How to start a tech business

How to start a tech business

Alex Schlagman is on a mission to revive not just one high street, but all of them. With initial backing from Start Up Loans, his tech business PocketHighStreet seeks to use an app and website to support local, independent retail by helping customers find what’s out there. It’s innovative, tech-focused and does what all great start ups should do, it solves a problem. We interviewed Alex about his experiences starting PocketHighStreet and how he started a tech business, supported by a Start Up Loan.

What is PocketHighStreet?

At PocketHighStreet we’re on a mission to reinvent and revive local retail by putting everything in stock, in every local shop, at everyone’s fingertips.

When local shops register at our system produces and updates a page for every item they have in stock, in real time.

These products are available for Click and Collect, and with one hour delivery in London.

They are also promoted to millions of consumers online through our network of publisher partners. Our publishers today include local newspaper networks, bloggers, on demand delivery services, local discovery apps, shopping marketplaces and many more, each getting rewarded for the local sales they help to make happen.

Where did the idea for this tech business come from?

In 2013 many people believed the high street was dying and this just seemed wrong to me on so many levels.

It was clearly changing though and I felt the internet would become far more of an enabling (not just a disruptive) force for local retailers in the near future.

How was a Start Up Loan able to support your business?

We used the Start Up Loan to build and test our initial prototypes, this helped us raise a small angel investment round and bring the first version of our product to market.

How did you research your market?

In the early days we reviewed lots of desk research about trends in retailing and shopping.

We were fascinated by the fact that 88% of UK consumers discover or research products online before buying locally and that Click and Collect facilities were growing so quickly for some retailers.

After securing the Start Up Loan we started engaging with local shops and have been building the platform based on customer insights and feedback ever since.

Did you have any tech experience?

I launched my first tech business while at university in 2006. After graduating, I joined the founding team of a digital agency focused on helping small local business and then spent a couple of years at a global digital marketing and technology business.

What aspect of starting a tech business did you find most difficult?

While we had a core mission, we weren’t fixed on the right solution, let alone product in the early days. We changed direction twice before finding our product/market fit, which was both exciting and scary for those involved.

How do you manage relationships with the businesses that you work with?

We have been working with hundreds of local shops and dozens of publishers, and we are growing quickly.

As we’ve grown, the way we sign up and engage customers has had to evolve. In the early days everything was very manual. Moving forward, our self-serve tools, processes and partnerships will enable us to work with customers all over the world in a scalable way without losing focus on our customer service principles.

What advice would you give to other people starting up in the tech industry?

Focus on a problem you genuinely care about solving. If you’re on a mission that deeply matters to lots of others too that’s a big bonus as well.

Are you inspired by Alex’s story and keen to get started with your own business? Find out more about Start Up Loans and start your application today.