Nightset: Anna Frankowska
Originally banned by the London School of Economics, this app hopes to disrupt the £66bn nightlife market and revolutionise the industry
Tell us what your business does:
It’s a mobile platform connecting the entire nightlife ecosystem. The premise of the app is that users create their own party profile, then discover nights tailored to their tastes. Users then check out venues, entertainment and crowds in real time, to avoid disappointment. Guests can join guestlists, spontaneously share party experiences; meet and chat to like-minded people and even date fellow revellers; then save their best memories until the next tear-up, when they can enjoy loyalty benefits from their top nightspots.
In parallel, our platforms help nightlife businesses by increasing the footfall, helping to understand their customers better and streamlining the marketplace. Venue owners and event organisers can manage their business accounts via the website and communicate, promote, and engage with users directly through the app. This ensures more successful nights for partygoers and nightlife businesses alike.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Obviously, I love to party and I adore meeting new people. I like to be around everyone. However, very often on nights out, I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know which places to go, I didn’t know where like-minded people were going, and yet I wanted to go to all the best parties in town.
So, one time when this happened to me — I was looking for everyone, texting and messaging, getting lots of calls etc. — I suddenly thought it would be so amazing if there was an app that would reveal on the night where the best parties are happening and connect like-minded party people.
People could broadcast social content as it happens throughout the night – from photos and videos to conversations to reviews – because, ultimately, there’s always something happening. I thought that a mobile app would be an excellent substitute for a camera in the club, connecting people with the party and each other.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The UK nightlife market was worth £66bn as of 2015 and alcohol brands' ad expenditure is $2.05bn per year, but the nightlife economy here is declining. We saw that it was a prime market for innovation as information on nights out is often all too static and doesn't represent reality.
People constantly have these problems on a night out. You see these groups of people asking what’s on, what’s happening, or you end up in a club and it’s empty and boring and you wish you hadn’t paid for entry. Other times, there’s a bar just around the corner, but you missed it because you weren’t aware it was nearby.
From a venue's point of view, competition for customer attention has never been greater and brands are all competing to access them through fragmented social media channels. We saw that we could build a platform that connects directly and authentically to customers in a way that hasn't been done before. I even went undercover as a club promoter to gain first-hand experience, so although we, ourselves are the users in terms of demographic and age – I also have the understanding of the business from connections in the nightlife industry.
We are tapping into the niche that is still not being catered for. Using technology, we are combining the whole nightlife ecosystem into one mobile app and business intelligence platform, which is the best way to do it.
What were you doing before starting up?
I studied for a degree in economics at UCL, went backpacking around the world for six months (including India and Brazil) and then trained as an investment banker at RBS, where I passed specialised exams. After quitting my job, I became a nightlife promoter and event organiser to fully embrace and understand my marketplace. All of that experience puts me in a well-founded position to run a business.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I had always dreamed of having my own business, since I was very little. I’m the daughter of architects and entrepreneurs, truly free spirits who had always travelled with me around the world. It was likely inevitable being brought up in such environment. I see entrepreneurship as a creative process, similar to architecture. You’re the architect of a certain reality, one of tech advancement and globalisation, which really impacts wider society and leaves a footprint.
Moreover, having a business is a collaborative activity, which brings like-minded people, who want to pursue the same journey with you, together.
I did not correspond to the classic entrepreneurial pattern: where an individual starts hassling at a very young age, makes money in school and drops out. However, I did always socialise and organised a lot of parties.
Both to learn about running a business and develop the essential skills sets required, I decided to follow a more traditional path; to complete the best training possible and build my CV. In my two years at RBS, I learned how to invest, raise capital and worked on underperforming assets to see first-hand what makes businesses fail or succeed.
I only started realising my true passions at university; creating a huge community of like-minded people and improving a marketplace I both care about and believes makes life better. It was a beautiful moment when I realised I could turn your hobby and passion into a transformative business, which I truly believe everyone could do.
How did you raise the money?
The way I perceive raising capital is similar to a game: you have to complete certain milestones, or challenges, in order to pass to the next level.
Firstly, we had to complete certain milestones. We proved the business model works as there was excellent traction with a target audience. Furthermore, we signed up premium nightclubs when we started generating some revenue. Finally, we have proven with a very limited resources we can deliver a highly functional product and create an interesting brand.
