This week’s Small Business Star is Andrew Ibbotson, co-founder of micro-blogging dating platform, TrueView. Created in 2012 by Andrew and his co-founders Matt Verity and Damian Mitchell, TrueView is a new location-based dating app that enables users to express their interests and up-to-date activities via social posts, or ‘real-time micro-blogging’.
TrueView was born out of Andrew’s recognised failings in the variety of different traditional dating sites. After exhausting the likes of Match, MySingleFriend and eHarmony, and having spent a substantial amount of money, Andrew was left feeling that there was an opportunity to create a service that was more in line with the way people use smart phones and social media.
1. In a saturated market, uniqueness is key
TrueView is a unique platform that gives users the ability to build a profile by sharing short status updates as they go about their daily lives. Posting about a trip to a favourite restaurant, a gallery, a run in a park or even cooking a favourite recipe at home. We then use that information to surface and recommend others with whom they have things in common with. We have built our own algorithms that recommend to others based on shared interests, affinity and also through message scoring – how likely people are to having a great conversation through the TrueView app.
2. Taking learnings from previous knockbacks
We applied to join the Wayra Academy in London in early 2012, and after being selected from over 1000 other companies, we started to build TrueView in July that year. We’ve launched many times, but I think everyone would admit that they’ve experience the same. We first released our first product to a limited number of users in January 2013, following up with a soft launch on Valentine’s Day later that year. We’ve gone on to release in stages and learn each time from how people use the service and then change and adapt based on the feedback.
3. Embrace new technologies and be willing to evolve
Like any technology start-up, we need to know about the latest developments that can affect our platform. Damian, our CTO, does a fantastic job of informing the team with his insights and ideas of how we can implement the latest tech and also how he and his team can implement ideas that we or our users come up with.
We try to embrace the latest piece of technology across every aspect of our business. This might be a new way to talk to customers or a discovering a tool to manage communication. We offer flexible working so we rely on staff being able to work remotely, so software as a service tools like Jira and Trello mean everyone can track pieces of work across different teams.
4. Our focus is on building a great brand and customer experience
We’ve yet to monetise the platform, all our attention has been on building a brand and great experience for our customers. We’re working hard to find unobtrusive ways of creating revenue. With many of our competitors offering free to use services, we’re looking away from traditional expensive subscription models and to partnering with companies who can add value to our proposition. We do have a plan on how our business model will work but as things are fast changing in this market, we’re agile too, and have the ability to change tack should we need to.
5. Explore different marketing tools to discover what’s effective
We’ve used many different approaches to marketing TrueView. From handing flyers out at train stations during rush hour, to more recently building an online campaign around a story created by Matt and his team – we seem to have done everything. We like to use digital media so that we can work out the best ROI, but as our budgets get bigger we’ll be looking to run some of the ideas we have for brand building using more traditional, above the line marketing. Here’s a link to the video http://youtu.be/bqxiOyiETh4
6. We’ve been recognised in the top 100 start-ups two years running
There have been many successes for TrueView. The first was a place at the O2/Telefonica backed Wayra Academy in 2012. This gave us the opportunity to take a leap of faith and quit our jobs. We have since gone on to be recognised in the top 100 start-ups two years running and more recently were named as the Best Newcomer App at the 2014 Online Dating Awards. The greatest success has been launching the app, creating jobs for others and hearing that people have found their significant others using TrueView!
7. A supportive working environment is invaluable
There are many challenges that come up daily. The biggest has been keeping sane whilst raising money. It’s time consuming and at times heart wrenching. The three of us have found it difficult at times but being supportive of each other is why we’re still working together. My advice for others looking to embark on a new business? Research your market, find great people to work with, expect to fall out, and don’t stop.
Find out more about Andrew and TrueView by visiting: http://trueview.me/.
The co-founders of TrueView also set up The Hatch in early 2014, a co-working space in Shoreditch, London, that is now home to 14 companies including themselves. For more information, visit the website: http://thehatch-london.com/
For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub.