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Adlet: Advertising Platform for Bloggers

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We had a nice chat with Ms. “Emma Coles”, CEO of the UK-based start-up “adlet.co” about his Company.

Below is the interview :

1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?

Adlet is an online advertising platform for bloggers and small businesses. We’re not an ad network; advertisers decide where they want their ads to be displayed and bloggers can chose to reject ads that don’t fit in with their views or ethics. It puts the blogger and advertiser back in control, while also being super easy to use.

We will shortly be launching a marketplace, or directory, of all of our bloggers which will enable brands and businesses find exciting new places to advertise, and bloggers to work with, to bring their products in front of a relevant audience.

2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?

Adlet was founded at the end of November 2013 at Wales’ first Startup Weekend in Swansea and we launched our public beta version at the end of April 2014.

We’ve see a huge amount of growth in our first month and currently have over 60 users on the system.

We are currently partnering with a number of different blogging websites for cross promotion, which has been really beneficial in getting us in front of a relevant audience.

3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?

We charge a 10% fee on each ad sold through the platform. We don’t charge users a monthly or sign up fee and there is no charge for advertisers to use the platform.

We are looking at introducing other revenue streams in the future, including giving bloggers a paid option to be a featured blog on our marketplace, holding blogger events with industry experts and offering graphic design for ads and sites.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

We were founded at Wales’ first Startup Weekend in November last year.

Startup Weekends are fantastic as you have just 54 hours to pitch an idea, validate and build a prototype so you complete about 6 months of work in the space of a weekend.
However, the disadvantage is that a lot of the attendees already have other projects, so the team we formed over the weekend has now disbanded.
This gave me a great opportunity to see how the team could work and I was quick to put together another team and we now have myself, Adam Curtis as our CTO and lead developer and Chloe O’Connor, who is in her second year at Swansea University and is helping with marketing and PR.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

We put the blogger and advertise in control of what ads are shown where.
The blogger is able to approve all ads that are shown on their site so all ads are in keeping with their views and site’s ethos.

The advertiser chooses where to advertise so know exactly what sites their ads will be displayed on. We also enable the two parties to build up a relationship that is mutually beneficial to ensure the advertiser gets the best promotion possible, which will then hopefully mean they continue to work with the blogger in future.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?

 version at the end of April and have so far signed up over 60 users before the end of our first month.

We are aiming to have 800 users on the platform by the end of our first year so are really pleased with our growth so far.
Towards the end of this year we will be looking to expand outside of the UK, which should result in a huge uptake of users.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?

We make it easy to accept advertising as all you need to do it install some code on your site to display your Ad Shop and your ads and when an ad has been purchased, you click on the approve button it starts to display immediately and then is automatically removed when the run time is up.

Bloggers have complete control over what ads are shown and advertisers can choose where to purchase so they know their ads are being shown to a relevant audience.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

Having to build a new team from scratch was a challenge at the very start of the project.
I commissioned a freelancer to build a basic version of the site and he got about 85% to finishing and then disappeared which obviously caused problems!

Adam stepped in and helped get Adlet to its MVP and as soon as we reached that point we launched to get users signed up as early as possible.
Nothing is not unsurmountable-you just need to be able to think on your feet and react fast!

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

Building up a relationship with the people you work with is so important. This is why we’ve made sure all of our bloggers can include their social media links on their profiles in Adlet-we want the brands they work with to be able to contact them easily and build up a rapport as both parties will benefit.

The blogger will be more willing to go out of their way to promote the brand and in turn the advertiser is then more likely to keep working with them in the future.

That and trying to get my mum to understand what it is that Adlet does!

10. Why are you going to succeed?

Based on my background in ecommerce and as a blogger myself, I know the pain points involved in selling and buying advertising through this medium. I think this gives us great insider knowledge.
We have built up a great team that understands the market and need of our users. We feel there is a real need for a platform such as this, a sentiment that has been echoed by the users we have so far.
Simply put-right team, right place, right time.

11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

We are looking to expand into offline advertising, bridging the gap to allow small business to take advantage of advertising opportunities that at present are only available to larger companies.

We will also be offering ad design for advertisers that may not be able to create their own graphics and this gives us the advantage of being able to tailor the ad design around the advertiser and the blog they would be advertising on.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?

I have run a successful ecommerce company, Ji Ji Kiki, since 2008 and work very closely with bloggers to advertise and promote that. I am also a blogger and have sold advertising on my site.
There is two ways to advertise; direct contact with the blogger, which involves a lot of emailing and time wasted, or using an ad network which limits control for both the advertiser and publisher.

