Teddle provides a platform that enables local providers to showcase their services, they also offer a quick and easy way for customers to search, compare and book their services instantly online.
I spoke to one of Teddle's co-founder, Alex Depledge as she talks me through her entrepreneurial journey, Teddle, Springboard and raising money.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
I grew in a small village near Bradford. I guess you could say I had an idyllic childhood that largely consisted of riding horses and building tree houses. I left Bradford at 18 to go to Nottingham University and from there I moved over to the USA for 5 years where I went to the University of Wisconsin and then the University of Chicago. Clearly I loved learning! I also worked out there doing research, a little consulting, interning with a pretty famous politician and tending bar – I make a mean cosmo!
How did you get into business? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
I am not sure I ever knew what I wanted to do for a living which is largely why I joined Accenture. I liked the variety that management consulting offered. However when I was a teenager I remember my dad saying that you will never be truly happy or in control of your own life until you work for yourself. Shortly after he set up his own carpet retail business in the North of England. That philosophy is behind why we all left our corporate jobs and it also underpins Teddle – giving small businesses an online platform to manage their business and be their own boss.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
Tough one. I was lucky to have many that were all generally strong females. A couple of teachers Miss Kidd and Miss Temple in my A'level years stand out as does my father. I don't really have any celebrity crushes as I get most of my day to day inspiration from friends. All of my girlfriends have been incredibly successful in ways I haven't (yet!) and so I tend to draw on and consult them when I need to.
What was the inspiration behind Teddle? How did the idea come about?
Jules (my co-founder) rang me one day moaning that she was trying to find a piano teacher as she had decided to take it backup after a long break. She couldn't understand why it was so difficult. Directory sites were either out of date, cluttered and difficult to navigate and crucially the only data they offered was a phone number. About 6 months later I had the same experience with a gardner. I spent 4 hours doing price comparisons in my head, then checked for availability. I also wanted the request off my to-do list and in the diary. I didn’t want to wait 3 days for a quotation site to send me quotes. All the time my main driver was wanting someone local that I believed would offer better service and price than a big outfit. So curing this pain is how Teddle was born.
So Alex, what is Teddle? What are you guys are trying to solve?
Teddle allows you to book locals services online instantly. We wanted to create a platform that did 2 things:
1. Provide a quick and simple way for customers to search for a local provider, compare them on price, locality, and availability, make there selection and then book them there and then. We also wanted customers be confident in who they were booking and so through Teddle customers can see who their friends have used and also assess a provider on their Teddle reputation. Increasingly people are working longer and our time is precious. We want to save people time and get them what they need quickly
2. Gives local service providers a professional and simple SaaS platform on which to manage their existing business, while filling their free time with new clients. This includes diary management, client list and business performance affording them an online, marketable presence. The aim is more business, less admin.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase?
Seeding the market place. We are early stage so why should people trust us with their business? Credibility is the hardest thing to over come. We are also asking service providers to change their behaviour (putting their diary online) and you can ask anyone in business, changing behaviour is by far one of the hardest things to do.
Raising money is always such a hot topic when starting a business, How have you been able to fund the business?
Bootstrap. We were originally tackled this as management consultants – drew up a plan and thought we would hire developers. Then we realised we just need to hack it together ourselves so Jules and Tom bought a Ruby on Rails book and off they went. I think (verified by other top developers around silicon roundabout) they done a pretty stellar job! But dont believe me, check us out! Www.teddle.com
We have been bootstrapping since last November until we got our seed money from Springboard 2 weeks ago! We have very understanding friends and family!
Tell us about your springboard experience, what would you say were some of the key lessons you took away from it?
So first being chosen by Springboard from 360 applicants gave us the external validation we needed to leave our jobs. Springboard has also opened up networks and people that otherwise wouldn't have been open to us and done this at breakneck speed. So yes we have accelerated and I am doubtful we could have done this without the program.
The lessons have been hard and plentiful:
- Stop building and talk to your customers
- American investors look for engagement, European look for revenues
- Start up life is not easy or glamourous and you need THICK skin. So you need think about why you are doing what you are doing before you get swept up in the current mania for joining a start up
- Most entrepreneurs are not people fresh out of college
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Completely changed our approach to seeding the market place. We tried to do it the hard way and then literally in a day a light bulb went off in the team and bang, we changed over night.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
I wouldn't say it has changed, but we have refined it over the year of conceiving it and also going through Springboard. Refinements have largely been around getting distribution or small tweaks to existing functions. An example of this is we always had the reputation score as a way of knowing the quality of who your were booking and also getting around the friction of asking people to leave reviews, but then Jules came up with a great algorithm to pull in peoples friend networks so you can see who out of your friends recommends our providers. This gives the platform a real social edge.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Being able to look at and drive all aspects of the business and testing the limits of my knowledge and skills to solve problems I know nothing about. Oh, also meeting incredibly bright people both on the program and within the mentor/investor pool.
What can we be expecting from Teddle in 2012?
Our aim is that all of greater London will be teddling before the end of the year!
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
- You don't need to code anything to test whether your business idea holds true
- Talk to your customers, then talk to them again and then don't stop talking to them
- Leap and the net will appear