Troov: Natalie Newton, Sean Stevens and Mark Ramotowski

The online marketplace's female founder talks improving a fragmented industry, mobile technology and launching at the Ideal Home Show

Name: Natalie Newton, Sean Stevens and Mark Ramotowski
Company name: Troov
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 20/03/2015
Website: www.troov.co

Tell us what your business does:

Troov is the intelligent one-stop shop for your home. We make it simple, convenient and enjoyable to shop for furniture and home accessories. We’ve just launched our iOS mobile app at the Ideal Home Show – Britain’s biggest consumer event.

The app enables our users to browse through furniture and home accessories from a wide range of retailers. They can seamlessly find interior design pieces that suit their style and budget, organise favourite items within personal ‘collections’ and review and purchase these – all in one place. We also offer a curated product feed for each user, generated by our proprietary recommendation engine, which weights recommendations according to users’ previous likes and purchase decisions.

In short, Troov is using new technology to improve the currently fragmented consumer experience when it comes to shopping for furniture and home furnishings online. We will shortly be launching on Android, tablet and desktop too.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We were looking to purchase a couple of pieces of furniture a few months ago and found ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of choice available online. It seemed paradoxical that it was so difficult to find products we wanted.

We’re design conscious and so we used a variety of existing online tools to seek inspiration about recent design trends – but we found it difficult to progress to the next stage of the process: the purchase itself. Scouring through multiple websites, each with different search criteria, user experiences, and hugely varying pricing ranges was a huge hassle, made even more difficult because we had a particular budget and style. The idea for our start-up was born out of this difficulty.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We made sure to carry out a lot of market research; we talked to hundreds of people of varying ages and professions who are likely to buy furniture and home accessories (both frequently and infrequently). We realised that our impression of the online home shopping market as ‘fragmented’ and difficult to navigate was shared by many: people reported that they simply did not know where to begin when it came to buying furniture and they always ended up resorting the department stores or large, generic sellers of mass-market products as the ‘simplest’ and least time-consuming method.

Speaking to retailers, we also discovered that there is a lot of interest in additional sales/marketing channels, particularly due to the fact that “m-commerce” is still very under-developed for the furniture and home accessories industry, mobile technology continues to become hugely influential in all retail industries and it is something we plan to be leaders in.

What were you doing before starting up?

We all met on day one of Freshers’ week at Oxford University. I studied French Language & Literature, Sean studied Geography and Mark studied Biology.

Upon graduating, Sean was President of Oxford Entrepreneurs (the university’s entrepreneurship society) for one year, I worked for a leading financial intelligence company and Mark did a masters in Bioinformatics. Immediately before starting Troov, Sean and I were both doing coding bootcamps and Mark was building an iOS app for a different start-up.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, it has always been something we’ve wanted to do!

How did you raise the money?

Up until now, we have been using personal savings to self-fund. We’re now in the process of acquiring our seed funding round.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

The retailers on our platform pay us a commission on every sale we generate. Further down the line, we envisage many potential additional revenue channels revolving around featured or sponsored products and in-house data around design and purchasing trends.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges we have faced is dealing with the product data that we receive from all of the different retailers and ensuring it is consistently presented. When dealing with hundreds of thousands of products as we are, it is difficult to ensure perfect product data without a level of human moderation. This is a challenge we are still in the process of overcoming!

What was your first big breakthrough?

We launched our app at the Ideal Home Show this year where the levels of engagement with the app was beyond all our expectations. This also led to our strong initial download stats.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Just go for it. Steam ahead, stop procrastinating and just be prepared to slog it out! We quite like this quote: “Doing just a little bit during the time we have available puts you that much further ahead than if you took no action at all.”

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We want to be a household name and the absolute go-to place to shop for your home; where consumers can come to our platform and know that they will find the best products for their style and budget in a time and cost-efficient, enjoyable way.

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