Northern Stars: M14 Industries

Northern Stars: M14 Industries

It's nearly Valentine's Day, so we couldn't resist introducing you to the most romantic of the Tech North Northern Stars. John Kershaw founded M14 Industries, currently best known for powering the Bristlr dating app which matches people with beards to people who like stroking beards. And they're not stopping there...

Tell us all about your business, in 100 words or less
M14 makes and powers niche dating apps. Anyone can use the platform to make their own niche dating service. We made Bristlr using the platform.

Known as the “Tinder for beards”, Bristlr now has more than 120,000 users worldwide and has created more than half a million matches between those with beards and those who want to stroke beards.

By targeting niches, our technology lets the apps stay simple, but means you have more than just proximity in common with the people you meet.

How would you explain it to your Grandma?
We let people make their own matchmaking service really easily. So if somebody is super into fitness, for example, they can use M14 to make a dating service for everyone who's really fitness obsessed.

Where did the idea come from? What motivated you to start your own business?
Bristlr originally started as a joke. John was procrastinating from his day-job, stroking his beard trying to think up a joke app idea. Uber for beard-fondling! That joke turned into Bristlr, which grew into M14.

How have you raised finance?
We went through the Ignite startup accelerator up in Newcastle last summer. They invested £18,000 in the company. Other than that we're completely self funded, and currently putting together a seed round.

What are your most and least favourite parts of your job?
I love telling people about Bristlr for the first time. You see a mix of disbelief and amazement. And when I tell them how successful it's been, everyone can't help but smile. It's a really fun product to talk about, and that really cheers me up.

The worse part has to be just the emotional roller-coaster that is a startup. It can be hard to go from such highs to such lows, and back again.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I was obsessed with trains, and I think being a train driver was probably the coolest job I could think of.

I was a nerdy kid.

How did it feel to be crowned one of TechNorth’s Northern Stars?
Just amazing. I remember feeling elated that all the hard work has paid off, and that we have a physical award now signifying validation in the company and what we're doing. It made me feel so proud to have done what we've done, and so grateful to have the support from so many people.

Which of the prizes do you think will be of most value to you and your business?
It's hard to say to be honest. If we pitch to investors who invest, that'll be pretty good! I'm excited to be going to the various conferences; it lets us learn a lot from our peers, as well as talk to people unrelated to us about our business, which always leads to great advice.

What’s next for you, and where do you see your business in a year?
Right now we're trying to keep up with the demand for M14; we've got a waiting list of people wanting to get onto the platform. As soon as we open those floodgates, everything just gets turned up a notch!