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By Glynn Jones, Founder and CEO of Scoopt.
“I’ve worked for big Corporates for many years and gained lots of experience, from creating the first website for the European Union way back in 1995 when no-one know what the Internet was (including me!) through to Student Loans Company, banks, telecoms companies like Orange and work for companies like AutoTrader. However I really wanted to go back to creating an online start-up, which is how I started out back in the ‘90’s when I first started my career. I used my experience in Prince2 and Agile processes, as well as what I’d learned by working for large Corporates, and created Scooptabout a year ago. Scoopt is a mobile technology and retail business: the UK’s first mobile ‘Social Shopping’ service. We’re the first smartphone app to provide consumers with a way to purchase from independent fashion labels. We’ve been really influenced by the social shopping side, like fab.com and fancy.com, their business direction is clever and smart and I want to be among one of the first in the UK to do the same thing via an app.
I’m fascinated by the fact you can change small elements online and have a huge impact. When I worked with AutoTrader, I changed the colour of a button from blue to green and made another £100k. So I was keen to use that knowledge and create something new.
We approached the idea in a different way to most other companies. I knew if I was going to get the business off the ground I had to surround myself with the right businesspeople and not just techies (although of course techies are crucial!).
I approached people I knew like real entrepreneurs who had created businesses. At this point in a startup’s early months it’s all about liquidity and how you get around not being able to get a bank loan, so I surrounded myself with people who had experience in raising money, in PR and marketing… oh and a really good lawyer! I did it the Richard Branson way really – he suggests all you need to do it surround yourself with the right people and the rest will happen. I really adhered to that – I didn't worry about the product or the money at first, I put all my efforts, time and resources into getting the right people on board.
We then spent time putting the product together, following the whole lean startup ethos. However there are some missing chapters to the Lean Startup! The main principle is to build a bit, try it, then learn from your mistakes. With websites that’s easy, but when you’re building apps it’s hard to get people to download it, your first shot is often your last shot! You might be learning but at the same time you might lose your customers if your app is too basic.
We built the original Scoopt app in January for Android and iPhone, but then I happened to meet some people from Microsoft at an event, and as my company used to be a Microsoft solution provider and I’d had a Windows Phone for a couple of years (which I love), I was interested to see what Windows could do for us.
We ended up developing a really beautiful looking app on Windows Phone, it’s really different to the apps we built other platforms and I have to say they don’t do all the things the Windows Phone app does. The Windows app has a shopping facility in it, it has a solid business behind it and looks really amazing. The market is really moving in the direction of Windows, the new phones coming will make a huge difference. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post on why people should take another look at Windows Phone – so this was a very calculated move for us! You can read it here ‘App Builders Should Take Another Look at Windows Phone’.
We’re currently re-writing the Android and iOS apps from scratch to bring them up to the same level of form and function as the Windows Phone app. We had some challenges with data connections in the UK which meant we had to re-write with caching. The Windows phone app is first of new generation. Android will be there early August and iPhone after that.
For the design we took the opportunity to make the most of the Windows UIand really transform the way it looks. Initially we thought it would be easier just to take the iPhone or Android app and port it across to Windows. However, it quickly become clear to us that we needed to take notice of Microsoft’s design recommendations for the hub, app navigation and and even the fonts.Microsoft Windows Phone users expect a particular experience and giving them something copied from another platform would be really out of place in the context of all the other apps they use. Our visual designer was the one to convince us that we needed to re-visit the design for Windows and I’m really pleased we did that, even though we resisted at first! We found we had to make it look like Windows users are expecting it to look to make it successful.
In essence, if I was going to share my tips for starting out as an app business, there are only a few things you need to get right: