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  • Start-up Q&A: Seek and Adore

    1. Describe your business in one sentence?

    SeekandAdore.com brings together designer-makers with people looking to discover and buy unique and beautiful homewares, accessories and gifts.

    2. Why did you set-up your own business? What made you decide to start your own business?

    The idea grew from personal frustration. We had completed a loft conversion in our home and had two new rooms that we were looking to decorate with pieces that said something about our style and personality. I was surprised how “samey” all the things you find on the high street are so I started looking for more unique and unusual decorative accessories. I discovered a range of talented designer-makers but only after a lot of searching. I also discovered that many talented designer-makers are not actually very good at marketing their work. They are naturally humble about their skills. As a marketer I thought it would be exciting to help makers sell their work and – at the same time – make it easier for consumers to find unique and beautiful things by bringing work together in one place. The idea for Seek & Adore was born.

    3. When did you open for business?

    In March 2011. We’re just celebrating our first birthday.

    4. What were the key elements you thought about/explored before starting your venture?

    I spent a lot of time talking to our two customer groups (designer-makers and consumers) so that we really understood what they wanted.

    First I visited lots of craft shows and open studios and talked to designer-makers. I heard how hard it is for them to make money from current retail channels (due to costs and commissions taken on sales), how they find it difficult to market themselves and how passionate they are about the things they make. It was fascinating listening to the stories that inspire their work and I realised that bringing these stories to life on Seek & Adore would be an exciting way of differentiating our website from the competition.

    I then ran focus groups with consumers. I was really struck by how bored consumers are of seeing the “same old things” in the shops and how they want to be different. As one lady put it “I live in fear of someone coming into my home and saying ‘Oh! I’ve got one of those’.” It was clear there was an appetite for unqiue homewares and accessories.

    5. How many clients do you have now?

    We have more than eighty makers selling on Seek & Adore – and I’ve lost count of the number of customers who are now shopping with us!

    6. How is your business funded?

    When I first gave up my job to set-up Seek & Adore I wasted a lot of time talking to Venture Capitalists and business angels about my business idea. Funnily enough, without a website or my first batch of designer-makers no one wanted to fund the idea! Eventually I realised I had to put my money where my mouth was. I invested my life savings into the business. It felt very risky at the time but it was the best thing I could have done. It enabled me to build the Seek & Adore platform (which consists of a consumer facing website, a content management system for makers to manage their pages and a back office Admin system) and, once I had that, I could start talking to makers. It took about 6 months but this time last year we launched!

    7. How did you get involved in the tech business?

    I’ve always worked in marketing and, for the last 10 years or so I’ve been marketing ecommerce sites. So I guess you could say this has always been an area that has interested me.

    8. What has been the best business move you’ve made?

    Finding media and brand partners to work with in a reciprocal way rather than assuming that paid for advertising is the only way to raise awareness. In the absence of a big marketing budget (remember so far we’ve only been funded from my savings!) we had to find cost effective ways of marketing ourselves. We looked at what we do have that other people might value. We have content (e.g. videos of our makers at work, interviews with makers) and beautiful product. All of these things can be exchanged with media and brand partners in exchange for promotion. It’s win win – we get cost-effective marketing and the partner gets access to unique and valuable content that supports their commercial objectives. We’ve developed great partnerships with brands like Ocado and Dorset Cereals and media owners like Period Living and The Good Web Guide. I love working in partnership. It suits my personal ethos and style.

    9. What has been the biggest challenge to date?

    It has to be time! There are simply not enough hours in the day to take advantage of all the opportunities. You have to focus on the things that are really going to deliver immediate value for your business.

    10. What key factors will make/ have made your company successful?

    I think it’s about doing two things:

    First you have to know how you differ from your competition and make sure that everything you do communicates this difference to the customer. For us it’s all about personal connection between the customer and the maker. We’re making shopping personal again.

    The second thing is being very clear about the commercial drivers for your business model. What factors are critical for driving revenue. For many websites – and we’re no exception – it’s about increasing visitors to your site, converting visitors into orders and then increasing the average order value.

    11. What are your plans for the future of the company?

    At the moment we’re very focused on raising the next stage of funding for the business. We have ambitious growth plans and we will need more money to achieve these. Once we achieve this it’s “more of the same” really. We have a business model that works we just need to focus on rolling this out.

