Start-Ups.Co really enjoyed interviewing the brilliant entrepreneur; Mr. ‘Tom Starley'; Founder of the UK- based Start Up “emble”.
Below, is the full interview that we have conducted :
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
emble is a revolutionary web app that aims to solve the problems of trying to arrange events with your friends, family or colleagues. A dedicated planning stage allows users to suggest and vote on dates and activities with their chosen co-organisers. The intuitive user interface allows you to run your event quickly and easily, invite your friends from across the major social networks and email, and collect money before the event without the need for awkward conversations. emble enables you to plan and run amazing events, so you can focus on what really matters: having more fun with your friends.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
emble as a company was founded in mid 2013 but the idea and concepts have been steadily evolving since 2012. We’re currently in the development phase after a lengthy design and planning stage and should be opening it up for a private beta in June 2014 – while the development team is working the rest of us are focussing our efforts on creating a buzz around emble for the launch!
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
If you’re using emble to plan an event or organise a free event, then it’s free for you to use. If you are collecting money for your event, you as the organiser will always get 100% of the funds you ask for from your guests – emble will simply charge a small fee on top of each guests’ contribution. The fees are different depending on the currency in use.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
I’ve worked with all the members of the team in the past on various other projects, so when I decided to bring emble to life I already knew who I wanted to help me achieve it. We have Adam, (another) Tom, James, Neil & Dale in development, Nat & myself in design and Ria &(another) Adam tackling marketing. We all pitch in and help each other out which makes it more interesting because we’re not limited to just one role.
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?
Alternatives such as Facebook events assumes you already know what you want to do and when you want to do it. With emble you can invite your friends to help you plan the event by suggesting and voting for ideas and dates. The organiser can then choose to go with the most popular choice – if this choice turns out to not be available, they have a list of other popular choices to choose from.
emble also lets you collect money before the event – guests have to pay for their place before they are down as ‘going’. This avoids any awkward conversations chasing your friends for money.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We won’t be launching til next month, so we don’t have growth figures – yet! As there are a lot of factors to take in to account, including exchange rates as we’ll be launching in UK, mainland Europe and USA, our forecasts have had to be very flexible and consider many different scenarios. Our first milestone will be launch – all going to plan this will happen in June!
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
WePopp, and to some extent Doodle and Fasterplan are the closest apps to us. Facebook events features too and obviously benefits from the shear number of users it boasts. emble’s UI blows all of these out of the water. emble’s easy-to-use system coupled with the ability to receive payments straight to your bank account places us ahead of the competition.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Too many to mention here! Our biggest obstacle was undoubtedly the design of the app. emble had to be simple to use for first-time users as well as the more experienced and we went through many design changes to achieve this. It has been extensively tested time and time again using InVision to make sure the process is painless and intuitive. We also went through two name changes, thankfully before launch so while it was fairly disruptive, it could have been a lot worse!
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Before we started to develop emble, we couldn’t believe that it hadn’t already been done – there seemed to be a real gap in the market for it and everyone we told about it couldn’t wait to use it themselves. It seemed like such a simple concept, allowing people to collaborate on ideas, but in practice it was a lot more complicated because of all the different variables involved. It’s taken a lot of brainpower to work out all the logistical kinks and create something that’s incredibly easy to use; I’m not sure anyone will ever know how challenging it was!
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We’ll succeed because emble solves a genuine problem we all face: organising anything with a group of friends is hard work! It’s difficult to keep track of who can make the Saturday and who prefers the Sunday, who thinks that everyone should go to Florida and who thinks San Francisco. The feedback we’ve had from the individuals we’ve spoken to has been fantastic – every one of them has told us of a time when they could really have done with emble.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
When emble succeeds, we hope to be able to suggest ideas to people who have an event to organise but have no idea what to do for it. Say for example a group of girls are organising a hen party but have no idea what they should do. emble will be able suggest suitable places to go and activities to do for the organisers to vote on.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
The idea for emble came from a completely organic place – I play five-a-side football, and it’s always quite difficult to organise. We play every week and it’s surprisingly difficult to manage who’s coming and who’s not because we don’t just use one platform. There’s also the added element of needing to collect money from the players, which is always awkward! I got so frustrated that I just decided to come up with a solution myself, and thus, emble was born!