Ultimately, however, we closed the seed funding round in a crazy, creative way. After all, that’s what the startup world is all about!
After being “banned” by LSE due to the provocative nature of the app and campaign, the Tab featured us in an article, which I boosted on Facebook. Through this, our investor found out about us and contacted me via Facebook. At the time we had a few parties interested; however, our current investor was an obvious choice. We ended up closing seed investment of £500,000 from an amazing investor and a shareholding member of the Bacardi family.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We have multiple revenue streams, as we operate in a very lucrative industry. We are very targeted and the market opportunity is vast – everyone is turning ‘mobile’ now.
We are a marketplace, and so we monetise from the businesses that use the platform. For example, we charge subscription fees and commissions to clubs and party organisers. It's already happening in the offline world, but we provide an electronic, efficient, and trackable promotional solution.
Going forward, we see extremely huge potential for social media marketing. Alcohol companies, in particular, have doubled their budgets on digital routes, having been restricted on the other channels. For example, in US alone they spent $2bn on advertising.
Ultimately, we are expanding our business. We’re offering business intelligence, advisory tools and data mining to create the best experience for both party goers and businesses.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
I have learnt that when you love what you do, you treat every challenge as a lesson that makes you improve, learn and become better. That’s one of the most exciting aspects of entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurial life is a rollercoaster, so you have to learn to manage emotional swings and stay calm and rational. Fortunately, I am totally addicted to adrenaline, so from the beginning I enjoyed this crazy journey.
Definitely the hardest things you have to overcome are fragility and insecurity, you must trust yourself and learn to manage yourself. Once you start the business, you are exposed to everything and everyone: you need to learn quickly and take responsible decisions.
Hence, the best way is to cope is to treat any difficulties as a part of school of life and a step closer to becoming a great CEO.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The first big breakthrough was when we launched a really simple version of the app. We got extremely positive feedback from everyone, in particularly from club owners who saw massive promotional opportunity and real life connection between customers via the “Play Feature”.
It was around March 2015, and despite the fact it was an extremely basic and simple version, people loved it and felt similarly about what nightlife needed. At that point, I knew it was a matter of determination, persistence, patience, creativity and execution. I had always planned to quit my job and commit to Nightset full time, but it was that very moment, experiencing the audience’s genuine reaction, which incentivised me to go for it and waste no more time.
It really felt right, I did not hesitate for a second. That move helped me quickly start embracing the nightlife market and to learn about the world and business from the first-hand experience. Over the six months that followed, I gained invaluable insights into start-ups, venture capital, managing people and the party world.
I believe everyone who starts their business should start from the very roots, or from the “bottom up,” of their industry. In my case, the route I chose was to become nightlife promoter and event organiser to truly develop my understanding in the field.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Do something you are absolutely passionate about, be patient and stay focused.
Never ever get discouraged by people who don't understand your vision; if every saw it, everyone would be doing it.
Accept every criticism, but filter it, to improve. Every obstacle can be turned into a lesson or opportunity.
In our case, the ban on Party Hype by LSE, which initially really upset me, actually provided an opportunity for publicity in the form of a TAB article and helped me raise funding.
Ultimately, believe in yourself, and those around you. Everyone has a particular skill, so surround yourself with great people to build your dream business with. However, you must also be patient: everything takes time.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We want to create a party empire, cover the key party cities and be the global, trusted guide to nightlife. We want Nightset itself to be a key nightlife marketplace, which connects people with each other and with the perfect party to ensure extraordinary experiences. We want to completely revolutionise an industry which is so important to the economy and to people’s well-being.
We want to be world-wide recognisable brand that people love and to encourage them to follow our manifesto. We want to become the bloodstream of clubbing industry and an excellence brand.
The goal is to disrupt the nightlife industry in the way that Uber has disrupted the taxi industry. We want to become the go-to app that is critical to those in cities throughout the whole party journey. We want to be the key promotional tool for nightlife businesses helping them to build real relationships with customers.
But also, we want to be beloved party brand joined by millions who are sharing the same dream with us and striving for extraordinary experiences with like-minded people.
The night-time economy is the fifth biggest industry in the UK, generating £66bn a year. Imagine the impact a strong ambassador for the nightlife industry could have in the UK alone. Imagine the impact it could have on the world.
The venues and events which make up this economy need a strong player who could support them, build their connections with their customers and streamline and unify the market.