Our newest startup writer, Venetia, is in the midst of developing Ruuby, an app which allows you to make last minute beauty bookings at selected London salons. Formerly a full-time political risk analyst, focusing on Africa, she took the startup plunge at the beginning of this year and since then has been developing her brand, the app and business funding. In this column, she discusses the challenges and opportunities associated with being open to an evolving business strategy.
Get in touch with Venetia on Twitter @Venetia__ and check out Ruuby here.
It is quite rare to want for service these days - we can make restaurant reservations in seconds, book into concerts half an hour beforehand, and get whatever we want delivered to our home in 20 minutes. But we can't really make last minute beauty appointments from our mobile. It was that frustration and clear opportunity that prompted me to completely shift professional direction, and swap Africa for apps.
Despite a personal conviction in the idea, the most important thing to do was ensure that there was a market for mobile beauty bookings, beyond my personal desire for a last minute manicure. Market research can be dull, but the best part about it is meeting with potential clients and partners, and adapting the concept in the early stages to ensure buy-in down the line.
What we established was that our key to success would be through the salons. Unless their interests are being served, the app wouldn't work, and therefore it has been absolutely key to develop Ruuby with their business requirements in mind. The users come later.
Given my own professional background had very little to do with beauty, it took a lot more work in the early stages to meet people in the industry that could help. That’s not to say it was difficult. Using the usual social media platforms (the most useful of which have been Twitter and LinkedIn), it is remarkably easy to connect with people who have wanted to get involved, or even just offer advice.
The support network available to startups - some of the best include Google Campus, Virgin Startups and TableCrowd - has been invaluable. I had no idea what was out there until people and businesses started emailing me wanting to meet up, chat, make introductions and just generally be helpful. Pretty much every conversation ends up leading somewhere, and it is worth reaching out and accepting all offers of introduction. You never know where they might lead.
Two of the more troubling issues that myself and my small team have faced are budget and launch date. The budget has doubled and tripled and quadrupled, and the launch date just continues to be pushed back… Despite the associated anxieties, we’ve made the most of the degree of flexibility open to a startup in the early stages, and made some serious strategic decisions that will certainly benefit the company in the long term, taking the hit on a delayed launch.
Looking at similar models for different industries is key. As technical solutions develop so quickly, it is a good idea to analyze where existing providers are lacking, and if their models have become less relevant for today’s market. What can be done differently?
I now have a more complex and quite different business model to the one I started with, and I feel confident that Ruuby will be much better as a result.
Check out Ruuby here. Follow them on Twitter @ruubyapp and on Instagram @Ruubyapp.