In this edition of Startup Stories, J.Allan Longshadow speaks to Visdea founder Andrew Michael to discover how a love of technology and innovation led to his journey into app development and the creation of a company that has the potential to disrupt the advertising industry and empower local businesses.
Founder name: Andrew Michael
Position: Founder & CEO
Business name: Visdea
Andrew, tell me a little about yourself:
My name is Andrew Michael and I am a Greek Cypriot born in the United Kingdom from North London.
When did you first become an entrepreneur?
I first became an Entrepreneur in April 2017 when I was just 20 years old, that’s when I first launched that I will be doing a mobile app called Visdea.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I always had a passion for innovation and love for technology, but I knew at the age of 18 that for the technologies I wanted to get involved with such as Robotics and AI, I would need great resource behind me to get started. I didn’t lose focus of my vision, I didn’t give up. I just kept on trying things to get me there. As I was a Microsoft consultant, I was at a Microsoft future decoded event at the age of 18, I was truly inspired seeing the likes of major CEOs such as Satya Nadella and other great professionals from Uber, Google Etc. It made me think that if I was older and was at the pivotal point in the .com boom, could I have been the one to take action and maybe create Google or Amazon? So I though, as that ship has sailed, what was the best next thing which I could actually afford to go out and learn on my own? It was mobile apps! I saw a pattern of what all these big technology companies were doing, how they changed the way people were doing things, making their lives easier, it made me think… what industry hasn’t had innovation and how can I make a product to benefit people? That’s where the idea for visdea was born!
What values / causes etc matter most to you?
I believe hugely that technology could make a big impact in the world in a very positive way, I would love visdea to grow into a great company, with great values, which can invest in future technologies that we can really use to benefit the world. Seeing the likes of Microsoft and Google with their technologies and how they’re benefitting all industries such as the health industry is truly amazing. Although it’s a major mission, we are trying to empower local businesses and innovate retail by giving local business a simple application to sell their products and services.
Tell us more about your business
Visdea is a mobile application currently available for iOS devices in the United Kingdom and Ireland, we launched in December 2017 so we are currently 5 months old.
Visdea allows local businesses, freelancers and shops the ability to create their unique business profile.
When a business profile is created, they will be listed on the Visdea maps where other users can see the business profile in their area on the maps, allowing free advertisement.
The businesses can communicate with their customers directly on the app using inapp messaging and they can list their products and services on their business profile which allows new and existing customers to make purchases of products and bookings of services through the app – completely free!
The businesses/users can manage their bookings and product collection directly through the app!
The great thing about visdea is at the moment we do not have a feature to pay through the app so everything is paid in person, this means that from every service or product sold, we do not take any commission, meaning the business keeps 100% of profits! It’s a no brainer – free advertisement, amazing features and completely free!
How can businesses and users get the app? From the download link: www.visdea.com/download
What is unique about your business/product/service?
The ability for businesses to advertise, communicate, sell and manage bookings directly through the app. Businesses, shops and freelancers can create their own profile, somewhat like their own ‘simplified website’ which they can share with existing customers. Through this profile they can list their products and services completely free for new and existing customers to make purchases and bookings through the app.
What made you choose to develop an app especially for the retail sector?
We believed that there was a lot of attention for technology and innovation around the food/restaurant industry but not so much in the retail industry. We wanted to empower local businesses to have a fighting chance against the internet giants.
I want visdea to help and support local businesses. As the internet has taken away the sense of identity from our local high street, I want visdea to help prevent independent businesses from being left behind in this new dawn of technology and instead, allow them to advance in it and embrace it.
What special knowledge / skills / experience do you bring to the business?
As a start-up with limited budget and resources, I am proud that I was responsible for everything behind the creation of Visdea from the idea to UI & UX design of the app, website creation, logos, branding, all marketing materials and even the business itself and legal aspect of the company!
How long has your business been going?
It’s been going for 1 year but launched 5 months ago.
Where is your business based?
North London, in my bedroom! We also do our weekly team meetings at our local pub in North London!
How have you helped your business to grow?
Since launch five months ago, I have grown the Visdea team to seven brilliant young professionals working and helping me on the journey! I am currently not focusing on major growth at the moment as that can be a mobile apps company’s biggest downfall, somewhat a paradox, the thing you might need the most can be the thing that could ruin your business! As visdea is currently being resourced by me and given that we only launched five months ago, I want to grow steadily. I want to grow the product to be as strong as possible, redeveloping features and building a strong foundation for the app. We are doing this by talking directly to local businesses and freelancers and gathering feedback on their thoughts on the app and making changes accordingly.
We talk to our local businesses by doing direct marketing, the Visdea team and I goes out and speaks directly with our local businesses – as much as we might be a technology company, we want to show that we actually care about them at a fundamentally human level and we care about what they think.
What is the ultimate goal of your business?
To innovate retail and empower local businesses and freelancers in the process!
What has been your greatest success until now?
I don’t really celebrate success at one point, I celebrate our mini successes, our mini failures as a whole. I love the journey, whether its lessons learned or wins but if I had to say the greatest success until now would be actually launching visdea.
Have you won any awards / recognition?
Nope, not yet, but I have gained some recognition and super amazing support from my local greek community and I thank them highly for that.
What has been the greatest challenge for your business?
Definitely the lack of resource, as all marketing, product development and everything within the business has been funded by me so the majority of stuff we do is using free tactics, which has its benefits of course.
What is the ethos behind your business?
To ensure we continue to listen to our users and build an amazing product for them to use We are super excited to release new features in the future which can enhance the user experience even more!
What’s next for your business?
Speak to and work very closely with our users, listen to their requirements and make changes accordingly to make visdea a better product for them.
What’s next for you?
To learn as much as I can on this journey and enjoy it!
What advice would you give to anybody wanting to start their own business?
Do not procrastinate, do not say you’re going to do it then keep pushing it back until you never commit and fail to do it. It’s great to validate your idea but make sure you validate it with the right people, speak with a few and then just do it. There’s never a right age to get started, if you’re young, great! Use that age as time to make mistakes and to learn from it, the younger you are the more you can learn in time. If you’re older, then great, use all that experience and start your own business! Remember, take things as they come, if you want to create a mobile app, do not focus on what Facebook/Instagram is now and get disheartened because your product cannot compete, and remember they also started with an MVP basic product like yours.
What has been the hardest thing about becoming an entrepreneur?
Starting out alone. I would strongly advise to start your business with a team that you can relate to, that shares the same vision as you and that has a passion for what you’re trying to achieve. When you’re going through the struggle during the journey, it’s amazing to have a team that can support you throughout it.
What has been the best thing about becoming an entrepreneur?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is making great relationships with professionals in every industry. I strongly value great relationships and helping each other in the journey.
Who has been the biggest influence on you as an entrepreneur?
I have so many great influencers I couldn’t pick one, such as the likes of Steve jobs, Bill gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page/Sergey Brin and Richard Branson. What I love and see as similarities between these great entrepreneurs is the simple product that they first started with and what amazing companies they have created from them – absolutely amazing! Some have grown from just a website to what are now massive corporations.
Which one book would you recommend every aspiring entrepreneur reads?
I believe reading is so important, I only started my reading plan this year. I attempt as a minimum two books a month, this will be one reading book and one audio book. If I can, I would push to four a month.
The best entrepreneurial book I would recommend is the classic “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie! Also “Principles” by Ray Dalio demonstrates amazing techniques which you can use within your business.