Location: London, UK
Launching: Soft Launch Dec 2012 – Main launch Jan 2013
What problem is TrueView solving? and why did you choose to pursue it?
We are helping you to discover real people and make real connections through the things you love doing. It is a problem my good friend and Co-Founder Andrew Ibbotson identified when he moved to London and used online dating. We soon realised it is a common issue and that people are not having the rosy experience that the industry paints. The industry needs to change, people need a helpful, simple, caring and trust-worthy service that actually wants you to meet like-minded people and makes it easy to do so.
TrueView’s technology core sounds like a learning engine that evolves its personalisation through activity. What are most innovative ideas to providing relevance that make TrueView’s suggestions great?
Yes we are using an algorithm to learn and evolve as the platform grows, helping us to strengthen our service offering. But, we are not into robots making all the decisions, using psychometric testing and hundreds of questions. That isn’t how you meet people. We have worked very hard to make the platform as intuitive and simple as possible so people understand and enjoy using it.
The design has been informed by the information we want to show, the platform it is shown on and where people are most likely to use. It hasn’t been perfected yet but that is the beauty of being agile. We keep tweaking and testing and as we gather more data I am sure we will see the need to iterate even more, understanding how people use the app, where they go first, what area’s they use the most, and which ones they don’t is probably the most important stage of our development.
Dating platforms are tough to start due to their inherent need for a wide user base. How are you tackling this acquisition conundrum?
For us we have a new and unique approach, which has been well received in our focus groups and our social channels. Being one of the first in the industry to listen to what people want, developing a relationship with our growing community and build a product around our customers, our brand ambassadors are going from strength to strength. Having those people who support us and understand what we are trying to achieve is vitally important for us to build trust and expand that user base.
Having a strong marketing and customer acquisition strategy has also been put in place to super charge our growth as well. We understand the analogy of going into a club and nobody being in it, but we have our own, which is going into a club, which is over crowded, with huge queues at the bar, getting hassled and drinks being over priced. Nobody wants that either.
It has been tough but we have found the best way to grow a strong community is to go out and tell people about your idea. Start with friends and family. Present, network, beg, steal and borrow and it will start to gain traction.
We were lucky that we met a girl at Start-ups who really liked what we were doing, wrote about us and entered us into the start-ups top 100, which we placed 60th. She has left now but continues to support us and it is those people whom are vital.
Not just people that have good contacts but the people that really get what you are doing and genuinely believe in you and your idea. We don’t choose brand ambassadors they pick you and it is just making sure you engage and build a relationship with them to help show your appreciation for their support and knowledge.
How are you managing the line between providing enough information to be useful with disclosing too much private information?
You obviously haven’t seen our demo video’s For us security is paramount. We are not like all the other location aware businesses out there. In fact we are not that at all. We never give away your GPS location in real-time or want people to feel unsafe at anytime. We are looking again to be one of the first in the market to implement some neat validation techniques that aren’t imposing but still effective.
We are talking to a company called MiiCard, which is a digital passport solution and we have some ideas that we haven’t seen before so we are just working through them to see if they are possible. But, again it is finding a balance between it being a helpful tool or it being imposing itself and actually putting people off using us.
You would be surprised how much people are prepared to share with the digital world and not prepared to add to an account to help with the prevention of fake profiles. Our platform allows people to share the things they love doing, whether that is cooking a new recipe or going for a run, it is then up to the user what and when they log this information if they want to at all. The data is insightful and not a security problem.
The best way we control this is to talk to our users. What they want, what they don’t want and what they are happy to share. If people aren’t using a specific feature we can see this in our analytics and either remove it or develop it into something that is useful.
We live in a world now where people are comfortable with sharing they life on the web. We use that social media behaviour apply it to dating and give the user the control over what they share at all times in an environment that is safe and secure.
After identifying the problem, how did you progress? (are you into lean and MVP’s etc.. or did you follow a different process?)
It was funny because we actually had no idea what a lean start-up or MVP was when this project began, we all had full-time jobs so we just fell into being lean. We had to be. With no cash what so ever we had to be resourceful and utilise our own skillsets. At the time we had no developer so I made a little film to help tell the story, which we later discovered would be called our ‘MVP’. We basically then took that everywhere and anywhere we could to get the validation we needed to progress to the next level.
What is your growth model?
We want to be systematic with this. We are moving people onto our app now to test and de-bug. We then have different trenches of our community that we will start to engage with and increase the number of testers so when we go into our mainstream launch in January there will already be an existing user base ticking over nicely.
With regards to the growth of the business this will also scale through additional feature launches and partnerships, which will add additional value to the service and help us grow and build long lasting relationships with our users making us much more than a dating service.
How have you identified and prioritised what makes it in for first release?
For us it is important to get the balance right. We needed to get our product out and into people’s hands but it needed to work at a level where people could see the full user journey. If honest, we actually over complicated our first iterations and our version 1 has been thinned out slightly. That’s what you get with having an iterative approach and being in a start-up -you get over excited sometimes and just keep going. It is important to have a road map and to keep putting the product in people’s hands testing it. Get as much feedback as possible and just get the minimum product ready and out there.
What tools and apps do you use to inform decisions?
The biggest tool I use is my gut. If it feels wrong then it probably is. Communication amongst the team is of huge importance, start-ups work at such a pace it is vital to keep everyone in the loop otherwise you can lose track of things. We live by Google docs and hangout when people aren’t in the office. The more real-time stuff the better. You can all sign-in, edit, paste and build docs collaboratively, which really helps. We have just set up a Ning account to help build a user community around us so they can be part of our team and feedback with bugs and suggestions. When it comes to serious understanding of our market and consumer we are lucky enough to have our team of mentors who have access to data reports and consumer insights that prove to be so valuable when it comes to our targeting and business model.
What’s the Trueview technology stack?
Our Tech Guru and Co-Founder Damian Mitchell, whom I have had the pleasure with working with for the last 9 years is a code ninja so we are doing some cool stuff:
REDIS cluster for results algorithm
Amazon EC2 and S3 (deploy + asset stack)
HTML5 + BackboneJS + ZeptoJS (webkit frontend)
Objective C (custom native shell for iOS)
Who are some of the voices (bloggers/speakers…) you find most influential?
It is easy to list a few successful speakers on here but for me inspiration can come from anywhere. The people that don’t preach their success, who can admit their failures, who still don’t think they know it all and can identify problems and apply new ideas to existing solutions in an innovative way inspire me. They have such a refreshing approach and just ooze innovation and clever thinking without trying too hard. Two for me that stand out are George Berkowski (Hailo) and Luis von Ahn(Captcha)
What’s the best piece of advice someone’s given you?
Don’t be a wimp, just go for it – if it doesn’t work out you can just get another job, if it does then you can buy me a villa – My Dad (as Yorkshire as they come)
What other startups are exciting you right now?
Cloud66, Six3, Chatterbox, NightZooKeeper, Makelight and all of our other friends at the Wayra UK academy – We are amongst some very clever minds.
What book would you take to a desert island?
Boat building for dummies.
Video of TrueView’s last 3 months