    12. Is there a particular idea that you have been excited about in the market place that you wish you had come up with, or helped develop?

    There are lots of ideas out there that I admire but, to be honest, I’m really happy focusing on making Seek & Adore a success right now!

    13. What interests you about the entrepreneurship scene right now in London, the UK and Europe?

    I just love being around entrepreneurs. There is such a buzz of creativity, of commitment and possibility. It’s inspiring. I’ve worked in some fairly traditional organisations in my time and I know how stifling it can be when new ideas are stifled at an early stage just because someone doesn’t understand them or feels threatened by them.

    I also believe that small businesses can make a real difference to the current economic situation. When a business is growing you are far more likely to take on employees and, as many start-ups have spotted gaps in the market, they are often meeting new customer needs and generating new revenue for the economy. That’s got to be good!

    14. What advice do you have to offer other prospective or existing entrepreneurs?

    Believe in yourself and your idea. Not everyone is going to like your idea – but don’t be discouraged when people poor cold water on your idea. Listen to their feedback and try to understand their concerns. If you understand them you will find it easier to assess for yourself whether they are genuine concerns that you need to address or whether – perhaps – the person has misunderstood the opportunity. Ultimately you need to believe in your idea – but understanding and overcoming objections from others can only make your idea (and your belief) stronger.

    15. What can the government do better to foster innovation and entrepreneurship?

    I actually think the government is doing quite a bit to incentivise investment in new ideas with schemes like EIS and SEIS which offer tax breaks to investors. I also think there is a lot of support available for entrepreneurs in helping them articulate their ideas in ways that investors can relate to, such as the course on “Pitching to investors” run by 2Pears. I’m no expert but my gut feel is, keep doing more of the same so that more people know what’s available.

    16. In one sentence, how do you go about making a 4.5 times return on investment?

    It’s about focus – being clear about what drives success and focusing on it!

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  • techpitch 4.5 celebrates its first birthday with a new bunch of excellent start-ups

    It's been a busy year for techpitch 4.5, so far 49 companies have pitched during six events, and over 200 startups have been through the pitch training workshops supported by UKTI. Last Wednesday the 2Pears team celebrated the one-year anniversary of the first ever techpitch 4.5, by inviting another great bunch of start-ups to compete on stage. All of them facing an excellent panel of industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. Wednesday’s winners join the likes of EngageSciences, MarketInvoice, Eventasaurus, StylePilot and Flooved who have previously won the pitch competition and grown with the help of pitch events like techpitch 4.5.

    The evening was chaired for the 5th time by Danvers Baillieu, one of the co-founders of Bootlaw and a senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons LLP.

    Before the pitch competition started a keynote presentation was given by Serge Taborin, Group Business Development Director at Archant, the largest independently-owned regional publisher in the UK with 64 newspapers, 80 magazines, and 200 websites and mobile sites, 2,5m in circulation, and 4m MUVs.

    Serge talked about the importance of the digital value chain in local publishing for continued innovation, how Archant's business is more about running communities rather than content, and how Archant exploits their "local gold mine" to launch new products. As many as 70 percent of their digital projects are developed by working with specialised entrepreneurs and businesses, through M&A's, JVs or equity-based partnerships, while only 30 percent are developed in-house. So, Archant are always on the look-out for interesting new tech businesses to work together in different ways.

    And, at techpitch 4.5, 8th February 2012 there were definitely some interesting companies:

    Bantr, a real time network for in game football opinion @Bantr

    Bluefields.com, a sports start-up focusing on amateur sport teams @bluefieldscom

    CompareMySolar Limited, a solar panel comparison site @CompareMySolar

    Ditto, a website helping users freecycle unused stuff @DittoReuse

    Livemusicstage.com, a platform for broadcasting, monetising and experiencing live music online @LiveMusicStage

    Novativ Media, an interactive taxi media which respects passengers' interests and privacy

    Pepper, a social mobile app connecting friends through live music @Pepperapp

    Seek & Adore, a site connecting designer makers with people looking to discover and buy unique and beautiful things @SeekAndAdore

    AND THE WINNER IS...

