[Editor's Note] Milos Bezanov is a second year student currently studying International Politics at King’s College London.
Alexis Dormandy, the founder of LoveThis strikes an impressive resume. He has previously launched Virgin Mobile and the fitness chain Virgin Active, been involved in other businesses and invested in numerous ventures. With such an impressive CV, it is often easy to forget the humble root of every entrepreneur, “As you get older...you start to have ideas”. His dip into the business world came at 26 “I was shipped to Los Angeles to launch my first Virgin business”. Working for Branson no doubt gave him the experience to tell the good ideas from the bad; “I was lucky...I got to work for Virgin...I didn't have a clue what I was doing but I learn't very quickly”. With this behind him, Alexis Dormandy launched LoveThis in 2010 alongside the former head of Ocado and Gi Fernando, founder of techlightenment.
LoveThis is a platform where people can recommend products and services which range from industry sectors such as restaurants, food, music, products and tradesmen. You can sign up for free and instantly connect with facebook, email and SMS. What's more, non users can make recommendations through these media without signing up, so it doesn't inconvenience. All these recommendations will appear in your LoveThis account.
This feature is how it differs from businesses such as Foursquare and Amen, as it does not limit recommendations to a single platform. Currently they have 10 categories, from restaurants, to music to plumbers, and if finding a good plumber is made possible via LoveThis it's definitely worth a go! There's a very simple logic behind it “It's designed to be the anti app...no one has cracked the giving in giving recommendations, but we have”. With the ever increasing number of apps on the market, it may be just what users are looking for.
The potential is clear; the benefit of a “little black book” in a medium dominated by continuous information flows which you can't always trust is one of LoveThis' strongest points. Not only does it tap into existing friendship networks, but friends on LoveThis can also view recommendations between other friends, creating a community of information sharing. Also, establishing links with reputable brands such as BBC World News, Wall Street Journal, City AM, the Guardian and others will only add to the trust factor. Dormandy's reasoning is that people are more likely to share stuff from trustworthy sources, and what could be trustworthy than well informed friends?
Direct sharing also makes it easier for people to vet what they don't like, countering against false advertising and marketing spin (I'm sure you've all had your fair share of annoying pop-up ads). No doubt this customer focus roots Dormandy's ambition “My heart told me to do something that I could be proud of (and my head told me to pay the rent)”. By creating a platform that uses trust to enhance customer experience, he may have found an idea novel enough to do both.
But it doesn't stop there. LoveThis is currently trying to expand and tap into the twitter market. Applying the #lovethis hashtag to tweets links content to the platform. However, the different formatting means it's still not as easy to use. Also, despite 40,000 recommendations in the first eight weeks, LoveThis do not disclose information regarding business performance, making it difficult to gauge exactly where they stand.
That being said, focussing on the business overlooks the people behind it, as David Colley pointed out when he joined “ It was easy to see the potential of their idea...but I was more sold by the fact that they were all passionate about it. It's infectious”. Is the idea original? Yes, but would the idea be what it is today without this? I doubt it. The wealth of experience guiding it, and the originality and unrivalled passion driving it mean that the stage is set for LoveThis. If Dormandy and his colleagues continue loving this, there's no reason why others won't follow suit.