Robert Simmons and Eric Guo of New Apex Ltd, are entering their product, StreetAway, into this year’s If We Can You Can competition. We catch up with the pair to learn more about what inspired their business and where they plan to take it from here.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Before working on StreetAway Robert was a representative of Student Enterprise at the University of Glasgow, tasked with expanding the limited set of startup services available to students. During this time, he built upon the existing student enterprise structure and increased publicity on campus for student entrepreneurship, helped create a more complete set of services and organised workshops and events with speakers from successful business ventures. At this time, he had his first foray into entrepreneurship with a marketing platform for small, independent fashion retailers. He also has an MA(hons) and a MSc in Information Technology from University of Glasgow.
Eric was the managing director of Region Direct Ltd, a solution for individuals outside the European Union, facilitating safer, easier investment in UK business and real estate, offering tailored investment options. He led a young international business team that merged concepts of British and American business management alongside wealth management experience. Prior to this he received a BA(hons) and MSc in International Business Management.
What inspired you to set up your business?
The inspiration came from observing the disconnect between the marketing strategies of local businesses and their potential customers. This divide became apparent to us as we consistently saw small businesses spending significant amounts on marketing strategies such as flyers, signboards and window posters attempting to grab the attention of passers-by but not have the capability to reach an engaged local audience.
At the same time, we witnessed repetitive, uninformed consumer behaviour as people knew very little about the offerings of businesses in their area and would often be at a loss in deciding where best to go to spend their leisure time. We saw an opportunity to add real value to the relationship between local business and consumers and create a win-win scenario for both. To us it was the logical conclusion to create a solution that created a connection between these two segments at the times they need to reach each other most.
What makes this business different?
Many voucher/discount services offer generic, untailored promotions for fixed days/times that are often agreed prior to commitment, with set contracts and financial obligations. The real-time flexibility that is unique to StreetAway allows for the fluctuating nature of a business’s moment to moment circumstances, and gives businesses full control over what promotions they provide at any time.
StreetAway focuses on precision marketing, ensuring that promotions and offers from businesses are relevant to the audience they are reaching and are always up-to-date. For customers.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
What impressed us most about the If You Can We Can Challenge was the community of startups that it is committed to nurturing, and the level of support that is offered to them. Being targeted at North East startups, this challenge is of particular interest to us at StreetAway as at this early stage in our development we are based solely in this region and are focussing on strengthening our connections locally. We feel that with the extra connections and guidance attained from this challenge we can really make a difference in the community with our product.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
In three year’s time we envision that StreetAway will have a robust partnership with 100 businesses in Newcastle, all with access to a business relationship manager and support team to ensure our good relationships are maintiained and nurtured. We will also have expanded to take our local-first approach to Manchester, Glasgow and London. The app will implement cutting-edge machine learning to simplify and enhance the decision-making process for both users and businesses based on statistics. We will be able to predict what users like based on previous behaviour in the app and be able to understand their tastes and what they prefer, offering tailored notifications based on these stats. Businesses will have access to data based on the tastes of people around them so they can tailor their promotions in a more informed manner.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
The relationships that we have built with local businesses has been the most rewarding aspect so far. The support and feedback we have received from them has been incredibly gratifying and motivates us to create the best product possible and give them something that will enhance the everyday effectiveness of their businesses. Having just launched, we have a gradual consumer uptake which is growing every day and the business relationships are incredibly important going forward in keeping businesses motivated and up to date.
What has been your biggest challenge?
We have a consistent stream of application downloads however converting these to steady active users is proving a challenge, and is a goal that we are working hard to achieve. We are obtaining feedback from users about their experience in the app with a commitment to make the user experience as smooth and user-friendly as possible.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
We have attended various business meetings and events to make connections and get advice. One of the largest events was the Startup Grind Europe conference in June where we got into the top 75 companies and met investors, advisors and fellow startups. Subsequently we had second meetings with a number of people who we met and received their expert advice.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
Resilience is a necessary trait to cultivate, both individually and as a team. The journey of starting a business, from conception, through development and launching gets extremely tough. The hours are long and the payoffs are often slow to begin with. A level of stoicism is required and a dedicated team that understands both the level of difficulty and the overall vision in the journey is essential.