    Congratulations to Bantr for winning the pitch competition - both the judges and the audience vote! Bantr was closely followed by Bluefieds.com in second place, with Seek & Adore coming in third, with, according to James Smith ‘the perfect investor pitch’.

    Bantr will now be invited to participate in an investment meeting arranged by Scottish investment network Par Equity to explore any potential investment opportunities.

    A huge thank you goes out to the expert judging panel including:

    Sophie Cox, Founder, of Worldeka - a collaborative platform for social change aimed at helping charities, policy makers and global activists harness social media for social good.

    Juliana Koranteng, Founder & Editor, of MediaTainmentFinance - the business journal that tracks financial investments in the creative industries, the associated technologies and copyright issues.

    James Smith, Partner of Black Sheep Fund and commercial operations director at BBH - responsible for all aspects of the operational running of the agency. The Black Sheep Fund is a venture between Zag (BBH's brand invention business) and Spark Ventures.

    Serge Taborin, Group Business Development Director of Archant - UK's largest independently-owned regional media business active in fields of publishing, contract printing, events, internet and mobile.

    Greg Young, Associate with Passion Capital – and working directly with the partners and investee companies regarding business models, traction, growth and creating value.

    And we also thank our event partners Bootlaw, UKTI, Par Equity, TheNextWeb and MediaTainmentFinance.

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  • Launching the 2Pears blog – bringing you start-ups, technews and other great things

    Since you've found your way to our blog you might be familiar with the 2Pears already. You will perhaps know that we run the Music 4.5 events, bringing the tech and music industries together to discuss how bright the future could be if we all work together. You might also be familiar with our techpitch 4.5 and MUSIC techpitch 4.5 events where we give talented start-ups a chance to pitch to a panel of industry experts and investors. If you haven't heard about us, welcome anyway, this blog will hopefully allow you to get to know us better.

    This blog will be run by the 2Pears team Rassami Hök Ljungberg and Petra Johansson and their Nordic partner in crime journalist Charlotta Hedman, aka Lotta. We will bring you Q&As with up and coming start-ups, technews, and the latest about our events and pitches. We will focus on entrepreneurialism and how to make a return on investment (preferably by 4.5 times). We're interested in what makes businesses and start-ups successful, what makes the tech world tick... and what is changing it. We like cocky newcomers and disruptive business strategies. If this applies to you or your company get in touch! We love hearing from you and growing our network of entrepreneurs and people who can help them.

    If you're interested in issues affecting the technology sector and want to know more about funding, government initiatives, politics, infrastructure, international trade and development keep coming back. And do let us know if there is anything you would like us to cover.

    We hope you will find this a thought-provoking and fun place to get your tech news. Follow us on twitter if you want to keep an eye on what we're up to and to hear about the latest blog posts as they go up.

    Rassami, Petra and Charlotta

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The 2Pears blog – bringing you start-ups, technews and other great things

Since you've found your way to our blog you might be familiar with the 2Pears already. You will perhaps know that we run the Music 4.5 events, bringing the tech and music industries together to discuss how bright the future could be if we all work together. You might also be familiar with our techpitch 4.5 and MUSIC techpitch 4.5 events where we give talented start-ups a chance to pitch to a panel of industry experts and investors. If you haven't heard about us, welcome anyway, this blog will hopefully allow you to get to know us better.

This blog will be run by the 2Pears team Rassami Hök Ljungberg and Petra Johansson and their Nordic partner in crime journalist Charlotta Hedman, aka Lotta. We will bring you Q&As with up and coming start-ups, technews, and the latest about our events and pitches. We will focus on entrepreneurialism and how to make a return on investment (preferably by 4.5 times). We're interested in what makes businesses and start-ups successful, what makes the tech world tick... and what is changing it. We like cocky newcomers and disruptive business strategies. If this applies to you or your company get in touch! We love hearing from you and growing our network of entrepreneurs and people who can help them.

If you're interested in issues affecting the technology sector and want to know more about funding, government initiatives, politics, infrastructure, international trade and development keep coming back. And do let us know if there is anything you would like us to cover.

We hope you will find this a thought-provoking and fun place to get your tech news. Follow us on twitter if you want to keep an eye on what we're up to and to hear about the latest blog posts as they go up.

Rassami, Petra and Charlotta

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