Favour.it is a recent startup that helps people find ‘favorites’ (products and more , called “favourits” by the founders) of their friends. I saw their presentation during a Startup Weekend late 2011 and since then followed the progress. By now they have a dedicated team, initial version live and are working hard on a launch of their big upgrade. In this interview we talk with co-founder Wouter Kneepkens about his experiences in moving from the first idea to a team and prototype, and specifically his experiences with the ‘Startup Weekends’ that are organized around the globe.
When did you start with this idea?
We started in august 2011, with a team of three people. We had this idea that you should be able to share your recommended items in your social network and get advice from your friends. When we realized that this was not possible, we decided we could make this into a startup and launch it ourselves.
You entered this idea in a startup weekend. What made you decide to do this?
Two reasons: First of all, I was looking forward to experiencing a Startup Weekend myself, learn from it and meet new people. Secondly to move the idea forward. There are a few ‘weekend’ initiatives around: Startup Weekend and 3ds to name two. We decided to participate in the Utrecht Startup Weekend in November 2011. We participated with 2 of the initial three team members and were hoping to be able to work on our idea, get input from other participants, learn from the coaches and perhaps ‘recruit’ people to our team.
How did the weekend go?
It started on Friday night with pitches from participants. There were about 40 ideas pitched. I pitched the Favour.it idea. After the pitches anyone could join a pitcher and teams were formed. Our idea attracted two other people, ensuring us a team for the weekend.
How much progress did you make during the weekend?
We worked on a pitch, a working prototype and tested this all during the two remaining days. Based on the lean startup philosophy, we started interacting with customers straight away, and actually made 12 sales (on 19 leads) during the weekend. We used this fact in our pitch to show that the idea was attracting customers, and could even give numbers: 90% of people approached signed-up and 52% made a purchase. It is great to have actual metrics like these when you have to pitch your idea later. Of course these numbers are so high because we were in the friendly environment of the participants. Next time I would follow Steve Blank’s advice more strictly and actually get out of the building to test the idea with outsiders.
What happened after the weekend?
It took some time to find the right team. From November onward I wanted to work on this idea with the team to bring it further. During the weekend we had help from two designers from Delft, but they could not join the team. We also met some developers who joined us after the weekend. Unfortunately, all of us were only available parttime, which made it difficult to make real progress. In January we had to address this problem: we asked everyone who wanted to be involved to make more time available. Some people could not do this and left the team. With the changed team we made a new prototype and did an alpha test of this. We learned a lot from this prototype, including that our engagement level wasn’t high enough. With all these lessons, we were ready and motivated to really go for it and work full time on a new prototype.
When exactly did you start working full time on this?
We started in April with our current team of three people: Niels Snoeck (developer), Paul O’Connell (designer) and me (business). We started with some further tests improving our messaging and launched a new test version of the website where people can already add their favourits. In August we will launch a next version where the favourits become available to their friends. Dedicating our team on this fulltime has been essential and as greatly increased the speed of development.
If and when would you recommend people to participate in a Startup Weekend?
I would recommend anyone interested in start-ups to participate in such a weekend, especially those that are considering to become full time entrepreneurs. You meet nice people, learn a lot and get motivated. You can participate with your team like we did when your idea is still very young, but it is also valuable for yourself and others in case you participate and join a team.
Are you going to visit another weekend?
I actually already visited another weekend: Last month I participated in one and joined another team. Unfortunately I could not stay the whole event and had to leave the last day. I’ll probably stay active in the community, but would join next weekends as mentor or organiser: after two weekends participating the learning diminishes.
How should people prepare for a Startup Weekend?
You do not need a lot of preparation. What does help is to read a book on Lean startups. My favourits are Eric Ries’ ‘Lean Startup’ if you are new to entrepreneurship, or ‘Running Lean’ for advanced readers.”
Want to know more about favourit? Here is a short description with some pointers. The idea of Favour.it is that you and your friends share interests and tastes, some similar, some wildly different. We have created a platform to use this resource to help guide you on the quest to find the answer to “What’s next?”.
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