WatchNerd: Victor Bolu and Kola Ilori
Watch enthusiasts Victor Bolu and Kola IIori founded WatchNerd, a comparison site, to help other collectors find their favourite timepieces!
Names of founders: Victor Bolu, Kola Ilori
Date Launched: September 2019
Number of employees: 3
Age of founders: 35
Victor Bolu discusses how the combination of an interest in collecting watches, along with practical skills in building software, led to the launch of luxury watch comparison site, WatchNerd.
Which university, if any, did you attend?
Myself and Kola attended The University of Kent and did courses in the Computer Science department for our bachelor’s degrees. This is where we met. I also attended the University of Nottingham were I did a Master’s Degree in the Management of Information Technology.
Tell us what your business does:
Watchnerd.com is an easy to use comparison site for luxury watch buyers and enthusiasts, allowing them to make the most informed decisions, saving them unnecessary mistakes, time and effort in the search of the perfect watch.
Watch buyers can discover watches in our database of over 20,000 references from the most trusted online watch retailers.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
As active watch collectors, we got tired and frustrated of seeing watch enthusiasts making buying mistakes and not having enough actionable information when making critical buying decisions. With our combination of the love and understanding of mechanical watches and experience building software we saw an opportunity to create an ultimate resource for our community.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The luxury watch market is currently growing exponentially, with demand and sales for new and pre-owned of the most popular watches at an all-time high. This $45bn dollar market has finally seen online penetration and adoption so we knew it was the right time for our business to take advantage!
Before we start building any product we always make sure we speak to people that will use the product. We have used Instagram efficiently for this. We build products and services for our customers; we keep getting feedback that we are building products they will use. This gives us confidence that the market is ready for us.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have been an IT consultant for over ten years, both independently and with some of the big consultancies, predominantly managing and building enterprise software.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, I am most motivated doing what I am passionate about and have the freedom to execute.
How did you raise the money?
So far we are fortunate because we can build most of our product ourselves, so the start-up costs have been low. We have bootstrapped to date from savings.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
As part of our mission we never charge watch buyers for using our service. Instead our retail partners pay us a commission when we refer any buyers to their site. We also sell structured watch related data to retailers, marketplaces, brands and researchers.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our main challenge is speed. We have demand globally from our customers. As we are bootstrapped we cannot meet all the demand. To overcome this we prioritise what’s most important to our customers and build those products and features.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our breakthrough has really been through Instagram. Without spending any money on advertising we were able to find thousands of customers who wanted our product and they gave us invaluable feedback.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Eat your own dog food… what does that mean? Make sure you experience the same problems you are trying to solve for your users and then use your product as your solution.
Delegate – we only have 8-12 working hours a day, it’s impossible to do everything! Identify tasks that are either too low level or too complex for your current skill set. Find freelancers who can help you with these tasks and increase your speed to market.
Work with real experts – as a startup you really need as much speed as possible, so it’s important that any one you hire or take on as a co-founder has to be an expert within their domain. This will help you avoid so many obvious mistakes. Also, as a founder you have to be an expert in your field, this is what will give you a competitive and unfair advantage against your competitors. If you're new to the industry, be committed to learning as much as possible.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Our vision is to be the most trusted go-to site globally for watch buyers that are researching buying their next watch. We would like to open our service to retailers and consumers in the US, Asia and the rest of Europe.
We are also continuing to experiment with technology including Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. We would like to see these become more central to our functions in the next few years.
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