Our recent Pitch Night event at our Manchester co-working space was a huge success and we were very excited to host some of the region’s biggest and most promising startups! Unfortunately, there could only be one winner and duo Oliver and Joe stole the show with an amazing elevator pitch for their innovative app, UniDosh!
We sat down with the guys to discuss the night and how winning Pitch Night has altered the course of their startup. We wanted to pick their brains to find out a little bit more about how it all began and what we can expect to see from UniDosh in the future.
It seems like more and more young adults are developing entrepreneurial skills and developing their passions into their own businesses. Have you always wanted to own your own business or did you have other career goals in mind?
Since a young age, we’ve both always wanted to work for ourselves. Our parents have always run their own businesses from home and so we’ve been brought up in that environment. However, apart from being students, the student market, from a business side, is new to both of us and wasn’t necessarily the industry I saw myself getting into. I (Oliver) went to university and studied Architecture and graduated this summer with my Part 1 (the first 3 years out of 7).
I have always had a passion for design and have wanted to pursue architecture for many years. Ideally, in the future, I would run an architectural/property development firm, whereby I can oversee the money making business side of things as well as the design aspect.
Joseph went to Africa on his gap year to work on Safari and studied anti-poaching, before heading to Manchester to study animal behaviour. It was only after the first few months of his degree and after my first year in Nottingham that we saw the need for UniDosh.
“After both Joe and I went through our first year of Uni, we realised first hand the huge problem that was out there facing the majority of students, and saw there wasn’t a solution yet.”
The idea behind the app is so simple, yet unexplored. What was the deciding moment when you realised that this could work?
We knew straight away in the first few days of putting pen to paper that the concept behind UniDosh was an extremely strong one with potential. One of the first things we did was hold market research, where we hired a specialist to hold focus groups with students and see what the general feedback was.
This was so important to us as the results we got back gave us the confidence that 1) We weren’t going mad and 2) The demand was really out there for this type of marketplace!
So, together with the positive results from focus groups and online questionnaires sent to thousands of students across the country, we realised we had a good idea on our hands.
So, once you realised that you had a winning idea, how did the process of getting this app off the ground start?
After both Joe and I went through our first year of Uni, we realised first hand the huge problem that was out there facing the majority of students and saw there wasn’t a solution yet. We saw that students had certain skills that they could use in one way or another to earn extra money.
Students go to Uni and automatically think they will get themselves a job at a bar or shop, however the reality is that those jobs are paying minimum wage and making them work horrible hours, which in turn is seriously affecting the one thing they’re at Uni to do – study.
So, we started by talking to students face to face and held on-the-ground market research focus groups and questionnaires to see exactly what students could sell to earn money and also what students would purchase from a fellow student. From this, we realised that what was needed was a platform for them to do freelance work, student to student, which on one hand allows students to earn money but also allows the buyer to save money, as they are being charged student rates.
As this was all going on we were designing the first version of UniDosh, with the feedback from our market research to aid us. With these drawings, we went to various website and app developers to see how feasible this was, as well as the timeline and cost involved. We then had a meeting with a lawyer to understand how this needed to be started correctly.
After a year and half of development and testing various marketing strategies across other cities, we launched in Manchester at the end of September 2017.
“I don’t think there is anyone better suited to tackle this problem than a student.”
Starting any business can be a challenge, but what’s been the most difficult part of developing this idea so far?
The most difficult part of developing this project that neither Joe or I quite anticipated was the amount of time it would take us and the amount of time it takes up every day. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I am doing and wouldn’t change it for anything. But when we were still at University and especially being in my third year of Architecture, which was extremely intense, trying to balance UniDosh work with Uni Work proved to be very difficult, as both required full-time attention.
Now we are both taking a break from our courses so we can focus all our time and attention on the app. It’s much better now and we can work way more efficiently.
What’s been the best and most exciting thing about starting this project?
Still being a student and being so immersed in student life has probably been the best thing for us in terms of how we have planned marketing strategies and how we have designed the app. I don’t think there is anyone better suited to tackle this problem than a student.
Aside from that, starting up your own company and going through all of these different phases alongside your best mate is amazing. Joe and I work very well together and it’s made the whole journey much more enjoyable.
I’m sure it’s been a pretty whirlwind few weeks for you guys, so how has life changed since winning Pitch Night?
The feedback and overall experience of taking part in Pitch Night has most definitely helped us to understand the tech startup world, as it was one of the first events we’ve been to where we’ve got to speak with so many different people within the industry, as well as other young entrepreneurs in the same game as us. It’s opened our eyes to the competition and to the possibilities.
Coming first place was incredible and it’s given us credibility within the startup world in and around Manchester, and then there are the prizes that we took home with us!
We’re now overwhelmed with amazing people who are there to help push us through this part of our launch and it is without a doubt going to make the process easier and help Joe and I do things correctly. Whether that’s with advice about investment, great PR, app updates and loads more!
“We can now work in a great environment, surrounded by lots of like-minded people. Beats working at the Costa Coffee for sure!”
How will your Pitch Night winnings help with developing the app?
With the cash prize, we can now update the app with great features like ‘making an offer’ and a completely revised ‘booking process’. This is not only going to make the app a lot more efficient and user-friendly for students to use but will also help us when looking for investment and some functionality is important when it comes to scaling the app to the rest of the UK.
In regards to actually going out and looking for investment, the help and advice we are going to receive from Blenheim Chalcot and Campus Capital is undoubtedly going to make Joe and I much wiser to the process, and therefore increase our chances in the long run.
Then there is the help from Toast PR, a promotional video by Juke Media, website design by Dreamr and user review from Userfy, hosting from UKFast and then brand persona workshops from Conspicuous Marketing, that together is going to completely accelerate our progress in the coming months and help us get to the level that we want to get to, in terms of downloads and users as well as brand identity.
Lastly, we won 6 months desk space at the Accelerate Places co-working space in Manchester, which we have already begun to take advantage of. We can now work in a great environment, surrounded by lots of like-minded people. Beats working at the Costa Coffee for sure!
Other than the amazing prize, how did you benefit from participating in Pitch Night?
Apart from all the amazing prizes, just being involved in such a competition has helped us perfect our pitch and given us an experience we’ll never forget. In the run-up to the competition, we revisited our pitch deck and created something really great to present, which we can now use again when needed.
Also, by practising our pitch over and over again and then finally presenting in front of a live audience of 50 people or so, has lead us to become much better public speakers and as two 21 years olds, this is so important for us at this stage.
“It is so important to practice your presentation again and again until you can say it word for word, slowly and clearly every time.”
We thoroughly enjoyed listening to you guys pitch and we’re looking forward to helping even more young startups in the future! So what advice would you offer to others thinking about entering the next Pitch Night?
It is so important to practice your presentation again and again until you can say it word for word, slowly and clearly every time. There is nothing worse than being unconfident in what you are saying, repeating information or not explaining your concept to people who have no idea what your business is about.
Especially at the Pitch Night, when you only have (a very strict) 3 minutes to explain your idea, it is vital to get across the most important information and be confident on your facts and figures. If you haven’t mentioned them in your presentation, then the chances are that you’re going to be asked by one of the judges. So think of everything that they could ask so when they do ask you, you can fire back with a confident answer.
Thanks to Oliver and Joe for talking to us! We’re excited to follow the growth and success of UniDosh within out Manchester co-working space and if you’d like to find out a bit more about Pitch Night, head to our Pitch Night page!
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