If you're from scotland and love to keep your network scottish, then you're in for a real treat - KILTR is a professional social networking service for Scots, also used by business owners across the globe to tap into the Scottish market and develop relationships with organisations operating in Scotland . The network already has almost 20,000 users on its platform .
The company was started by Hughes and co-founder Stewart Fraser who met during their time as students at Glasgow Caledonian University.
This is my interview with Brian Hughes, CEO of KILTR.
Hi Brian, How are you doing, great to have you on YHP?
I’m good, thanks. Very busy, but good all the same!
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself?
I’m 37 years old. I was born and bred in Glasgow, Scotland. Now live in Fife, two young sons, Archie (5) and Fergus (2).
How did you get involved in entrepreneurship? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
I completed a Masters degree in Enterprise and Business Growth at Glasgow University’s Business School in 2002 before co-founding a publishing business in 2005, which successfully produced Scotland’s leading tech magazine for a number of years. I had no real exposure to entrepreneurship as a child but, coming from Glasgow’s east end, I knew plenty of people with entrepreneurial traits!
So tell me about KILTR and how the idea came about?
I spent some time studying in America and, as a Scot, I was struck by how many people there would want to tell about their own ties or links to Scotland. As online networking tools became more popular, I thought there would be an opportunity for a niche professional network that tapped into global interest in, and affection for, Scotland. The idea resulted in the formation of KILTR, which the brand’s chief technology officer, Stewart Fraser, and I founded in October 2009. The site launched to public beta in August 2010.
What is KILTR and how does it work?
KILTR is a professional social network for everyone with a connection to, or interest in, Scotland. Users can shares news, views and media with each other and sign up to hundreds of specialist groups in line with their interests. We’re constantly enhancing the platform and adding new functionality as we head towards the launch of version 1.0 later this year.
What is your business model?
Currently a venture capital and angel investor backed start-up, we’ll launch version 1.0 of KILTR later this year. We anticipate revenues from advertising and sponsorship deals and we also plan to capture a slice of the Scottish recruitment market. Our business model will evolve, as the platform develops in order to encapsulate the wants and needs of the KILTR community.
What makes KILTR different from any service out there? What problem does it solve?
Our niche approach provides our users with a sense of shared value from day one. General networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn have become too large for the content to be truly relevant to the vast majority of its users. Niche networks like KILTR, which are based on a shared sense of “belonging”, represent the next generation of online networking tools as they more accurately reflect the way relationships are formed in the real world.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Firstly, taking the plunge and deciding to go for it. Both Stewart Fraser (my co-founder) and I have young families so it was a big decision for us to ’go it alone’. We’re lucky to have our families’ support and, ultimately, we believed in the idea of KILTR too much not to pursue it.
The next crucial thing was securing the backing of our investors, Par Equity, Barwell and the Scottish Investment Bank - without their belief and support we wouldn’t be here today.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
No, not really. The central concept remains the same now as it was on day one. That said, feedback from the KILTR community has led to various minor changes along the way, so they’ve been a great support in helping us develop a user-friendly platform.
Who are your competitors?
We’re already the fastest growing online professional network for people with a Scottish connection, so in one sense we don’t really have any competitors.
Some people may be tempted to point to giants like LinkedIn as our competitor, but I don’t see it that way: KILTR is a different proposition. Online networking doesn’t begin and end with sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. If that were the case, we would all still be driving Model T Fords!
What were you doing before you founded KILTR?
I published a trade magazine for the Scottish IT sector, called Hi-Tech Scotland, for four years. This gave me my first taste of running my own business and also gave me a good overview of the emerging digital media sector.
How have you been able to fund the business?
At the very beginning, both Stewart and I funded the business through our incubator stage. Re-mortgages and loans played an important role in keeping the idea alive before we found investment.
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
You can expect the launch of version 1.0 of KILTR, including lots of new features such as company pages and recruitment functionality. We’ll also be undertaking an international marketing push to promote KILTR on a global scale.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1) Trust your instincts. Be open to advice and the opinions of others, but be mindful that many of those you speak to may have their own agendas. If you believe in your business and your strategy have the courage and strength to see it through.
2) Get used to being a spokesperson for your business. If you’re a start-up, securing publicity and raising awareness of your business is vital. Get comfortable with the idea of making presentations in public and speaking to journalists – it’s part of the job whether you’re shy or not!
3) Look after yourself physically. When you create your own business it becomes an obsession, much more so than a normal job. Above all else, make sure you own wellbeing comes first – you can’t run a successful business from your sick bed.