This month, Michael Blakeley talks to us about his experiences as a co-founder of dating app CLiKD.
Can you introduce your start-up? What is it, and how did it come about?
CLiKD is the dating app that puts some personality back into dating. Superficial swiping results in poor quality matches, dead-end conversations and awkward dates. By allowing our users to design their own mini quiz which they put to potential matches before they can chat we only match couples who are likely to share at least some common values, goals or interests. The concept developed in the pub when some friends were complaining that common swipe apps didn’t mirror real life where you normally get to know someone by asking questions about their likes, their dislikes, their interests and aspirations, their hopes and dreams, haha. From their, CLiKD was born.
Where are you in your start-up journey?
So although we still have a fantastic roadmap of features still ahead of us we have had a production build on both iOS and Android available since autumn 2017. We are still bootstrapping, with funding coming from friends, family and actually quite a few industry veterans who are taking a bet on us being the next big thing which is really encouraging. Most of the funds go into app development with some spend on user acquisition. We have a great team who are really dedicated and believe in the company so everyone is putting in some serious sweat equity right now.
To date, what has been your businesses biggest triumph?
On a personal level getting a mention in Forbes was great, whilst it wasn’t the double page profile spread (which I’m sure is coming soon) it was great to get CLiKD into such a prestigious publication so early on. For the company though, our Love In London photography competition was picked up by the BBC as a rate “Good News” piece and the winning photo ended up getting coverage in 18 publications across 15 countries so it was great to be a part of something so positive.
How have you found being a co-founder? Do you have any advice for partners working alongside each other on how to make that business relationship work?
My Co-Founder and COO Matthew actually joined CLiKD just after the app launched. He was a Director at the NSI Group, (owners of UniformDating.com) in a past life and had his own eCommerce startup before that and was keen to return to the startup world, specifically the dating sector. Luckily this was just as I needed a skilled COO to help CLiKD scale. We quickly “CLiKD” both professionally and personally and it wasn’t long before I was downing vodka shots at his wedding in Poland!
How do you manage to balance growing a start-up with having a personal life?
Badly… according to my girlfriend, haha. No, it’s tough at times but she is incredibly supportive, we have a managed a couple of short holidays more recently after almost 3 years of not having the time (or money!) to be able to take a break. A startup does mean late nights and working weekends but I try to make sure I make time for quality time with friends and family as well.
How do you cope with the pressures that come with building a business?
As a lawyer and head of data compliance for some big corporates in the past I guess I have experience in high pressure situations, though there are definitely some different pressures as a startup and it’s a lot more isolated without the corporate structure as backup. What has been great is as a fellow of the startup leadership program and chair of the Founders Network London Chapter I’ve developed a great network of fellow entrepreneurs and that’s been amazing for advice and encouragement.
Did you pursue investment? If so what advice would you give on pitching? What was your secret weapon?
Haha, I always try and get a joke or two in early on, get the audience on side and engaged and the judges will sense that. If they feel you and your product are popular with the market, then that’s a strong sign that you should be successful.
If you could name one thing that you wish you knew when you started, what would it be?
The value of a good CFO. A lot of startups will take someone on to just be a “bookkeeper”, but actually a skilled CFO with startup experience will add so much value and ease the navigation of EIS, SEIS, R&D Tax Credits etc. that they will be worth more than they cost!
To date, what has been your most important lesson?
You have to be open to feedback and take all emotion out of it. It’s hard when it’s something so personal to you that you have poured your heart and soul into when someone gives a suggestion to help improve your idea that you don’t take it as criticism. I have had some great advice from smart people with lots of experience and it has resulted in some great wins for CLiKD, even if it did take me a while to digest and appreciate the advice I was being given.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about starting up their own business, or who have just started their journey?
Go for it! But be smart about it. Make sure you chose something you’re passionate about. Do your research. Test your idea. And then commit … live your dream.
What has been the most challenging part of your start-up journey so far?
Too many to mention!! But if I had to pick one, I would say trying to find reliable and committed outsourced teams. Whilst we have built a great in house team there are a few functions we have tried to outsource and it’s been difficult to find partners who are as passionate about your business as you are and mistakes can be costly especially for startups trying to balance meagre resources. Luckily, I think we are there now!
What’s next for your business?
CLiKD 2.0! We have had some great feedback since launch and we have been analyzing this to optimize our product market fit. Combined with some great insights from Chieu Cao (Perk Box Co-founder) who has joined us recently as a board adviser and investor we are tweaking our app to give people more of what they want and really embrace our USP!
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