Monetising an app: Frugl
One of our Virgin StartUp ambassadors is Suzanne Noble, founder of Frugl, - an app which finds the best things to do in London for less than a tenner. Since founder Suzanne Noble received her loan from us, Frugl has been featured in media such as the Metro and Telegraph, made it to the front of the app store, and has an audience of over 15,000. Here's Suzanne's first ambassador blog for us on monetising an app, the glamour of startup life, and what's next for Frugl...
Startups are sexy. I know this is true because I just typed the sentence into Google and it came back with over 10 pages of results including “7 Surprisingly Saucy Startups,” “Sexy Startups May Get More Funds,” as well as “Sexiest Startup CEOS” (very hot, by the way). Yet I can tell you, sitting here at my kitchen table, having woken up at 6.30am, running a start-up feels anything but sexy. It certainly doesn’t feel sexy at 7.30am when, still in bed, I’m texting friends and associates for contacts and advice. Or even at 8am, when I’m standing beside my bed, swinging a kettle bell, in order to get my daily 30 minutes of exercise in before having to sit down for the next 12 hours (don’t even try and imagine that, it’s really not sexy).
I wouldn’t want it any other way. You can’t match the feeling that comes when meeting someone for the first time that knows, loves and uses your product all the time. Like the other day, when a friend of mine rang to tell me that Frugl, the app I created, is his girlfriend’s go-to source for planning their weekend activities. Or when people volunteer to help us because they just want to be involved. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s when stuff like that happens, all the early mornings and late nights seem worth it.
If we were playing a game and you asked me to say three words I associate with running a startup, I’d have to say ‘nerves of steel.’ That's the phrase that most often pops into my head during the day when I’m trying to juggle raising a first round of funding and working with my co-founder on approving copy for our new website, while simultaneously rifling through my address book to find the name of someone who knows someone who has access to lots of valuable tickets or offers.
June is a BIG month for us. First off, we’ve launched a new website that will enable us to monetise Frugl. For the past 18 months we’ve been curating the events and offers via a dashboard we built with the help of some super-smart developers and thanks to a grant from Innovate UK. We call it ‘Beagle’ because it sniffs out all the best content quickly, enabling us to grow our audience and find out what they like and dislike, using an analytics tool that was baked into our app. It has also helped us to build relationships with potential partners, many of whom we have been working with directly over the past year to help market their events.
Our new site, built with the help of our Virgin StartUp loan, will now enable all these partners to work with us directly and allow Frugl users to purchase events and offers in two taps (super sexy). It went live a couple of weeks ago and we have already had promoters logging in and submitting to us directly. Loads of people have signed up to browse or buy too, all without any promotion. After valuable user feedback, we’re finessing the site before moving on to refresh our iOS app. For anyone seeking great things to do in London for a tenner or less, we urge you to have a look!
At the same time, we have now launched our first fundraising campaign on Syndicate Room, an investor led platform, to enable us to scale quickly. As a female founder, I’m conscious that there aren’t that many of us in tech. I’m used to being one of the few women in the room at Silicon Drinkabout (Tech City’s weekly Friday drinks event) or when I’m pitching to a room full of investors. Having spent over 20 years working in PR, where the gender bias was not so obvious (and, if anything, more female-dominated), it’s an odd position to be in, especially at my age. The stats are pretty depressing, with only 6% of female-founded businesses receiving investment. In an industry that fetishises youth and is largely dominated by men. I have to work that much harder to convince investors and other businessmen of my value.
Last year I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 13 female entrepreneurs to take part in a mentoring programme called Entrepreneur Academe backed by pro-female Angel investment group, Angel Academe. That experience led to an introduction with a female investor who is now ‘leading’ the round on the platform. We’re aiming to raise just under £300k over the next month, so hopefully the next time you read my blog, I’ll have some good news for you!
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past 18 months of running Frugl, it’s not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. When we needed money, we turned to Virgin StartUp. When we were looking for our development team, we asked everyone we knew if they could recommend some talented people to us. Now we’re looking for anyone who runs events or works in a bar/restaurant/nail bar or hair salon that wants to attract more customers. Listing on Frugl is completely free and it takes minutes to sign up. Finally if, like us, you’re making your Virgin loan go as far as possible, and may be strapped for cash, do check out Frugl to discover all the fun you can have on a budget… or for first date ideas. Now that IS sexy.