Michael Hadjijoseph, the founder behind Stagedoor app, tells us about the design, tech and marketing behind the new theatre-discovery app.

By Eoin O'Hara

Placing an app at the very centre of your business is bound to create a unique set of obstacles to be overcome and challenges to be conquered.

Michael Hadjijoseph is one entrepreneur doing battle to grow his app startup Stagedoor into a key player on the London theatre circuit. He was very kind to have a chat with us about his experience, and to share some useful knowledge / lessons learned about the various planning, design, and technical difficulties that can come up when creating this kind of business.   

Hi Michael. First off can you give us an overview of Stagedoor App.  What does it do, and how do you reckon this will make an impact?

Stagedoor is a theatre discovery app. It was designed specifically to meet the needs of theatre lovers, providing accessibility to the most comprehensive catalogue of information of what shows are on, where they're on, who’s in them, and what shows people are recommending. It’s the first app which covers the whole spectrum of London theatre, from big West-end shows to smaller Fringe ones, and it also has social aspect too.

During the design process we focused on addressing the needs of “hardcore theatre lovers” i.e. people who go to the theatre more than 12 times a year. We’ve created features like the ability to follow their favourite creatives (actors, directors, writers etc), their favourite venues as well as production companies, enabling theatre lovers to stay up to date with these and get smart, personalised recommendations based on their preferences.

Even though we originally focused on the “hardcore theatre lovers” we are now realising that Stagedoor is also adding a lot of value to people who’ve always wanted to go to the theatre more, but never knew what to see. Features like the “Saved list” where users save all the shows they want to see, sorting them by “Closing date” and reminding them a couple of weeks before a show finishes, to re-engage them and increase the chance of attendance.

Lastly theatre lovers can Rate a show and keep an Archive of the show’s they’ve been to. When a user recommends a show, all of his/hers Facebook friends / Twitter followers who are on Stagedoor will receive that recommendation. A bit like word of mouth, which according to a recent study makes up 33% of theatre discovery.

Some have called Stagedoor “a social iMDB for theatre”.

From a design perspective, how do you approach a challenge like this one?

As product people, the way we approached this challenge from the beginning was to understand what problems we were solving. In the initial phase of design we spoke to a lot of people from the industry, avid theatre lovers, and Londoners who go to the theatre ‘every now and then’. This part of the process really helped gather the requirements for our fully fledged product.

The fact that part of our team wasn’t too involved in theatre, enabled us to look at the design process from a different angle, and not make too many assumptions about what people would want.


After this we started wireframing, and once complete we began to eliminate those features that were unnecessary for launch. Alex Cican (my co-founder) then created a prototype using Flinto which we started showing around to people to get some initial feedback.

We then began developing the app and when it was almost done, we invited about 20 people to my flat and ran a user testing session.

This proved to be one of the most important things we did before launch, as by the end of it we had almost 7 A4 pages of alterations, copy changes, and other quick wins which massively improved the usability / functionality of the app.

The fact that part of our team wasn’t too involved in theatre, enabled us to look at the design process from a different angle, and not make too many assumptions about what people would want.

Can you talk us through the process of creating an app and give some advice to others who might be taking this challenge?

It massively depends on the product, but generally speaking at launch your app shouldn't have extensive functionality. Focusing on doing a few things, and doing them well is more important at that early stage. Building a habit forming product and understanding the psychology behind your users and their needs is imperative, whereas major functionality can often dilute the value of your product rather than enhance it.

We find that people lacking specific technical / technology skills are sometime apprehensive about moving forward with a project like this, what advice would you give to them?

Some technical ability / understanding is super important, but you don’t need to be a developer to move forward with a tech product. I’ve realised that product understanding, knowing what needs to be built, being able to manage technical resources effectively, and having really good design / UX sense is more important than being super technical.  Again, it depends massively on the product, some deep tech products require great technical ability to be well executed.

Encouraging uptake of new technologies can be incredibly difficult.  What approach have you guys taken to encourage growth, and have you got any creative / unusual tips that you would like to share?

Growth is indeed one of the hardest things, especially in the early stages where funds are limited and you have to figure out cost-effective ways to acquire new users, whilst at the same time create a vibrant community around your product.

I’m a firm believer in the power of community.


I’m a firm believer in the power of community.  For products like Stagedoor, you really need to focus on creating and fostering a community of “early adopters” for your product- these are the guys who are most passionate and will evangelise about it.

We’ve created the ‘Stagedoor Circle’, which is a community of people who really resonate with Stagedoor’s purpose of "bringing people closer to theatre”. These guys are all theatre lovers, some are theatre bloggers, some are creatives from the industry and others just plain old theatre addicts. By identifying ways we can give back to these guys, we create a strong community around our product which really helps in getting the word out.

We are also currently testing testing other ways to grow by partnering up with some theatre venues and production companies. www.stagedoorapp.com/partners

How important is social media integration for Stagedoor app and are you guys using social media in any new / creative ways to encourage engagement?

Theatre itself is social, and therefore by default Stagedoor is a social app, aiming to enhance discovery in theatre. Social media integration has been vital for us from day one, when we realised that a lot of theatre lovers are actually very active on Twitter. We then built a huge database of the twitter handles of all theatre professionals, venues and theatre companies.

As soon as someone signs up to Stagedoor via Twitter, they ‘auto follow’ all their favourite venues theatre companies and theatre professionals on Stagedoor- this enables us to give them relevant recommendations based on their personal preferences.

Another important thing we are doing on a social level is replicating ‘word of mouth’. We are doing this by showing users what shows other friends / people they trust are recommending.

All of this is done by having a very tight social integration between networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Find out more about Stagedoor

Eoin O'Hara is a business developer at Startacus.net