Trustedplaces: Sokratis Papafloratos

The Trustedplaces founder on why good staff are the most important aspect of running a business.

A lot has been made of the fact that Sokratis Papafloratos and Walid Al Saqqaf, founders of social networking site trustedplaces.com, have been so dedicated to their business that it’s cost them both their girlfriends.

Whether this is, as Sokratis has said, due to their passion for the business, or whether it’s because the pair spend many of their evenings promoting the business, is difficult to tell.

Sokratis says he and Walid met because ‘he was a flatmate of my ex-girlfriend’s cousin’ – a tenuous link, but one which resulted in a solid friendship. The pair ‘somehow always ended up going to the same places time and time again, which was a little bit frustrating.’

Talking to friends, they had a realisation – “We all have a friend who is a walking events guide. We thought that if we bring all those friends together in one place, all of a sudden you have access to hundreds of people’s knowledge.” The company was set up in February 2006, when the pair left their jobs to devote themselves to building up the business.

Some grass-roots market research techniques followed. “We did things like going to Starbucks and spending the day there, buying strangers coffee and asking them about some ideas that we had. They were kind of impromptu focus groups,” he says.

The success of the focus groups was such that so far, the company hasn’t spent any money on advertising. “It’s mostly been through word of mouth – a lot of it has come from the blogging community,” says Sokratis. “We are proactive, we make sure we let people know what we’re doing, we approach people for their feedback and opinions – we know it works, because our traffic has grown five times since September.”

Sokratis says that the website’s success stems from the emphasis the pair place on finding the right staff. “Our main focus when we started the business was bringing great people into the team. That’s what has made the difference with trustedplaces. “If you see what we’ve achieved compared to similar companies with more money than us, they have far more resources, but the reason we can compete with them is the people we have.”

So what does the future hold for a company that is rapidly becoming one of the biggest players in a crowded sector? “I want to go international,” says Sokratis. “I want to have an international presence, and I want to continue having a great network of people supporting us.”

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