Michael Hadjijoseph comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Stagedoor wasn’t his first business idea, but it’s the one that’s had the most support. He explains how and why he feels the app’s time is now.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Stagedoor is the first theatre discovery app in the world. It’s a bit like IMDb + Trip Advisor… but for theatre.
In a nutshell, it helps you find and book the best shows to watch in London, powered by smart algorithms and social recommendations from other Stagedoor users.
It gathers productions in one place - everything from the West End to small fringe shows and pub theatre.
Users can follow your favourite venues, producers and actors, and they'll get notified whenever they have a new show on.
Once you find a show you love, you can add it to your smart-wish list or seamlessly book tickets through Stagedoor. The last bit of the loop is the theatre journal, where people can list all the shows they’ve seen and their reviews get shared with the rest of the Stagedoor community to create a democratic and trustworthy environment for discovering amazing productions.
What did you do before you started this business?
Before starting Stagedoor, I worked as a product manager for about 5 years in two London based start-ups. The first one was www.peropleperhour.com and following that I worked at www.onefinestay.com . I loved every second of it!
What inspired you to start up?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I’ve always looked up to my grandparents and parents who have worked hard to provide us with everything that we have today. I’ve always had the urge to start my own company throughout high school, military service, university and between jobs, I had started several mini-ventures.
Stagedoor took off due to a combination of great timing, an excellent idea whose time had come and an amazing founding team.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
That’s easy, I described it to my grandmother who is 94 as being like the magazines that she reads which list some theatre shows… the only difference is that this magazine lists EVERYTHING.
Not only is it personalised, it also tells you when something you care about is on. This magazine also lets you book shows, so you don’t have to call the theatre.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I’ve always made sure to have amazing mentors who I bounce ideas and challenges off, on a weekly basis. These range from people I’ve worked for and people who have scaled their own start-ups, to family members and friends.
I’m fortunate enough to have an amazing, multidisciplinary board which ranges from tech entrepreneurs to theatre professionals as well as professional services experts (legal and accounting) who help on all aspects of the business.
Stagedoor is also part of the Empact Growth Studio cohort, an ad-hoc support service that supercharges the networks of tech start-up teams by opening them up to new opportunities, resources, and expertise
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
For our first round of funding, we first launched the prototype of Stagedoor and waited for about a month until we got some initial traction. Following that we started speaking to investors both in the UK as well as Cyprus (where I’m from). We spoke to more than 80 investors and things in Cyprus were moving faster so we focused our efforts there. We managed to raise an initial 231,000 EUR from Angel investors, as well as friends who wanted to own a piece of the action. Being from Cyprus really helped as there was an element of trust which wasn’t really there in the UK.
We also got accepted for an EU Innovation grant later down the line which was amazing.
We are now about to close our second round of funding, where again we have some amazing tech entrepreneurs participating, as well as people from London’s and NY’s theatre scene. We will also be opening the round to our user base (all of which are hardcore theatre lovers) giving them the opportunity to own a piece of Stagedoor and become part of our journey to bringing theatre closer to more people.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Building a product people love to use has been our biggest achievement so far. Over the last 18 months we’ve really obsessed around this, making it our number one priority, doing lots of research, speaking with our users and understanding everything about them.
This really paid off as now we retain our users more than ever. We’ve launched a tremendously successful feature called the Theatre Journal which allows users to list and showcase all the shows they’ve seen, creating a real sense of community within the app. We are now seeing people with 150+ reviews in their journals which is great.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Stagedoor is the first product which really focuses on discovery in theatre. You’ve got the traditional West-end ticketing websites, or Ticketmaster like websites which cover other categories as well but nothing really focusing covering the whole industry, levelling the playing field between small fringe productions and big West End shows.
We also focus a lot on creating and fostering the community of passionate theatre lovers that use the app, sharing their reviews on a weekly basis. Again this isn’t something that exists elsewhere.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Being your own boss comes with great responsibility. It can be fun and exciting, it can be scary and stressful and it can be lonely as well. It’s important having a support mechanism of friends, family and mentors who can sometimes look at things with a different perspective, and help you steer the ship in the right direction.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Theatre is the ultimate form of entertainment and we believe it is for everyone. There is however a millennial audience which finds theatre to be inaccessible. It’s a full-time job staying up to date with what’s on, who’s in it, what’s good and what’s not.
We want to become that door which opens theatre to the world.
In 5 years time we want Stagedoor to be present in every major theatre-city of the world, and becoming the go-to app for discovering and booking unique theatre experiences. We see Stagedoor becoming a new home helping bring theatre fans and creators closer together.
Read more at www.stagedoorapp.com
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