IslandX: Marius Hjelset
Tell us what your business does
IslandX is a international lifestyle and relocation network; or in other words, a social network for people who want to work, study or live abroad. We help people find information about places they are interested in moving to using a social experience.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I have spent most of my life living abroad. Having moved around many places with my parents when I was younger, I always had an interest in continuing to experience different countries. However, as an adult I found that moving countries was a lot more difficult when you have to organise everything yourself! So I decided to start building a social network that can help with the relocation process.
How did you know there was a market for it?
There was a great deal of market validation in place already by way of hundreds of different forums and information sites for people who are moving. However, we found these to be outdated either in content or design. Also, we found that they didn’t take full advantage of the social web that people are familiar with.
In addition, the sheer number of sites already out there makes for a fragmented user experience, something we feel we can solve. Statistically, international migration is constantly increasing.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have been working in the technology sector for the past seven years in project and product development roles. Most recently I was leading the technical development on a global project for Vodafone, developing a web hosting and email service for small businesses.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, ever since university I have had an interest in developing new services and creating something that builds value beyond that which one person can put into it.
How did you raise the money?
IslandX has been self-funded to date. We have also been in touch with investors as part of our launch build-up and we anticipate that we will start a fund-raising round in the near future to fund additional resources and accelerate our growth.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
There are probably more than I can remember! Running a web start-up is a constant rollercoaster ride, with periods of immense feeling of achievement followed by feelings of insecurity and defeat.
Our biggest challenge is and always will be attracting enough users to engage online, help build content, and to come back again. That’s why we spend time on PR and brand building, and we have had some good press coverage as a result.
How will you make money?
The service is entirely free for users. IslandX aims to make money by providing access to qualified leads to a wide array of companies involved in different parts of the relocation lifecycle. This will allow us to provide targeted support to our members who wish to work, study or live abroad.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Making it to our launch. Before launch we were doing early market validation with a test user base. If we didn’t see enough of an opportunity based on their reactions we probably would have stopped right there.
It’s now 10 days since launch, and we’ve had a great response from new members. We are adding new members every day, and more and more content is being added.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
To achieve your dreams, be stubborn. Don’t give up: persistence and hard work will pay off.
When building your business, don’t be stubborn. Evolve your product or service as much as is needed to get the desired behaviour from your customers.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In five years we want IslandX to be recognised as the tripadvisor of the relocation world. In other words, the number one place people go to for information about moving countries.