Harmonypark: Andrew McPhee, Mike Evans and Ebony Charlton
Andrew McPhee on starting his mobile and web services business.
Company name: Harmonypark Website:http://expensure.com Founders: Andrew McPhee, Mike Evans, Ebony Charlton Age: early 30s Based: London Staff: 5 Date started: late 2005 Tell us what your business does…
Harmonypark is a privately-held company that innovates and incubates mobile and web services, to help people simplify and personalise an increasingly complex and impersonal world.
We have just launched our first product, Expensure, which is a free, secure, online tool to help flatmates and travelmates share, track and manage their bills and expenses. Expensure also has automated bill reminders and collaborative shopping lists to help you keep your life running smoothly.
We have more apps in the pipeline, as well as other projects underway for external companies such as eBay.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
In the case of Expensure, we were sitting around one day trying to work out who owed who money after about three months of bills and expenses had been accumulated. In the middle of trying to work it all out for the tenth time we thought, why don’t we just make an app that does it all for you?
How did you know there was a market for it?
Most of us have been flatting or travelling with other people at some point, and the uptake of these sorts of web services by the 18-34 demographic is growing strongly, so we’re confident of the market.
How did you raise the money?
By working as an innovation partner with much larger companies like eBay we have managed to self-fund all of our own start-up ideas. This means things take a bit longer to bring to market, but you are able to test out a lot of your thinking and make great contacts along the way.
Where is your business based?
We are based in Shoreditch, East London, which is a hub for young, creative companies. We started off in a live/work warehouse space and graduated to having a separate office space after about a year of being in operation.
I would recommend getting a little slice of office space as soon as possible to any start-up – it focuses you on what you are doing and makes it seem more real because you have a burn rate to help spur you along.
What has your growth been like?
Our business has experienced pretty high growth and we have been revenue positive since inception, but the most important thing is to focus on growing your user base – without this, all revenue models are redundant.
The only thing you can really count on is that the business plan you have when you start off is probably not the same one you will have when you reach your desired destination. Our ultimate plan is to stay as agile and as flexible as possible.
What has the impact on your home life been like? Running your own company is like becoming a parent. You have a mix of joy and sleepless nights at the same time.
At the end of the day it’s all about the journey, and we’re only at the beginning. What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Finding the right balance between working on our own products and working on products for other people.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Winning eBay as a client was pretty cool, and it gave us a lot more confidence in our ability to innovate and incubate large scale services.
What would you do differently?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I think you can never objectively second guess your decisions because one thing always leads to another, and you never really know what kind of plus or minus that other ‘other’ thing might have been.
How ever you look at it, Harmonypark is in an amazing position to benefit heavily from the way people now increasingly organise and develop their business and personal lives via the internet.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
In a general sense, find some mentors, network like crazy, listen to criticism, make up your own mind and create your own path. For budding internet entrepreneurs, the most important thing is for you to focus on creating a great product and growing your user base, as without these two things, all online revenue models are redundant anyway.