i2i: Julia Macmillan
Previously founding toyboywarehouse.com back in 2007, this entrepreneur’s new dating app helps romantics break the ice with 30 seconds of eye contact
Tell us what your business does:
i2i is a new dating app which ignites the connection between people first online with witty ice-breakers and questions to get the conversation going, and then offline, with 30 secs of eye contact when you meet.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I saw how the current dating apps weren't really helping the connection between people, it was more like choosing from an online mail order catalogue which has a depressing and dehumanising effect.
How did you know there was a market for it?
There have been so many articles about current dating app fatigue, and so much anecdotal evidence that people find them a bad experience.
I felt it was time for a new kind of connection app for friends and dates that is a fun experience with more of a sense of community.
What were you doing before starting up?
I launched www.toyboywarehouse.com in 2007 which was the first UK dating site for women and younger men. I sold it in 2013.
I am also an artist – see www.juliamacmillan.com and www.jmportraits.co.uk – and have been a fashion designer, film costume designer in Rome, and food entrepreneur.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have only ever been a freelancer or an entrepreneur. I'm not employable!
How did you raise the money?
I funded it myself. I raised the money through being an Airbnb host. In the summer of 2016 I rented out my flat and raised enough money to pay for the app.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Like other dating apps i2i will be a freemium model. That means free basic search. Once we've got traction we'll create premium features such as advanced search, access privileges etc. and for these we'll use a subscription model
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The main challenge we have faced is getting people to do 30 seconds of uninterrupted eye contact on their own when they meet.
We have an inbuilt timer in your inbox which you click on when you meet someone and it times the 30 seconds.
The challenge is to make it an exciting, cool thing to do – not an awkward obstacle.
We're planning a video marketing strategy to show how powerful it is.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We went on the streets of Shoreditch with a banner saying “Can you look someone in the eye for 30 seconds?” before the launch on Aug 18th and did a #GameofGazes 30 second eye gazing challenge and put random people together.
The result was amazing. People really felt the power of it and we got some great photo and video content for our social media.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Follow your instinct, hone your vision, don't rush, network as much as possible and be original. Most of all, believe in yourself!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
In five years’ time I want i2i to be a global brand with people round the world looking into each other’s' eyes for 30 seconds, laughing and connecting from the heart.