1. What were you doing before you started Movem?
I was studying at university, in my final year of a Business and Law degree. As soon as Movem saw traction I dropped out and poured all of my attention into the company.
2. Starting a business is an exciting time and not without some risk. What was the driving factor behind your choice to leave the security of employment and join the ranks of the entrepreneurs?
Well, because I was at uni, I didn’t have the security of employment. Instead I had the risk of ‘not getting a degree’, which may be worse. I’m an incredibly focused person, I know exactly what I want. So, when I saw the opportunity for Movem, I had to take it.
3. Did you know what you were going to do before you left university?
Not hugely. I remember the day I made the decision to just drop everything and focus on Movem. I bought a whiteboard from Staples, went back to my student house and started planning some basic things on a whiteboard.
Just as I was doing that, one of my housemate’s mum walked in. I explained what I was doing and that I was dropping out. Her reaction was “Oh, well… that sounds interesting”, in a tone that made it quite clear she felt sorry for me. For the record, my friends all thought I was an idiot too. I think even now some of them wonder why I don’t just “get a job”.
4. You are now Founder and MD of Movem. What is the business and who is it aimed at?
Movem is an Airbnb style platform for residential tenancies. Our users can read and write reviews of letting agencies, landlords and properties, whilst building up reputations themselves as trustworthy renters.
Initially it was aimed at students, but in Q2 2017 we’re expanding into the residential lettings, so every landlord, tenant and agent in the country will be able to use it.
5. Starting a new business needs planning. There are many frameworks that can be used to help guide business owners along the path to achieving their goals. Describe for our readers the processes you went through in building your business plan.
Writing a business plan is daunting. Now it’s second-nature to me, as I’ve written hundreds of versions of the Movem plan. I had the help of a great mentor, and now friend, Sam Howell, who without I would have struggled.
I don’t like business consultants, but I like Sam. He was my framework and took me through the different elements of the plan, and we spend countless evenings re-writing it until it made sense.
To this day, I haven’t taken any formal training. Just lots of trial and error.
6. What advice would you give to anyone considering making the same move as you?
Oh, do it! You wouldn’t believe the number of times people my age say to me “I had an idea…”. They’re passionate, but never take that step because their current job is comfortable.
I’d like to add that I’m not an incredibly courageous person, and people don’t look at me and think I’m natively a huge risk taker. But, I know exactly what I want, and I do everything I can to get it.
Be persistent, be clear and be prepared to fail.
7. What is Movem’s competitive advantage and how will you sustain it?
We’ve really been focusing on what the experience is like for the end user, in this case, the tenants.
Although the idea of a housing review site isn’t new, nobody has managed to create a product that resonates so well with students. Movem is being used in every university, and publicly endorsed by more than 25 students’ unions.
We put the tenants first, and we’re currently developing a new product, called Passport, which will save the tenant money on referencing fees. This new product, although unreleased, already has hundreds of letting agencies and landlords pre-registered.
8. Start-ups need finance and there are many options available. Which route did you go down and why?
Y1 - Bootstrapped with all my savings, then when that ran out, borrowing money from my (really supportive) parents.
Y2 - £140k SEIS seed funding
Y3 - Crowdfunded £200k in 10 days.
Crowdfunding was a great decision for us. It was our ‘breakthrough’ moment. I had no idea if our users would invest in Movem. It’s scary putting yourself out there like that. Since then, everything has gone up a gear.
We were over-subscribed by nearly 300% (we capped investment at £200k, but had around £400k of ‘interest pledged after it closed’).
9. In your opinion when is the most dangerous period in the life of a start up?
This made me laugh, because I fear I will look back on this and want to slap myself for being so naive. The truth is, I don’t know how hard the next bit is going to be.
In fact, it’s probably got harder as we’ve gone along, because the expectations I set for myself rise. After we were featured in Forbes I thought, “that’s cool, but it’s not ‘Forbes top 100 cool’”.
I hear that lack of funding is what kills most companies. So, I guess the lesson there is to keep yourself as lean as possible, and really work on having a good core product.
10. Where do you see Movem in three years’ time?
I have no doubt in my mind that in 3 years’ time people will be making rental decisions based off reviews and some kind of Airbnb style model.
I just hope Movem can be that company, and that’s my goal.
11. What about the business excites you most?
Well it changes. Right now, it’s releasing v3, which I’ve been working on for, no exaggeration, 18 months. We’ve got a roadmap of some products I’m really proud of, and I get excited just talking about them.
12. To generate sales or acquire leads start-ups need to promote their product/service to potential clients/customers. How are you marketing Movem and how well is it going?
Movem is a really easy service to sell to tenants, as it’s a really obvious solution to a problem everyone has either had, or heard about. In that sense, it’s a financial bottleneck. Right now we’re working on a referral scheme that will, hopefully, create a network effect and help us growth quicker.
13. Social media. How important is it to the success of Movem?
Hugely. Twice we’ve had posts go viral on the internet, both times on the site Imgur, where it trended worldwide and was seen by more than 1,000,000 people.
14. Key performance indicators. What are yours and how often do you measure them?
Our KPIs are things like ‘number of reviews’, ‘user engagement’ and ‘viewings made’. I’m constantly checking them, as we run A/B tests.
15. What is the one thing you wish you had done differently?
My biggest regret is giving up 27% of the company in the first round of investment. At the time, my business plan wasn’t perfect, I’d never hired anyone in my life and I needed someone to take a risk on me.
Now I feel like I’d be in more of a position to fight for a better deal. But hey, it got me here, so I don’t let it bother me too much.