Two students walk into a pub. I say pub, but really it’s a university bar. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
They have a few beers, and decide that their future should involve more of this. A few more beers and they create a startup business that involves young people in bars… three years pass…*wibbly lines*…
Rhodri Thomas and David Brown are still hanging out in bars and building their business, but it’s been an interesting three years. We caught up with Rhod a while back to hear the story – David was hard at work serving punters for the World Cup and unable to make the meeting – yup, these guys are living the startup dream.
Rhod studied entrepreneurial-ism at UWA, and has had to unlearn a lot of business dogma:
“yeah we wrote up a 55-page business plan and all that when we started. Last year I was back in uni talking to business students and I asked them if they still teach all that, and yeah, they do. Amazing”.
He’s now a thorough convert to the Lean Startup model and applying the principles to their business, including the part about pivoting.
CitySwagga has gone through a few changes since the start, but the core idea has stayed the same, as Rhod describes it:
“I was working as a barman, in the industry, and I had friends who were bartenders, and I didn’t know about the new places that were opening. How are people working in normal jobs supposed to find out about these places?”.
CitySwagga is an app that tells you about the cool places in your city, “cool” being personalised to you as whatever your friends like. Once CitySwagga has an idea about your tastes (grungy dive bars or upmarket wine tastings?) it can extrapolate to other cities and locations, so if you travel to another town it can immediately recommend places to go.
CitySwagga is a marketplace app in that it sells venues to customers and customers to venues. The problem building this kind of business is the chicken and egg – how do you attract customers with no venues, or venues with no customers. CitySwagga’s solution is to pre-populate the venues in the city to then bring the people on board, then sell that audience back to new venues. So they’ve had the arduous task of crawling through Perth’s entertainment venues classifying and identifying each venue, to give their app a solid foundation. Once they’ve proved that the customers appreciate the app and use it, then they can approach venues with deals to promote their space in the app.
Building the app has been hard work, because neither Rhod nor David can code. Relying on friends who can code, they’ve gone through a lot of iterations in order to discover what works. Rhod now describes himself as a semi-competent interface designer and does all the interface design for the app.
But it’s finally ready for their public, and the team are launching the app and starting to look for investment; they pitched at the inaugral SNAP pitchfest to get some more pitching experience under their belts and get some feedback (and ended up walking away with the prize). Getting investment is notoriously hard for Perth startups, so it’ll be interesting to see if these guys can do it.
CitySwagga is the classic social tech startup founded by two business graduates with drive, ambition and industry experience.
Can Perth support this or will they end up moving east to succeed? I guess we’ll find out. We’ll be keeping an eye on CitySwagga to see how it goes.
Sign up for their news and follow the story here: http://launch.cityswagga.com.au/, or leave your own comments below, what do you think of their pitch?