The Nudge: Neil Frame
The founder on hitting the streets of London to shout about what’s hot in the capital
Name: Neil Frame
Company: The Nudge
Staff numbers: Three
Company description: Digital lifestyle publication and social review platform
Tell us what your business does:
The Nudge is a hybrid digital lifestyle publication and social review platform. Members use the site to keep track of things they'd like to experience and to exchange recommendations with their friends. Members also receive daily emails, which we curate, on the best of London – new restaurant and bar launches, invitations to unique events and more.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It came out of the frustration that, despite the number of online resources available to us, we still needed to spend hours searching through public review sites, filled with hundreds of reviews written by people we don't know, in order to find the right restaurant, bar, hotel or show. Curated content from a trusted source is valuable, as are recommendations from friends – so we've combined the two.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We knew that there was a market for the lifestyle publication and daily emails because there are several already aimed at various female demographics and a couple for a younger male demographic. The Nudge is aimed at predominantly young professionals in London, who have disposable income and an appetite to discover the best of their city.
We knew there was a market for a user-friendly social review platform, but we didn't know if any one product could satisfy it. The problem is, while people value recommendations from their friends, far less of those people are willing to put in the time to contribute their own reviews. However, merging our digital publication with a social review platform has led to a far higher level of engagement by the members than even we had expected.
What were you doing before starting up?
I studied law at Durham, before joining a law firm in the City (which I left on qualification). Before launching the Nudge I was working for a new investment property fund and flat-sharing start up as their operations director. It had only just launched when I joined, so I had all of the experience of building a start-up from the ground up. It was really the rush of that start-up experience that made me decide to have a go at launching the Nudge.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I think either you find the excitement and the challenge of building a business appealing (which I always have done) or not. The thing that appealed most about being my own boss was the possibility that I might be able to escape the perennially niggling feeling that I really ought to be!
What planning did you do before you started up?
I did a lot of market research to understand the competitive environment on several fronts. I had a broad plan of action when I started but didn't go so far as to write a formal business plan. The reason for that was that I wasn't seeking funding and didn't, at that stage, need to convince anyone (other than myself) of why this could work. I'd also previously had many business ideas that I'd managed to talk myself out of – after months of detailed business planning – so I decided with this one to largely just go for it.
How did you raise the money?
I didn't require funding initially, so was able to prove the concept and get “traction” before I first approached any potential investors. I was rejected by several, which is par for the course. It's tricky with investors – approach them a moment too soon and it'll be too early stage for most, approach them too late and they won't feel as though they're getting in early enough. I guess the trick is to meet as many as possible until you find one or two who are as passionate about the project as you are.
How have you promoted your business?
So far much of the promotion has been done by the members, who are growing their networks and sharing our emailed content with friends. In addition to that we've seen some success through PR, some through engaging potential users via social media and some through offline marketing – literally hitting the streets to tell Londoners about the site! One thing we won't be doing again in a hurry is advertising on Facebook – it's cripplingly expensive for a small business.
How much do you charge?
The site is free to use.
What about staff?
At this stage in our growth there's no need to have a lot of people working full time. Much of the work – web design and development, SEO, PR and marketing – have all been outsourced.
What has your growth been like?
Our target revenue streams need to kick in later, and we plan to use a variety of revenue streams from advertising, with additional revenue streams being generated via deals for members, unique events and bespoke commercial partnerships A site that's free to access like the Nudge can only start generating revenues after reaching a certain size, which we're happily now heading towards quite quickly. But it takes time.
What's the impact on your home life been like?
Good – I have a supportive girlfriend and no children or pets to look after, which I'm sure makes things easier than they might otherwise be.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Marketing the site – there's a lot of noise out there to try and get through.
What would you do differently?
I'd have spent less on product development and design – trying to make everything perfect – and more on marketing and getting it out there.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Enjoying what you do has to be the end goal. If you can find that thing that makes you tick, and if you can turn it into a business, then you'll be far more likely to put in the energy required to make it work.
Where do you want to be in five years' time? Do you have an exit plan?
Well, in taking my own advice to heart, I'd say that five years from now I'd like to still be enjoying whatever it is that I'm doing each day.