bubble is an app that allows parents to pool and book the babysitters their friends use and trust. Co-founder Ari Last reveals how the business got started - from initial concept to funding and product development
How did you come up with the idea for the business?
Having kids of our own provided the initial spark for myself and my co-founder Adrian. It struck me quite quickly how finding trusted childcare was such a painful, often fruitless task and how it was also having a profound impact on my life, and the lives of so many parents I interacted with every day. At the same time, mobile technology was absolutely booming and the innovation was amazing. As consumers, fantastic apps were making day-to-day services easy and convenient; yet as parents, it felt as though we were almost being left behind. Here was a massive day-to-day problem for so many of us, and it was being so underserviced by technology. So we set out to build bubble.
How did you test your idea to prove it was viable?
bubble's key USP and the principle our business is built on is that when it comes to finding babysitters, parents want and do use the recommendation of their friends, family and community. In our own experience of finding babysitters, we always opted for people that our friends had used or knew. Social validation is the key trust driver here and we were keen to validate that by speaking to hundreds of other parents about how they find sitters and to babysitters about how they were currently getting booked. It turned out that virtually everyone we spoke to was doing this the same way. However, the process was inefficient and pretty painful for both sides of the market.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
Adrian and I had both worked at some of the country's best internet marketplaces - Betfair, NotOntheHighStreet and MarketInvoice - so we were fortunate that we had a network of people who understood what we were trying to achieve, and we could talk to about our idea and investment. Raising money is an exceptionally difficult and time-consuming process but we're really fortunate to have some super smart and supportive investors in the business, including some of the people behind the likes of Betfair, Boohoo and Photobox.
How did you develop the app?
Neither Adrian nor I are techies so we initially found a software development house to build our MVP for us. Again, we were introduced to them via personal networks and nearly all of the suppliers we've worked with since have been found the same way.
How do you promote the business?
Much of the initial funding we raised has gone on product development - initially getting it out there and then iterating it as fast as we could based on what our customers were telling us. So promotion came via the free but hugely valuable channels of word of mouth and PR. More recently we've begun testing the waters with digital marketing and we have some fantastic brand sponsorships in place with the likes of Picturehouse Cinemas - all of which help us build our brand and offer something really valuable to the parents and babysitters on the bubble app.
Were there any unexpected barriers you had to overcome?
There are always barriers to overcome - every day - be it with the tech, funding, hiring and just generally trying to give our customers a service that is ten times better than what they expect. And while you might not expect the specifics of all of them, what we do expect are non-stop challenges and hiccups.
It doesn't make solving problems any simpler but at the same time I think it's part and parcel of trying to launch and grow a start-up. Being good at accepting the fact that not everything will be perfect makes it easier to roll with things and recover. I'm still working on that!
Ari's top tips for anyone starting a business:
- Talk to your customers as much as you possibly can - both before and after you launch. Being proactive at collecting user feedback is going to save you loads of time and money and will, without doubt, result in your having a much better product at the end of it.
- Don't obsess over the competition - either over the fact that they exist or what they may or may not do. It can waste your time and see you make decisions that you otherwise wouldn't have made, and which aren't right.
- Be picky with your investors and try your best to find supportive, knowledgeable people who can help you with more than just their money.