Start-Up Spotlight: Manchester Developer Duo Bring Social to the Streets

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In Week In Digital’s ‘Start-Up Spotlight’ series, WID Editor Brad Agnew interviews the founders of some of the digital sector’s most interesting and exciting start-up companies, to explore their potential and how they aim to disrupt the market. To suggest another start-up, please email [email protected].

Heard Founders Craig Bailey (left) and Paul Austin (right).

Bradley Agnew: First off, how did the two of you meet, and how did you come to develop this app together?

Paul Austin: Craig and I first worked together 20 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. I had the idea for Heard over 2 years ago, and I worked on it for a year to make sure it was a viable product and could be a viable business. As soon as it was time to bring someone else in Craig was the obvious choice. As well as being someone I can trust he’s run creative studios across the country and his business experience is first-rate.

Bradley: How would you explain Heard to a potential user who isn’t tech savvy?

Paul: Heard brings you together with the people around you, wherever you are. Whether you’re looking for advice on things to do or see, want to meet like-minded people or just want to see what’s happening around you right now, Heard can be used anywhere and lets you chat to people nearby without having to search for people or send requests. It’s about connecting you with people – from making the most of your night out, to talking to like-minded people at a festival or exploring a new city.

Bradley: What made you choose Manchester as a destination to launch your app?

Paul: We’re both Manchester born and bred, but it was more than simply because we’re from here. If there was a better place to launch we would have chosen it, but Manchester is a vibrant and friendly city and there’s always something happening here. Mancunians are happy to chat to people and help them out, and that’s exactly what Heard is for.

Bradley: Did you make use of any support to start your business, such as networking, start-up advice, angel investors, crowdfunding, etc.?

Paul: We’ve had help from The Business Growth Hub, and we’ve worked with Grant Thornton as well, who have been a big help for us.

Bradley: What is the business model for the app? If you are seeking to attract advertisers, what is your offering to local businesses, and what makes Heard a better choice than alternative platforms such as Facebook?

Paul: We can offer advertisers an unparalleled level of targeting that other platforms cannot match. For example, if you’re chatting in a Moment in Manchester about the Little Mix concert that evening, we can provide targeted advertising that is relevant and useful for both the advertiser and the user. And we can do that without compromising the user’s privacy at all.

We also have big plans to work with event and festival organisers – instead of spending tens of thousands of pounds on their own single-use app we can give them a Moment with additional features that lets them communicate with their audience quickly and easily, all set up in days – not weeks.

Bradley: Now that you’ve launched the app, what are your objectives for 2018, and where would you like the platform to be in five years’ time?

Paul: We want to make Heard a global brand and the go-to app whenever you go to a new place or event. In terms of our plans for the future, we’ve got some big things on the horizon. We’re listening to user feedback and releasing regular updates with new features.

We’ve also just started a new PR and marketing campaign, and we’re going to be working with some major events and festivals over the coming months, so watch this space.

Bradley: If you could give one piece of advice to an up-and-coming digital start-up or entrepreneur, what would it be?

Paul: If you believe in yourself and your product, don’t give up. The UK doesn’t have the same attitude to start-ups as America and it’s a lot more risk-averse, so when we first started we had a lot of potential investors tell us that they loved the idea but it would need to be up and running before they would invest.

Rather than give up, I figured out a way to build the app and launch an MVP so we could demonstrate the market need and desire for Heard.

Bradley: Finally, and most importantly, if you could take only three items with you to live on a desert island, what would they be?

Paul: A boat, a satellite phone, and a copy of ‘how to get off a desert island for dummies’.

Since the Manchester-based developer duo launched the app, Heard has attracted hundreds of users on the App Store and Google Play app market. To learn more about Heard, please visit heardnetwork.com.

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Brad Agnew is the Editor of Week In Digital, and is responsible for managing all aspects of the platform. Whether you want to send a press release, write a monthly column, or make a regular donation, email [email protected]. You can also follow Bradley on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.