The Entrepreneur: James Eder, Student Beans and Causr
Having established one of the leading youth media brands in the UK, Eder is back on the start-up scene. We find out his plans for new app, Causr
Founder: James Eder
Companies: Student Beans and Causr
Description in one line: Causr is a location based app connecting professionals on the go.
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- Causr is a free location based app. Users login using LinkedIn creating a basic profile.
- Status updates give people nearby a further context of who you are.
- Joining groups shows other people your interests and passions. Connect and chat to people nearby using Causr to enable face-to-face meetings.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Already, one of our users has generated a £500,000 business deal as a result of using Causr. We hope this is the first of many and bigger opportunities we create.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
The number of downloads, users registering, connections being requested & number of conversations. Combined these tell the picture as to how people are using Causr. We really want to make a difference for people using technology to create more face to face connections.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Whilst we only recently launched we’ve had people signing up from Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Croatia the USA & China to name a few so we’re already international. Our initial key focus though is on popular business hubs where people are often living or travelling in between.
Describe your growth funding path:
We closed an angel round of investment for Causr from four angel investors earlier this year for £150,000. The investors include Brett Akker; co-founder of StreetCar, Simon Franks; co-founder of LOVEFiLM. Alexandra Singer; strategic consultant and private wealth management, and Robin Alvarez; chairman and co-founder of Zero Start Ventures.
A great group of people who each bring a wealth and diversity of experience.
What technology has made the biggest difference to Causr?
We’re using a relatively new technology called React Native to deploy Causr initially on iOS with a view to release the app on Android later next year. This was recommended as it means we can deploy more easily on both platforms without needing to start from scratch.
Also, the ability to use services like Amazon Web Services for hosting and Google for email, documents and Calendars all help to keep costs low and provide scale as we grow.
Where would you like Causr to be in three years?
Our vision is to create millions of meaningful connections for people nearby, all around the world, everyday. I’d like us to be a globally recognised network as the default platform to help people connect with others nearby. Helping communities connect from fortune 500 companies to Alumni networks.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
After graduating from The University of Birmingham, launching StudentBeans when I was 22 on a shoe string was extremely hard.
As most of my peer group started on the corporate ladder, friends couldn’t really relate to the adventurous journey I was on. With a £3000 loan from The Princes Trust and the help of my brother Michael, I went door to door convincing local shops and services that they should get on board and work with us, paying us to provide a discount to students.
It took a huge amount of persistence and being told ‘no' thousands of times before our start-up turned into a business that could scale into the globally-recognised brand that it is today.
What was your biggest business mistake?
In the early days of StudentBeans, I was the financial director, sales director, marketing director, PR director and more. I should have delegated areas of responsibility that I didn't enjoy – and perhaps those that I wasn't good at – more quickly and to people better than me. This would have enabled me to focus more on partnerships and sales.
A good exercise someone once took me through was to place a value on your time. If, for example, you could pay someone £10 an hour to do your business' finances and bookkeeping whilst you were able do the next deal or partnership, just think about the difference that could make.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
The SEIS & EIS Investment schemes are a fantastic way to help entrepreneurs raise capital but it took over three months for approval to come through for this. Whilst I was able to progress the business, there were job offers that were meant to go out and the delays meant we weren’t able to start building Causr until much later than expected.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Lack of focus and saying ‘yes'. Because we’re entrepreneurial we like new things that are shiny and grab our attention. Time and time again I meet entrepreneurs who are trying to win on too many fronts.
Keep focused and say ‘no'. Things will take longer than you think and require your full, undivided attention.
How will your market look in three years?
Technology is progressing faster than any time in history. As urbanisation continues across the world and cities continue to grow the importance of networks and connectivity will only continue to increase.
Just like online dating become the norm, there’s going to be a shift to how people connect and how technology can bring people closer together creating more face to face interaction, collaboration and opportunity.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Building a business is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, the extremes are high but the lows can sometimes feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. It’s important to understand your strengths where you can add value, what can only you do?
At the same time, surround yourself with the best people and team to compliment what you do. Follow this popular African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.'
Don’t settle or compromise and remember life is about the journey not the destination, it’s important to enjoy it along the way.
Skiing is an absolute passion of mine. I do whatever I can to get some more time on the slopes.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
I learnt it on the job – I believe it’s all about learning by doing.
My entrepreneurial journey started back in 1999, when I sold black and white photos to dog owners to raise money for a Blue Peter Appeal as part of Young Enterprise. It taught me that life is all about learning by doing.
There’s only so much you can learn from the text books so get out there and give it a go.
What would make you a better leader?
I think I could be better at celebrating the wins however small. I think there’s something in my DNA that makes me constantly strive for more.
Reflecting over the years, I think it’s good to celebrate the successes with your team along the way and investing time in that is really important.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
Everything takes longer than you expect it to so be patient. Building a business is hard for a reason – if it was easy everyone would be doing it!
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
Apart from Causr, Receipt Bank is amazing and saves hours every month processing receipts so you don’t have to.
My favourite personal app is Calm. Mindfulness and meditation are key in finding balance and well being; just 10 minutes a day can’t be underestimated.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship At a Time by Keith Ferrazzi. It's a book that transcends time and focuses on what’s important as we go about building our networks. It looks at how you can help make a difference and be a connector.
Causr is a location-based app connecting people on the go: Supercharge your business networking. See who’s near by. Join groups to see people with similar passions & interests from the Startups community to triathletes there’s something for everyone. Connect and meet up. You can find Causr on the Apple App Store now.