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
The biggest thing we’ve learned is that everything takes longer than you anticipate it to. That’s partly our fault because we want the app to be perfect when it launches and we’ve made many, many changes since the initial ‘complete’ designs were drawn. It’s also partly down to a number of things we didn’t anticipate which took up time to think about and act upon. Everything takes longer than you think it will, especially if you didn’t know about it until it pops up.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
All going to plan, the biggest problem we’re likely to face in 6 months time is having to upgrade our hosting solution – this would be a good problem to have though as it means we have a large and active user base! We don’t foresee any major issues as we’ve built the app to be as future proof as possible. We’ve also set up a support desk to cater for any issues our users bring to us – in 6 months time any major bugs should (hopefully) be squashed!
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
emble has a few main benefits for it’s users, one of which is being able to ‘crowd source’ planning an event with your friends, taking the hassle out of trying to maintain an email thread and remembering what’s been suggested and ruled out already. The organiser also can collect money from guests before the event, straight into their bank account making booking the event much easier!
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
So far we’ve run a pretty successful social media campaign to create a buzz around emble, though this was hampered by us having to change our name! Our followers do seem to have taken to our new moniker though. We’ve also enjoyed coverage on sites like Product Hunt and Beta List which have both provided us some traffic to the website leading to more beta signups.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our target users are quite hard to identify as a certain group of people. emble can be used to plan and run any size event from a handful of people upwards and for any type of event from a birthday party to a round-the-world trip! We expect emble to be used by anyone looking to ease the stress of making plans with friends.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Up until launch our new signups have been coming from social media and exposure on startup sites; we’ll also be looking to gain some tech press coverage closer to launch day too. Once emble goes live, the majority of new users will come through being invited to the app by their friends. emble is a social tool – you need to invite your friends to get the benefit of using it.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We’re all immensely proud of emble and will talk about it anyone who will listen! We’ve had some incredibly positive feedback from the people we’ve spoken to, and most of them have given us real-world examples of when they could have used emble for something they organised. We’ve even had ideas of how emble can be used to vote on gift ideas, which is fantastic – we’ve not even launched and already people are coming up with more ways to use emble!
20. How are you going to scale?
As an app, emble is fairly self-scaling. To plan and run an event with your friends you have to first invite your friends. Once we have gained our first few core users, we should see our user base expand rapidly – if it doesn’t then we’re doing something wrong! On top of this we’ll be interacting with existing and potential new users through social media with the aim of giving people a brilliant impression of emble before they’ve even signed up!
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Once we’ve launched the web app, the next stage will be to begin work on mobile apps for iOS and Android so people can manage their events on the go. So many people use their smartphones instead of computers that it’s incredibly important for us to be able to support users regardless of how they access emble.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We had big dreams for emble from day one, and always had internationalisation in mind. We’re using MangoPay as our payment provider, and they’ve recently added support for Pounds and Dollars as well as Euros, meaning we’re able to launch with three currencies. The next stage will be localised versions of the app available in different languages.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We see no real ceiling to emble’s growth – people are always going to want to throw birthday parties and organise holidays, and we think emble is the easiest way of doing this. We’re also lucky in that we’ve got a product that’s sharable in it’s very nature – users will automatically be sharing emble when they invite users to their events.
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’re currently not recruiting, but we’re hoping to be so busy after launch that we’ll need to expand quite rapidly. One of the first areas we’ll be looking to hire in is customer support, so if you’re interested in working with us to ensure our users have a great experience, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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?
emble’s initial development and set up has been funded from a private loan, so we’ve had to subscribe to the ‘lean startup’ movement. We’ve bootstrapped as much as possible without cutting corners, and have done a lot of administration work in-house. Investment is something we’ll probably be looking into at some point in the not too distant future though!
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Even though emble isn’t live yet, I’ve learned a lot about managing a team and building a product from scratch. I’d offer the following advice to budding entrepreneurs: don’t surround yourself with yes men, learn how to delegate (and when to step back), and manage your expectations.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Building emble has been a highly challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable experience. Being part of a team that wants to build something amazing is incredible and the lessons learned from taking this on I can take with me to our next app.