I felt there had to be an easier way for both parties, that still kept them in control and so Adlet was born.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

Nothing ever goes how you plan it, so you need to make sure you have a plan B and are able to move quickly to react.

We have grown lot quicker than first anticipated in our first month, which is obviously fantastic but of course poses its own problems so we’ve learnt to be fast to respond to queries and anticipate potential problems before they arise.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

We are looking to take on a full-time PHP developer to enable us to roll out features quickly and remain agile and able to respond quickly to our users needs.

Adam has his own company, Hoowla, and its obviously not ideal for him to be working on Adlet in his free time. At the moment its not an issue and we will hopefully have taken on a full-time developer before it becomes one.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

Ease of use, while still being in complete control. We want to keep things are simple as possible and it takes less that 5 minutes to set up an account, install the HTML snippets and start accepting advertising.

We will shortly be launching our marketplace, which will enable advertisers to find new and relevant places to advertise, taking the pain out of finding new bloggers to work with and sites to advertise on.

16. How did customers / users find out about you?

Following the launch of our beta version, we have contacted bloggers directly through their sites, as well as harnessed the power of Twitter to contact potential users.
Twitter has worked really well for us as so many bloggers use it as a way to communicate to each other. This also gives us a great way to interact with users and show a human side to Adlet. I am in the same demographic as our users and I feel its important to show that and that we’re not just a faceless corporation.

17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?

Our current users are bloggers and small businesses, but the site it set up in a way that it could be used by anyone who wants to monetize their site and stay in control of their advertising.

It is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario with a two sided platform such as Adlet, but we have so far been concentrating on signing up bloggers. We have put together a lot of resources and guides to help our bloggers contact the brands they want to work.

18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

Currently we are concentrating on direct marketing, but we have in the last week noticed a lot of new sign ups that we haven’t previously contacted which is brilliant.

We pride ourselves on the friendliness and usability of the site as well as the simplicity of setting up an account and the fact there is no sign up fees or minimum contract.
It takes less than 5 minutes to set up, so there are few barriers to getting your Adlet account up and running.

19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?

We have received fantastic feedback from our users on how easy it is to set up an account and how straight forward and quick the process is.

Working in collaboration with our users is key for us to ensure we are building out features they need and I think what we’ve achieved so far reflects how well this is working.
The main feedback we’ve received is that their is a real demand for a system such as this so its great to be working on something our target market feel there is a real need for.

20. How are you going to scale?

We have a great group on bloggers behind us who are extremely supportive and helping us spread the word about Adlet.

We will continue to use Twitter to promote Adlet and are collaborating with blogger resource websites and blogger meet ups to promote the platform to new users. We are currently growing at a faster rate than we anticipated for our first month so we just need to keep this momentum going!

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

We have worked very closely with bloggers during the development of the platform to ensure that we have features they want and need, rather than what we think they want.

So far, based on feedback, we have all the features our users require, but we are always looking at what we can add to make their experience and usability better.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

At the moment we are concentrating on the UK market, with a view to expand outside of the UK later in the year. I feel that in order to give our users the best possible experience we need to have a multiple currency option, so bloggers can sell ad spaces in their own currency and this is a feature we will be bringing to the top of the development list due to a growing number of non UK users.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

We have ambitious, but I feel realistic, expansions plans. We aim to have 800 users in the first year and after less than one month we are well on the way to achieving this target.

The blogging market is huge and the amount spent on online advertising in the UK in 2013 exceeded £3.6bn so the overall scope is huge.

Initially we are concentrating on the UK market, and will be expanding beyond this towards the end of the year.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We are currently looking to hire both back and front end PHP developers to enable us to bring in new features and grow faster.

At present we have a Media Studies student interning with us to help on marketing and PR and it would be fantastic to take on a full-time position to help us grow.
If there is any bloggers or people who would be interested in using Adlet on their site, brand ambassadors are always greatly appreciated.
I can be reached on emma@adlet.ci

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

Currently we are bootstrapping and not looking for investment, as we anticipated being self sustaining but of course never say never.

We would of course be extremely grateful for any feedback from potential users. We are currently partnering with a number of blogging platforms, so would love to hear from any bloggers or companies that would be interested in partnering for cross promotion.

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Go for it, it will be the best thing you’ll do!

Don’t expect it to be easy- tts not a 9-5 job, you’ll be working until 2am and then starting again and 7am, but it will never be dull. Your friends and family won’t understand how hard it can be, there is such a great amount of support out there and its incredibly rewarding.

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