TrueView: Andrew Ibbotson, Matt Verity and Damian Mitchell
The innovative co-founders on the challenges of bootstrapping – and creating a digital dating app for the Facebook generation
Tell us what your business does:
TrueView is a dynamic, location-based dating app, which lives alongside you and updates all the time, bringing an exciting new approach to the online dating industry.
Rather than writing a profile to sell yourself with what you think other users will want to hear, you can log when you go to your favourite restaurant or watch your favourite film. That evolves users’ profiles to match them with people who they actually have common interests with.
As our strapline says: don’t sell yourself, be yourself.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
After spending a lot of time and money on online dating sites – with little success – Andrew decided to take matters into his own hands, and build a mobile dating app with a difference.
Aware of the flaws with the sites he was visiting, he set out to design something that is easy to use, fun, affordable and effective.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Online dating is a saturated market, in which businesses believe it helps to give you hundreds of results (including out-of-date profiles), most of which don’t fit the bill.
TrueView actually reduces choice by only giving you matches that are relevant to you. It will revolutionise the online dating market, making it safe, secure, and most of all, fun.
You only have to look at Twitter or Google to see the negative stigma that the online dating industry currently has. It does not utilise modern social behaviour or tap into the smart-phone market properly. That’s where TrueView comes in.
What were you doing before starting up?
This project has been created entirely in our spare time. Andrew has a technology sales background, while Matt and Damian work in digital advertising. (Matt is a creative, Damian an innovations specialist and developer.)
Together we are the perfect combination to create a unique, exciting platform and get it up and running with very little resource.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Matt and Andrew have known each other since school and always dreamt up business ideas together.
TrueView was the idea that seemed to really solve a genuine problem.
What planning did you do before you started up?
Market research was a large focus in the early part of the project.
We would only ever set something like this up if we genuinely thought it was right, and had the relevant data to prove that.
How did you raise the money?
We are working with a very lean start-up model, and building with an iterative approach (upgrading and refining the product as it develops).
This means we have not had to raise any money so far and, through beta, get the feedback we need to evolve the product into something that people want.
The platform’s success depends on how people use it, so we need to make sure we have a certain number on board before we officially launch. That’s why we are running a sign-up programme for our six-month free beta trial.
How did you find suppliers?
Everything we have done has been in-house. However, along the way, we have made some great contacts – both through networking events and cold calling people whom we think would like to be involved.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was doing all this in our spare time!
Now our greatest trial is having little, if not no, money for PR and advertising. We are relying very heavily on the viral effect of social media.
Where is your business based?
The business is based in London but, being digital, everything is monitored, tracked and built remotely, using cloud-based technologies. We have meetings over Google+, share documents and talk over Skype.
We are a digital company, which, at the moment, is using every digital platform to help us!
How have you promoted your business?
We sent out a press release to a whole bunch of the contacts that we have pulled together, and we are also using Launchrock. It’s an incentive-driven, sign-up platform, which allows you to create a pre-launch landing page and uses the domino effect of social networks to spread the product viral.
Because of the industry we are launching in, we have found that word of mouth and recommendations work the best for us. It gives people confidence in the product.
How much do you charge?
It is a free application while we are in private beta, generating sign-ups prior to launch.
The app will then work on a subscription model, and also bring in revenue through advertising and media partnerships.
We are testing the early adopters to find the best model and market fit.
What about staff – how many do you have? Is it burdensome?
There are only the three of us. Matt can be a burden!
What has your growth been like?
We haven’t launched the product to the public as yet, but are doing some basic testing with small user groups.
We changed our business plan in November/December and are now hitting all of our goals. We expect to be profitable inside the first year.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
Home life takes a bit of a back seat. We’re continually thinking of what’s next to do on our huge list: testing, design, strategy, and looking for advice and ideas.
It is important to get out though. Some great ideas have come from meeting very inspirational people, or just chatting with friends over a beer.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Doing so with zero money. With a cash injection we would have launched a lot earlier and been able to promote the product in key areas, which currently we can’t afford to do.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Finding out that people believe in the idea! Everyone we talk to think it is a great product and says they would use it. Users started signing up to the beta without any PR.
Getting such belief from people gave us the motivation to keep going. Regardless of what you think of your product you need an unbiased view to keep the project grounded and moving forwards in the right direction.
What would you do differently?
Hindsight is a great thing. I’m not sure there is anything which we’d change but, if circumstances had been different, we could have got to market a little quicker. You can only knock down what’s in front of you.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Just go for it – the thrill of people engaging in your product and talking about it is so invigorating! The low points are low but you get out what you put in. Get as much advice outside of your team as possible.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In five years’ time we’ll still be working together, on a variety of projects. This is just the first.