded CEO. Finally, as a solo founder, I can avoid any cofounder dramas, which may result in squabbles or break ups.

Q: What was your YC experience like?

At the start of 2014, I left London to join Y Combinator. What followed was three months of intense work. Undoubtedly my experience at Y Combinator has been the biggest contribution to our progress so far.

On day one, Paul Graham set the scene: during YC the focus should be 1) Talking to users 2) Building product. I remember reflecting on what I had been doing the months prior to YC and that included a lot of "activity" such as attending startup events, connecting with other founders etc. It was now time to remove the distractions, select a key metric and focus on growth.

From the outset, I received fantastic support in the form of office hours with two Y Combinator partners, Geoff Ralston and Aaron Harris. In these sessions I gained invaluable advice to help with that week's growth. Although the startups do not work at the Y Combinator office (too distracting), we all come together every Tuesday to have dinner and hear from some of the most distinguished entrepreneurs and investors in the world. It was an awe-inspiring experience and an opportunity to hear first-hand that it can be a bumpy road towards startup success.

My favorite talks were from the CEOs of Homejoy and Mailchimp. The dinners are also a great opportunity to network with other founders in the batch. The great diversity of startups in the batch meant that I was afforded different perspectives when getting feedback and advice from founders. It was an amazing experience to stand with some of the most impressive founders that no doubt will be the names behind hugely successful companies in years to come.

Q: What is the atmosphere like at YC during those 3 months with Demo Day approaching?

Demo Day serves as a motivator to keep you on track with your growth and objectives. As such, the atmosphere is both tense and full of excitement! After working incredibly hard over 3 months, everyone is really pumped for Demo Day in the last few weeks. It is during this period, were you have the opportunity to step back, review how far you have come and acknowledge that your startup does have the potential to achieve its big vision. Collectively, I can say we were all immensely proud of one another and willing to help with each other's pitches. It is a truly inspiring, thrilling and supportive atmosphere.

Q: Was being female either an advantage or disadvantage in working on your startup?

I am a solo non-technical first-time female founder from London, so it is difficult to pinpoint which one of those attributes has been the most disadvantageous! As with all startups, I have had my fair share of difficulties. Whilst comparing my war scars with male founders, there are some glaring differences, but I can't confidently conclude whether that was due to being a female or not.

However undoubtedly people are biased towards a formula they are familiar with and there appears to be no exception when dealing with founders. I think this is most apparent with fundraising, where investors can be more inclined to back a founder that is similar to one of their past successes. In Silicon Valley, this is might be a male, ex-Google, Stanford graduate.

To generalize, I would say that male-specific character traits are expected and celebrated in the industry. For example: aggression and extreme confidence. As a female, this doesn't come naturally to me. Furthermore, on the flip side, the tolerance for the acceptable level of female confidence is lower when compared to males.

Most of my clients are males, but I think being female has actually made it easier to get their attention and listen to my different perspective on the events market.

I am also thankful that Y Combinator is leading the example of accepting more female founders into accelerator programs. I think my experience would be extremely different and more challenging if I had not been able to connect with so many female founders in our batch.

Q: Why do you think there are fewer start-ups with female founders than male ones?

Women make up a small percentage of computer science graduates or people with coding ability. As more efforts are made in this area, this could translate to more female graduates doing startups. However it is more difficult to inspire women to start startups because there is such a lack of female role models in the entire ecosystem– from founders and mentors to angels and VCs.

I am optimistic that there will be gradual wave of more and more female founders over the years.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were 15?

  1. Start coding!

  2. Don't stress if you don't have it figured out by 21.

  3. Take more risks at an earlier age.

Q: What was it like coming from London to Silicon Valley? And what is it like running a startup in London?

If you have a seed, it would be wise to plant it in the most fertile land, and for a startup that land is Silicon Valley.

In London, being a startup founder is still met with some confusion from friends, where the norm is to work in the traditional corporate world.

London has made some great improvements in developing its startup ecosystem, but I was blown away by the ambition, vision and network of incredible founders in Silicon Valley. All around you is evidence of young founders that dared to dream big and build impressive companies. I found my time in Silicon Valley very inspiring and it helped to shape the bigger vision for my startup.