Bizoogo: Erez Nounou
The founder of a new forum where entrepreneurs can find collaborators and business partners, on turning his problem into the solution
Tell us what your business does:
Bizoogo is the UK’s first crowdsourcing platform for entrepreneurs and professionals, looking to start or participate in new businesses.
We’ve created a community where users can search for, and collaborate with, the people they need to start the businesses they want – crucially, sharing the technical and financial anxieties that hold most people back.
That means the would-be entrepreneurs among us are able to find and work with the people they need to develop their ideas, and business professionals get access to challenging start-up opportunities they believe in.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea for the community was the result of my personal challenge, having a start up idea but not having the industry knowledge or technical skills to develop it. Starting up can be expensive and – prior to proof of concept – risky. I wanted something similar to the ‘yellow pages’ for ambitious, aspiring entrepreneurs – like a one-stop shop for people from a range of industries and areas of expertise, who are available and interested in working together in partnerships.
Making such connections may either help to eliminate bad ideas early, or to validate the good ones and develop them. Collaborating gives us all a practical and cost-effective opportunity to start new businesses, by sharing the responsibilities and risks across a team.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Initially, I didn’t. To start, the idea was totally rooted in my own experience. After searching for my ‘yellow pages’ with no joy, I started researching entrepreneurship in the UK and found that over 44% of the population want to start a new business but are failing to act – a problem described last year by Enterprise UK as a “massive ambition gap”.
At the same time, unemployment is at a 17-year high, lending is down across the board, and – by global comparison – we have serious failure anxiety. However, the potential of the crowd was already being used really powerfully to fund new projects online, disseminate information and share online experiences, so the crowd-collaboration element seemed like a perfect solution for bridging the gap.
What’s your unique selling point?
Bizoogo takes traditional business networking into the social media age; we’ve created a dynamic, open and social environment for ideas to be shared, and for users to connect and collaborate together, to take projects beyond the ‘light bulb’.
There are plenty of resources already available to find business service providers, freelancers or investors, but we’re using the crowd to source the solutions aspiring entrepreneurs require. So instead of paying disconnected parties, at a time where money is in short stack, you can now find the people or ideas you need and like, where all parties have a vested interest to make it work.
What were you doing before starting up?
Before starting Bizoogo I had just qualified as a solicitor at a city law firm. After two years of training, it seemed like a natural break for me to jump ship and take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Definitely – I always wanted to be in control of my own fate, doing something I enjoyed and believed in.
Starting a new business brings with it a range of challenges and opportunities to learn new skills, which keeps things fresh and exciting.
How did you raise the money?
At the moment we are self-funded, having collaborated ourselves to get the idea off the ground!
We will look to raise finance at some point, to spend on developing the functionality, marketing and PR.
How have you promoted your business?
Right now we’re using social media marketing to drive traffic, with a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as our own blog.
We’re lucky to be starting a business at a time when most people are plugged in and engaged online, which gives us a great opportunity to reach our audience at little cost. At the same time though, we’re not the only ones putting out content and marketing, so it’s a constant challenge for us to break through the ‘noise’.
How much do you charge?
It’s completely free to join Bizoogo. We want everyone looking to start or be involved in a new business to sign up.
We’re aiming to build a diverse, creative and ambitious community – making sure we have as many ideas for development as there are professionals looking to get involved – so we hope everyone plays a part and joins in.
What’s the business model?
Initially, we’re looking to bring in advertising revenue via our directory: a selective listing of business service providers in the sectors of utilities, infrastructure, news, information and finance. We’ve identified them as core services, which, by their nature, can’t be provided by an individual alone and which we think offer users practical and useful resources to help them start up.
Longer-term, we hope to add premium features, beyond the core functionality.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
It’s early days for us and no doubt we’ll encounter many more, but the biggest challenge of starting up so far has been finding the right people to work with. At the beginning you really don’t know where to look, who to ask, or trust, and there’s generally a lot of trial-and-error.
I think it’s a problem which knocks back a lot of people with business ideas, because going beyond your own network is a real stab in the dark. We’re hoping to eliminate the problem by developing a community that becomes your first point of call: a mix of different skills, experience and ideas, but with the joint aim of creating and being a part of something pioneering.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
One thing I heard a lot while developing the idea was that “ideas are cheap, execution is expensive,” and I think that’s very true. There’s no point storing your ideas in a ‘safe place’ because you’re too afraid to talk about it or share it, only for the opportunity to then pass.
We need more action, discussion and focus on finding the great people needed to develop our ideas, instead of worrying about people rubbishing the idea or stealing it. On Bizoogo, we’ve already got great ideas listed that sound really exciting yet don’t give the full idea away, so it’s possible to put yourself out there without taking unnecessary risks.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We want to be the benchmark model for new business creation and have a large, dynamic, opportunistic, global user base, across all industry groups and areas of expertise.
Hopefully by that stage we should have a long list of successful businesses, which have developed as a result of collaborations initiated on our site.