Shepper: Ben Prouty
An on-demand inspection company, Shepper helps you assign 'Shepherds' to perform visual checks on your possessions when you're not around
Tell us what your business does:
Shepper is Europe’s first on-demand inspection company that performs visual checks on anything from cars and boats, to houses, shops and warehouses.
Shepper is on a mission to disrupt the very old-fashioned security industry by introducing consumer-facing tech (no more paperwork!) and by performing checks on assets at considerably lower prices by connecting trusted local people (“Shepherds”) with local checks.
For example, Michael lives in London and has a holiday home in Barcelona. During the winter months the property remains empty and Michael has no means of checking on the condition of it, other than flying down there which is time consuming and costly. Has the recent weather damaged the roof? Has the gardener been? Has anyone broken in? These are all questions Michael has.
Using Shepper, Michael books in – which takes under a minute – and Shepper then sends someone from their vast network that is local to his Spanish home, on a day of his choosing. The Shepherd visits the property and uses the Shepper app to create the report, taking photos and writing comments. Michael receives an instant email report with photos and comments as soon as the Shepherd has visited his property.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea came to our founder, Carl August Ameln, when we were struggling to find someone to check on his property abroad following some severe weather. He felt helpless thousands of miles away, unsure if the roof had blown off of his house. As it was a holiday destination, none of his neighbours were there off-season and traditional security companies were not prepared to conduct a one-off visit. All he wanted was a few pictures to give him that peace of mind.
Carl's business also owns a number of warehouses in Scandinavia and he's always wondered if there could be a cheaper, more effective way of keeping an eye on them than expensive security companies that visit the properties but provide no real output, such as a report, let alone an instant digital one with photos!
It was these experiences and those of friends and family that led to the creation of Shepper.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Although we are not a security company, we do look to the huge security industry as an indication of the size of market. While many individuals and businesses alike will still require elements of the service that a traditional security company provides, most people just want to know their asset is okay and would like to make that judgement themselves, by looking at the visual report.
We also expect to fulfil latent demand that currently exists in informal relationships between neighbours. Neighbours are a great solution to an extent, but it's difficult to insist that a neighbour goes and checks on your property on-demand and nor can you rely on their availability or presence!
What were you doing before starting up?
Prior to Shepper I was part of the early team at LOVESPACE, Europe's first storage by-the-box service. In the three years I was there, we grew from storing 300 boxes to handling well over 100,000 boxes and revenues over £1m.
Prior to LOVESPACE I was part of the early team at Streetcar, Europe's first car-sharing club which sold to Zipcar in 2010.
Our founder and major investor, Carl, was also the major angel investor in both Streetcar and LOVESPACE.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I've always wanted to start my own business, yes. I've been a part of two hugely successful start-ups, helping them to grow exponentially, but I've never started one from scratch and been the CEO. I've learnt a huge amount working with Brett Akker (Streetcar founder) and Steve Folwell (LOVESPACE CEO) so I think I'm ready!
How did you raise the money?
Our founder, Carl August Ameln put in the initial funding through his investment firm First Risk Capital. Carl also brought in further funding from well-known investors in Norway.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our tech platform will automatically match-make someone from our global network with an inspection that has been requested. The customer is charged a flat rate for their inspection, the person conducting the inspection receives a fee and we take a percentage. Quite a simple model, but there is a lot of tech behind the scenes making it all work!
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
It's still early days, so I'm sure there are plenty of challenges ahead. The great thing about having been a part of two start-ups in the past is that nothing phases me and I know to expect issues. It's simply about rolling with the punches and overcoming them.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Exceeding 100 Shepherds in our network within weeks of starting was a major breakthrough as it convinced us that the supply model would work.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Work for another entrepreneur for a few years before starting your own business. You can learn what to do and what not to do. A successful start-up is not down to luck; it's down to hard work and doing things a certain way. There are so many things that we did at Streetcar and LOVESPACE that I've replicated at Shepper because they've been proven to work, so why reinvent the wheel!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
Every start-up's first answer to this question should be “still trading.” That's an achievement in itself. Beyond that, I'd want us to be profitable, a challenging and rewarding place to work and international. In that order.