Is the timing right for your business idea?
When launching your business, it’s important to consider whether it’s the optimum time for it. Are you too far ahead of the curve, lagging behind, or just hitting that sweet spot where technology and customer needs meet? We talk to some of our Virgin Startup loan businesses to discover why this year – not next year, last year, or any other time – was the ideal time for them to start up.
Venetia Archer of Ruuby
“People’s buying behaviours have changed drastically in the last year or so.”
“It is an exciting time in the world of apps right now. People are becoming such last-minute operators, and apps are both facilitating and encouraging this new behaviour.
That’s why I thought it was such a great time to launch Ruuby, an app for premium beauty bookings across London. In the past, women were resigned to the fact that they had to plan their day around a beauty appointment. Now that we have become conditioned to immediacy, it became clear to me that there was a real opportunity to apply this to beauty services. Ruuby allows people to scan all of the availabilities near them at any given time, and book and pay in seconds.
The most important thing for us was to ensure a degree of trust. Uber does it by monitoring the movements of their drivers. We do it by vetting all salons that come on board, so users can be sure of a good treatment. People don't even question the security of their payments any more - payment providers like Braintree and Stripe have made mobile payments second nature. It will be interesting to see how the app market evolves this year!”
James Day and James Griffiths of Mous
“Don’t waste time waiting for the ‘perfect’ time.”
“In my opinion there is never a perfect time to start a business. There’s technology around now that wasn’t two years ago that allows us to create prototypes and develop our product easily; however the market in phone accessories is also crazy competitive now, compared to a couple of years ago. For every advantage there will be a disadvantage – but you just have to go for it anyway.
3D printers have been a giant leap for the world of start-ups, vital in the development of Mous Musicase (the world’s smallest iPhone case that holds and retracts Apple headphones). Purchasing a 3D printer enabled us to print out numerous prototype iterations based on customer feedback. Combined with the rise of crowdfunding (we used Kickstarter), in some ways it’s been the perfect time to start! Never has it been so possible to ensure your product develops in line with the needs of your customer.
However, with reduced barriers to entry in hardware markets brings increased competition - Kickstarter is flooded with new phone case start-ups all the time. To prosper, you must ensure you get everything right, from PR to social media to the very product itself. One watch out I would say is that the precise date you launch a product can be subject to timing.
For us, seasonality was important – we offered delivery in time for Christmas for our unique iPhone cases which inevitably meant our PR push could position us as the perfect Christmas gift, helping us stand out. However, a business isn’t just about making the product; you need to identify a need and so many other things first.
Our experience has taught us that there might never be a ‘perfect’ time to start a business, but whatever your business idea, support has never been so strong for young start-ups.”
Jonathan Butler of Tiamee
“We saw a gap, and got in there quickly!”
“I launched my online fresh produce grocery business in 2014, at a time when the ‘Big Four’ supermarket retailers in the UK were almost appearing daily on the news with declining sales, financial cover-up scandals, and price wars. Some people would say you would be mad to launch a business at a time of such turmoil or change, but with any business sector you have to look deeper to see what the underlying trends may be. For me I saw this as a golden opportunity to develop a business that focused on the areas that the major supermarkets had lost touch with: the customer and the product.
The food retail sector has seen seismic shifts over the last 20-25 years, from individual high-street shops to mammoth supermarkets. The last few years have seen a new shift in the sector, and that is towards the online offer. Since the recession customers have become savvier, and the online offerings have enable customers to compare prices before they shop.
But it’s not all about price - customers are also becoming more conscious about where their food is coming from, fuelled by the rise of the celebrity chef, TV programmes on what goes into our food, and knowledge of the processes. This has led to many farm shops developing, a surge in farmers markets, and customers not just shopping based on price, but also on seasonality and quality.
The problem with the farmers markets and farm shops is they are only accessible at certain times. They rarely have an online offering - in fact I haven’t found one yet that does. Supermarkets such as Waitrose and M&S are developing a strong offering to the more discerning shopper and have both seen significant sales growth. But I felt something was missing.
I took all these factors, along with my own passion and experience as a former chef and restaurateur, and thought could I develop a simple model, website and business that initially focused on my local area of Gloucestershire. With Tiamee, I have been able to do this. We are driven by quality, rather than trying to please shareholders. I am excited that as the large supermarkets squabble with price wars and get bogged down with big empty stores, we can deliver to our customers what they want.
So for me, this was exactly the right time to launch Tiamee – the combination of people caring more about their food and its impact, with a need that wasn’t being met by existing online retailers. Recent industry studies have predicted a 126% increase in online food and grocery sales over the next 5 years estimating an annual spend of £14.6 billion. We’re glad we got in first!”
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons