Boot camp helps duo accelerate fast after calling in the Cavalry

Adam Farah and Mark Asquith, co-founders of the Cavalry app, have won a a place on a paid for digital accelerator programme. Picture: Andrew Roe
Adam Farah and Mark Asquith, co-founders of the Cavalry app, have won a a place on a paid for digital accelerator programme. Picture: Andrew Roe
Have your say

It was their big money-spinning, life-changing, industry-disrupting start-up idea and they put their heart and soul into it for almost a year – then suddenly it wasn’t.

Adam Farah, aged 33, and Mark Asquith, 33, came up with a plan for an app called Cavalry that is as clever as it is easy to describe - Uber for breakdowns.

Instead of paying the AA or the RAC an annual membership - typically £120 including Homestart - simply pay per use.

It connects to the nearest mechanic, whose truck you can see approaching on your screen, like taxi app Uber, removing the horrible uncertainty of when help is actually going to turn up.

And at £50 for a tow and up to £30 for a quick roadside fix, the savings were clear, since the average time between breakdowns is about three years.

The digital duo from Barnsley were determined to make it work, everyone they spoke to agreed it was a great idea, good enough in fact to see them accepted on to one of the country’s best tech ‘accelerator’ programmes - Ignite, in London - which received more than 400 applications for just 10 places.

The 14-week course pays £17,000 living expenses and provides free office space in return for eight per cent of the business.

But crucially it comes with up to 60 mentors and investors who are on hand from day one offering advice - and deciding whether to take a punt and fund a start-up when it concludes.

Spotting a potential problem is all too easy in hindsight, but it wasn’t until Adam and Mark where having talks with a breakdown association representing 1,750 mechanics that they realised theirs.

Put simply, it was the cost of old fashioned marketing.

Cavalry needed to be in the top two of Google searches by broken down drivers or it was nowhere. All digital start-ups dream of their idea going ‘viral’ thanks to snowballing recommendations from tens of thousands of happy customers.

But the vast majority need to put in the work, and lots of money, to get noticed.

Adam and Mark ran some hard numbers and realised they didn’t have the cash required. And with little prospect of it arriving before the end of the course, they took a big decision - and shelved their plan.

A disaster you might think. The death of a dream. Back to Barnsley and, for Adam, the search for a job.

But the pair saw it completely differently.

Cavalry was simply a stepping stone that had given them vast experience. And they were on a deadline. The accelerator course had just a few weeks to run.

Accelerators are bootcamps for start-ups. A few weeks of intense work and scrutiny, putting ideas through the mill in a process that could normally take years.

Testing theories, binning pre-conceptions and ‘failing’ to a smaller or larger degree, are all part of the process.

And it was in this environment they ‘flipped’ - and went in a completely new direction with a new idea.

On the train back to London after a weekend at home, and just two days after putting Cavalry on ice, they decided on their next venture - a concierge service for busy people.

They put it to the programme managers, received approval and off they went.

Adam said: “Had I not been on the accelerator I would be mortified. You are taught to be able to let things go easily. I was miserable for a day and then we looked at the bigger picture.

“Cavalry was our baby but we started to understand that ideas are ten a penny.

“Our strength is in start-ups, building an idea and figuring out what you want to do with it.

“I thought I wanted to launch Cavalry.

“I actually want to be a successful start-up founder.