miDrive: Simon Hagger
The app for learner drivers that aims to revolutionise the out-dated system
Name: Simon Hagger
Company Name: miDrive
Staff numbers: 10
Location: South East
Date Launched: 14/04/14
Tell us what your business does:
miDrive is a comprehensive toolkit for learner drivers. It’s a free mobile app and supporting web service that can help you find the right fully certified driving instructor based on profiles, crowd-sourced reviews and photos. miDrive can also track your driving lessons using your iPhone’s GPS a cellular connection to trace your route and speed. You can share your routes with friends and family or just use them to make sure you’re getting the most out of your lessons. Once your lesson is over you can tell miDrive the manoeuvres you practiced and we’ll tell you how close to your test you are. Plus our resource library,available through the app, has an extensive collection of articles on everything from where to place your L-plates to what car to pick for the zombie apocalypse.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Matt Sutton, the Product Architect and other Co-Founder of miDrive, has a friend who was learning to drive at the time and struggling to find an instructor he was happy with. This inspired Matt to build a basic app to show the concept. At the same time, I had a younger sister who was having similar problems. Matt showed me the concept, and after some market research and a few trips to the pub the first version was launched shortly after.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The driving industry hasn’t really changed in the past 100 years. Many organisations rely on word of mouth, the Yellow Pages or even leaflet drops in shopping centres. With such a wide range of technology available to us, we thought it was time to rejuvenate the out-dated process. There was nothing on the market in terms of comprehensive technology that makes the process of learning to drive easier and ticks all the boxes, so we saw a gap in the market.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was the Shortbreaks & New Ventures CEO at Holiday Extras, responsible for new ventures and basically taking new ideas forward into reality. In fact, I joined Holiday Extras back in 1996, and founded our Shortbreaks business in 2004 so this experience gave me a wealth of knowledge and insights that all came in handy when launching miDrive.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have a passion for innovation and in a way, that’s what starting your own business entails. It’s exciting to come up with something new and then step up to the challenge of making that idea happen. The freedom of having your own business is both exciting and exhilarating, and that’s something I’ve wanted.
How did you raise the money?
Holiday Extras have provided early stage funding for miDrive, from day 1 everything has been treated as a separate business so I knew the true costs of exploring the miDrive idea. I’ve been through a number of seed funding rounds, pitching to the board members and non-execs. It’s been challenging but great to be hitting our metrics and proving our hypothesis as we have gone along. We have been very “lean” in our approach; build, measure, learn. We are now very close to closing our first external funding from some High Net Worth investors and interestingly we have been approached by a number of individuals who would like to get involved in an Angels / EIS round.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We also help learners raise their funds for the lessons and then pay their instructor from their smartphone. Being in the payment flow is always a great place to be for marketplaces and as our plan develops here we are confident we can offer benefits to both learners, instructors and even parents by using miDrive as a driving lesson payment platform. Secondly we plan to provide learners with a range of services to help them actually get on the road once they have passed their test. We’ll be looking to create deals and discounts for our learners [as they pass] and of course earn a little on the way.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Besides the technical challenges that always come with building an app from the ground up, we of course had to get driving instructors on board and generate interest among potential users. While young learners are very quick to start using new technology, the driving instructors can be fairly worried and anxious about the use of technology, tracking reviews and ratings. .
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our breakthrough was receiving positive feedback and having users and driving instructors signing up to miDrive. It’s very rewarding to see that an app we thought would be a good idea and a useful tool for learner drivers has actually benefited thousands of learner drivers across the UK. It’s also a breakthrough to have driving instructors adopt the technology and refer to is as ‘the new era’ for their industry.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up on your ideas – grow them and evolve them. Be passionate and emotionally invested in your product, as that really impacts the end result and means you’ll keep going where others would give up. It’s also equally important to keep testing and be sufficiently objective with yourself to stop an idea or angle you thought would work. We’ve pivoted our approach a few times now, all around the original vision of “reinventing learner driving with technology” but our execution of how to do this has changed a lot. And finally – Feedback, feedback, feedback – talk with your users as much as possible. Initially speak to people whom you think would use your service and then after launch or in Beta speak to people who are actually using your product, especially the ones that drop out early or you notice are not using it as you intended. Matt and I even took our driving tests again just to know what it felt like to be in that position!
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I would like to see miDrive growing to be the European, if not global business I know it can be. We already have instructors all across England signed up to miDrive but I’d love to see more of them embracing technology in the next 12 months even. And, of course, it would be great to have a lot of confident, skilled and safe drivers on our roads, thanks to their experience with miDrive. I would like to be in a position where miDrive has expanded beyond the remits of an app so that we can explore the new possibilities. Whilst we are starting with reinventing learning to drive we are getting to drivers at the very start of their driving career so the possibilities are exciting for how we can help influence and improve driving habits.