Interview with Hollabox

What’s your names and where do you come from? We are the Hollabox team made up of myself Arun Thangavel, Adam Beveridge and Josh Dacres. We all met at Bournemouth University where we started Hollabox and we are all London based.

How did you spot a space in the market for your product or service? We have been in the social discovery space for a while and we launched our first product in Bournemouth a while back, but we didn’t really get a product/market fit, but what we did gain was knowledge. We worked hard to draw out the elements that worked and refined our offering using the valuable information only we knew, whilst also drawing from our research of industry trends such as video first.

We ended up pivoting the app and it has recently launched in London. Hollabox is now an app that puts the local world in your pocket. It shares meaningful local content that you can see, view and interact with when you’re on the move. Allowing a transparent look inside some of the best social venues and experiences in London. The space in the market was always there – we just took the long way round to get there. Taking the long route sounds laboursome but in fact it has been the definitive factor in our strong pivot. The product would not be where it is in the present day without the lessons learned from the past.

How long did you think about your business before bringing it to life? The team and I met at university in 2012 and this idea of the business dominated our final years at university, forming the basis of two of our research projects. Throughout this journey, we were constantly seeking business validation in the form of surveys from fellow students, to advice from lectures and mentors; everything was pointing us in the direction of making Hollabox a reality. We had the academic standpoint validated and we were confident enough to make the jump into the real world once we graduated.

How did you raise the funds to start your business? At the start, it was family and friends who seeded the business. We were very bootstrapped and it took us far – we were able to launch our first product and test all of our early assumptions with this money. Since our pivot last year we have been funded through grants and investment from the likes of Creative England, Innovate UK and Virgin Start Up.

How do you stay informed – networking, newspapers, social media? I am a tech and business fan boy at heart, so I make it my business to stay in the loop. I have curated my Facebook feed to deliver info from my favourite publishers first, so that is my best channel. My morning routine consists of watching the Crunch Report on TechCrunch (by Tito Hamze @titoyooo) and then following up on Facebook where pages like the Verge, Business Insider and Vox fill me in on what is current and trending. And whatever I miss I normally catch on twitter throughout the day.

Tell us about one of your business low-points and what you learnt from it Our first product falling flat in the market. We built something that we thought was awesome and the theory of it seemed so solid, but in reality it did not land well in the market.

The team and I have had countless no’s from investors and influential people (and some yes’s – it’s not all doom and gloom here), but that was quick. Painful but quick like pulling off a bandaid. Seeing your product go out with a whimper, whilst you frantically trying to save it and understand where you went wrong is a slow and agonising feeling. They say the ‘lucky entrepreneurs are the ones that fail fast’, and I  wholeheartedly agree.

But that being said, these low-points allowed us to learn and build a second product that is much more refined and that we know will survive in this crowded market. Mistakes are good, as long as you don’t make them twice.

Name five qualities people need to be successful in a job like yours Perseverance, determination, passion, a thirst for knowledge and a large pinch of salt

Do you have a business mentor? Yes, we have numerous people that have mentored us and still continue to do so from our days spent in accelerator and business incubation programmes.

Last year we were part of FirstBourne, which was Bournemouth’s first tech incubator programme and it was full of weekly workshops that taught us about different aspects of what is needed to make a successful start-up. It was great hearing from people that have run and sold successful companies. Furthermore it was validated and anecdotal advice and lessons which you can draw good insights from. More recently we have become part of the London Met Accelerator and it has given us a great foothold in London, whilst also connecting us with an amazing network of highly skilled people.

I strongly recommend a good network of mentors, from being a sounding board when you need ideas testing, to rooting you back to reality when your ideas have grown too large. A chat with a good advisor can keep you sane through the hard times and help you get to the heights you want to get to quicker.

What’s been your favourite piece of press coverage so far? It is currently going on as I type this: a start up is trying to collect one hundred no’s ( from investors, as a statement piece as they are tired of investors stringing them along with ‘maybe’s’ and ‘come back to us later’. I really admire how punchy they are being and hope it leads them to their first YES.

Name one of your favourite start-ups Gimlet media: A podcasting company, trying to pioneer narrative storytelling with great podcasts and radio shows. The reason I love them is because the co-founder Alex Blumberg documented everything of his start up journey, from painful beginnings, to chats with his wife, quitting his job and finding a co-founder. It forms the basis of the company’s first podcast called ‘Start-up’ and is amazing, meta and they are incredibly transparent. I recommended it to anyone in the industry.

Quick fire round

Apple or Android? Android
Mac or PC? Mac
Apples for hand or melons for feet? Melons
Name two chocolate bars you would put together to make a super bar: Lion bar and Milky Way

Hollabox are creating a personalised, real-time mobile experience that makes opportunities completely engaging and actionable. They want to give this experience to you so your journeys, the things you do, and even your day to day life, can always open opportunities. For advertisers, this means connecting with an immediate and constantly changing footfall, who are more likely to engage.

You can download the app here:

Twitter: @hollaboxapp
Instagram: @hollabox