How I started... a tech business
Venetia Archer is the founder of Ruuby - an app curating high-end beauty appointments, giving you the ability to easily book an appointment at London's top salons with just a couple of taps. Here's how she started up a tech business.
What made you decide to start your business?
I launched Ruuby because I saw such a gap in the market for a beauty bookings app. While there were a couple of businesses in the space, none were focussed on quality and curation. They were more oriented towards deals and discounts. Beauty is such a personal service, and most women are discerning when it comes to the places they visit or therapists they use. What we have done is worked with editors and beauty aficionados to identify the best in the business, and offer an easy tool to connect with them.
What sort of hours do you work?
I am pretty relaxed - usually 9.30am to 6.00pm - much longer and I’m not particularly productive. I also love working on Sundays as it gives you a head start on the week and its a good day to get stuck into big projects quietly.
What natural skills do you need to be good in your industry?
You have to be adaptable and resilient. Its hard - our business model is investment heavy, and it will take time before we become profitable. As a result, its important not to be profit driven. I am 100% data driven. Adaptability is important because the tech space is constantly evolving. There are new technologies and industry trends that are important to be aware of, and potentially implement.
What market research did you do?
We did a huge amount, from surveys of all of those involved (the salons, beauty therapists and customers), using these answers to prioritise different elements. Market research is invaluable. I used to just presume I knew what our customers wanted, but the initial market research quickly put paid to that.
Do you work from home or use other premises, and how did you find the premises if so?
We work from a wonderful office right near where most of us live, which is handy. We found it on Gumtree - I deliberated co-working spaces but they proved too expensive. I used to work out of my apartment, which got pretty old pretty fast.
How did you market your business pre-launch?
We spent a lot of time building up our social media accounts, particularly Instagram. I was wary about talking about the app too much before launch, so building social media profiles and a voice was a good way to use the time productively. It also takes a while to find the brand voice and aesthetic, and by the time we launched it had come together.
How did you launch?
We had a six month soft launch period. Because Ruuby is a tech product, we wanted to iron out all our processes and systems, and ensure things were smooth when we really pushed the product out to the press. We held a party at Michaeljohn’s salon on Albemarle St for family and friends - it was lots of fun, and will most certainly be repeated.
What were those first few weeks like?
Both deeply relieving and rather stressful. Relieving, because prior to launch the app I had that ongoing anxiety that no one would use it. Luckily the first few weeks were busier than we expected, which also contributed to them being quite intense - it was a firefight with the tech. We had a react so fast when problems or bugs were reported.
Any tips to someone else that wants to start a business?
- Do as much market research as possible. Don't take any assumptions for granted.
- Invest in people. If you find someone great, make the company theirs, too.
- Invest in good lawyers and accountants. Associated legal and accounting frameworks will become increasingly important as the company grows.
- Build a strong advisory team. Make sure everyone brings a different skill set and network.
- Don’t be shy. The more emails you send, the more replies you receive. This goes for random email introductions to people you want to speak with, to the press.
- Employ trial and error. If you aren't getting good results from a certain approach, change it.
- Partner up. Work with other start-ups - share experiences, and share clients/customers.