Block Dojo’s Cohort Two founder, Dunja Rombouts, was a first responder, a London firefighter who loved to help people out. She saw all kinds of emergency situations as well as a lot of people who were simply ‘in a bit of a pickle’: people who needed their locks changing after a burglary or locked out of the house or with a leak of water.
Dunja also saw that large companies were taking advantage of people in these situations with hugely expensive, out of hours call out rates. It felt so unfair, especially to the elderly. Because she hated to see anyone in a pickle, Dunja decided to do something about it.
Pickle is a platform to help people that are in a pickle. It’s an easy-to-use app that connects people in trouble with people that help them out.
It is like Uber for tradespeople. If you find yourself in an emergency, Pickle has the tradespeople on board (that are also firefighters) to come and help you out.
A lot different.
Before we started Pickle and before we got into Block Dojo Incubator, I was a firefighter for the London Fire Brigade, but also a qualified locksmith. Because as firefighters, we don’t get paid enough. Most of us have a secondary income as a tradesperson. So, my life was a lot different than running a tech start-up.
It is a big change. I do have a little bit of an IT background. I studied IT when I was young and worked in the sector for about two years. But, yeah, that was it. I’ve got a good idea about tech. But did not work in the industry for quite some time.
Well, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I think one thing that the fire brigade showed me through the 13 years that I was there is that you just have to face every challenge and learn from it. And as long as you’ve got to drive and you’re motivated and you’ve got the end goal in mind, you really want to make a difference, then it all falls into place.
I have the passion, and I know what needs to be done, but I don’t have all the skills. What was really interesting about joining Block Dojo is they push you really hard to get the right people involved because, for example, financial modelling and planning my whole project finances was definitely my weak point. But then we found Claire Byrne, who was a former head of finance for Checker Trade for nine years, and we’ve her knowledge, expertise, and being a great person. she joined Pickle, so we’re a stronger team now.
focusing on what needs to be done, but also cut out all the crap that you think is important.
I think the main bit that we got out of it is get us investor ready. We built pitch decks in and it’s not just put a PowerPoint slides together, it was well planned. They Teach you how to speak in public on big stage. Completely out of my comfort zone. But yeah, they drove you too. They push you hard.
We were so lucky that all the nine start-ups we got on with really well.
Although we came from completely different backgrounds, we couldn’t be further apart. Different cultures, different languages, completely different up bringing. But everyone was really supportive, which helped a lot.
Pickle won the award for the best pitch, which is very funny. Because I had to do breathing exercises before I go on stage. I was so nervous. And to actually win the best pitch was just so unexpected. But great. So we are investor ready and we are in conversation with a couple, but it’s all conversations for now. Well, let’s hope we sign a deal pretty soon.
It was just an idea. It was not even a fully-fledged concept. It was just an idea. So yeah, the twelve-week incubator brought us from the idea stage to an MVP.