Slingshot: James King, Mitch Vidler, Stephen Darlington
Innovative shopping application that allows shoppers to 'add products to basket' as and when they see them
Tell us what your business does:
Slingshot lets shoppers add products to their existing online shopping basket in one click, directly from any marketing activity. We turn the world into a shopping aisle by letting people ‘add to basket’ as they see products in day-to-day life.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It came out of frustration with the way online shopping is now. We dislike shopping and it annoyed us how long it takes. We felt that by making it possible to ‘add products to basket’ as we see them, in the same seamless way we’re able to share things across social networks, we could cut out huge chunks of time and never forget to buy something we wanted to try.
How did you know there was a market for it?
In 2011 the UK digital retail economy was worth £68bn. However, people have not been getting the intuitive online shopping experience that one would expect. We created Slingshot to solve this problem by making online shopping a truly impulse channel, allowing people to ‘shop’ from things they see in day to day life. We piloted Slingshot with PepsiCo on their Doritos Facebook page and received strong reception, which validated our concept. From there, the business has snowballed.
What were you doing before starting up?
We were at university when we came up with the idea and started the project. Stephen spent a year at a software house before working solely on Slingshot. Mitch worked in FMCG marketing for a year between his degree course. James joined later from a power tool manufacturer.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Not really. Mitch had a photography business previously to fund university costs but we certainly didn’t as a group go about looking for an idea to start, it was just an opportunity that had arisen.
How did you raise the money?
Slingshot has been a self-funded start-up. The sale of Mitch’s previous business, personal savings and a lot of pasta and soup have got it to where it is today.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
At a conceptual level there were many technical challenges and a few people, including retailers, said it would not be possible. As soon as we overcame these by having a working model the reception has been incredible. In our beta phase we have sent over 10,000 products to consumers’ baskets for brands such as Danone, Doritos, John West and Stella Artois.
How much do you charge?
Slingshot is free for brands to implement and for shoppers to use.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting a working model up and running was the biggest initial breakthrough, the fact that the system worked and worked well was a huge achievement. The biggest commercial breakthrough was being chosen by PepsiCo as one of the Top ten technologies in Europe- then we knew we were onto a winning product.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Do it. However, don’t start a business if your sole objective is to make money and don’t listen to people who tell you it’s the wrong time to start a business. You will get an amazing sense of achievement and make new friends, whom you will keep for the rest of your life. However, you will need to become a fan of very hard work and caffeinated drinks.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We would like to turn the world, non-intrusively, into one big shopping aisle. Slingshot aims to bring retailers, consumers and brands together in a way that has never been seen before.