85by55: Shed Simove

'Ideas man' Shed Simove on his latest venture: video speed-networking online

Name:Shed Simove and Jonathan Fren
Age:40 and 22
Staff numbers:Two
Company description:Video ‘speed-networking’ online
Tell us what your business does

85by55.com in a nutshell, is: Chatroulette meets LinkedIn. Our business aims to do one thing well: video ‘speed-networking’ online. And, in case you were wondering, ’85by55′ refers to the average size, in millimetres, of a business card.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We noticed problems with traditional networking events. They can be time-consuming, expensive and often don’t deliver new contacts that directly affect your business. 85by55 solves all these problems neatly, quickly and conveniently.

What’s your unique selling point?

We set up 85by55 with the sole aim of giving any professional person the ability to meet a new business contact quickly and easily. In business, as that saying goes, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, that matters. Existing sites like LinkedIn actively discourage you from meeting new contacts, which is bonkers – so we set up 85by55 to do exactly that. At the moment, our platform is currently the only way to video speed-network online – and that’s very exciting.

Each one-to-one video ‘meet’ lasts just two minutes and each person you meet is chosen at random, but you can filter the type of person you’d like to meet by typing in keywords and a specific location.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was a TV producer (Big Breakfast, Big Brother) and now I’m an entrepreneur, author (Ideas Man, Present Money Can’t Buy, What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex, Success…Or You Money Back) and a corporate speaker on innovation and creativity. Before all that, I was a body-double for Brad Pitt – as you no doubt guessed.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Doing your own thing is the only true way to be able to choose what you do all day. And having ‘choice’ is the most wonderful luxury in life.

What planning did you do before you started up?

Advice from others is freely available – and often damaging too, even though the people giving it may not mean it to be. It’s much better to trust your gut, carefully minimise your risk, and power forwards.

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How did you raise the money? Did anyone reject you?

Rejection is simply a sign that you’re trying to make new things happen. The ideas I come up with encounter rejection so often these days that even though it still feels like a kick in the stomach when someone tells me one of my ideas won’t work, or is awful, in terms of stopping me doing something I believe in, rejection is like water off a duck’s back to me – and rarely affects whether I get something done.

How did you find suppliers?

I found a brilliant, talented CTO who puts up with me, and we’re now searching for partner websites in the business arena who’d like to embed our 85by55 technology into their site and offer our great service to their visitors.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

A new project or business is riddled with challenges, pretty much every day. Working with people who are very clever and fiercely talented at what they do is the only way to overcome the myriad of problems you’ll encounter when you’re striving to do something original.

Where is your business based?

We’re currently based in London, but not tied to any location. We’re a global business, and could be based anywhere. If it was good for the company, we could move anywhere in the world. Right now, I’m fiercely committed to making this idea work and live a 20-hour day. My work is always challenging, but because it’s ultimately in areas I choose to work in, it’s therefore mostly exciting and fun.

How have you promoted your business?

We released a spoof website to promote 85by55. We launched it on April Fool’s day and got nearly a hundred thousand hits within a few hours, which generated 15,000 click-throughs to our website. The site eventually got taken down and we’re currently battling to get it back up.

How much do you charge?

At the start, our service on 85by55 is free. We might charge later on for extra value that we give users on top of our basic service.

What about staff – how many do you have?

Just two at the moment, although we have other shareholders who support us greatly.

What has your growth been like? Are you where your business plan said you’d be?

We launched last week. Often in life and in business, you have to try something and see if you can engage people with what you’re doing. If they do, money always comes.

What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?

Getting the video-chat technology right is a really tough challenge. Luckily my partner Jon is a Tech Genius. Every start-up should have one.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Launching! And now the challenge of getting our site ‘famous’ really begins. After that, we’ll need to constantly ensure our business both engages with people and has a use to them too.

What would you do differently?

I’ve learned it’s a good strategy to find experts and then persuade them that by partnering with you, they’ll earn money or have a brilliant adventure – or both.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

For goodness sake, just start. Your great brain and unique personality will take care of the rest.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Five years from now, I want to be alive, healthy, on the front cover of Wired and have millions of people enjoy what I create. Is that too much to ask?

Image of Shed Simove: Tom Banfield



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