Hi St John please tell us about the man behind HeyGreenGO.
My fellow co-founders, James Murdoch and Craig Walsh came up with the concept of HeyGreenGO about three years ago. We wanted to create an application that catered for people who wanted to get a step beyond being online. It is in a sense circling back to engaging with people on a personal, face-to-face basis. We are working on trying to close the loop – not hammering social media for what it is, it does serve its purpose, but we want to include an alternative to re-engage people. Social media platforms are becoming an end point, that is consuming a lot of people’s time and energy; which detracts from having more meaningful connections.
HeyGreenGO is facilitator for engaging face-to-face, it isn’t the sort of platform you can log onto and just hang around. It allows you to see who’s nearby; have visibility of their interests and posted statuses; and connect with them directly, by meeting up in groups or just one-on-one. We’re about taking things into the real world, so users can be as niche, in terms of subject interest or as general as they feel. One day it could just be to grab a coffee, and the next, meetup up to study,even to go cycling, or meet a potential business partner.
The users interest will define the scope of the platform – they create their profiles, add their interests, have the option to posts and edit a status, and start communication. There is a filter feature that allows the user to really narrow things down and find like-minded people nearby with similar interests.
I like the emoji feature, which allows users to rate each other. Tell me a bit about that.
The emoji (conceived originally as a ‘badge’) feature was a very important part of the concept. We wanted to build a system of trust, a trust that’s reinforced and reciprocated. It’s reinforcing that someone is who they say they are, as an emoji can only be given after meeting the person. The app uses a system which is based on proximity of mobile devices, so if you haven’t met them in person, you can’t give an emoji.
We’ve recently changed it from a badge system to an emoji. It is the same system, but we found the badge system didn’t work well in terms of scale. Emoji’s are popular and everyone understands how to use them. We are enforcing trust, which means the more emoji’s someone collects the better.
How did the business go from concept to launch?
It was fairly arduous and took a lot of effort in terms of development. The process from the beginning to MVP took about 6 months’ worth of work. When we got to this point, we did a couple of testing exercises in London to get feedback from users. This gave us insight to go back and tweak some of the features.
Then we did a BETA launch. The app has actually been live for a little while, but we haven’t marketed it in any significant way. This is because we wanted to add some additional features, like the filter, interests and emoji ratings. The current version is what we feel happy with, and are very comfortable and confident that the user will enjoy the platform.
Now the user can populate their profile with as many interests as they like, then they can at any time, activate or deactivate them individually. The filter tool also allows them to find profiles that share the same interests, and hide those who don’t. Alternatively, to initiate contact, users can post a public status, describing what they would like to do, when , and where, whether with one other person, or in a group format – other users can then simply make contact with that person or join the group via the in-app chat facility, to then meet up as arranged.
What was the response like from your target audience?
We got great feedback, which we have already dressed, for instance the filter. Our user base has gone up steadily, but that’s expected as we have been deliberately laying low until now. We are very excited about this week, as we have been waiting for a while now, to push things forward and kick off a marketing campaign.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not running HeyGreenGO?
I use to take part in a lot of sports, like cycling, kayaking and jogging, but now that I have a family, I spend time at home or away on holiday with them as much as I can. It’s always nice to meet new people whatever one’s doing.
How did you fund it all in the beginning?
The entire programme from the beginning, up until now has been self-funded. It has been reasonably expensive to roll out, but we have high standards and wanted the best. Our platform is scalable globally, because we work with a company that can handle the growth and pressures. Including the application being used on all the variety of handsets out there.
This platform looks great for students and millennials who are always keen to meet up and socialise.
We know that this age group are always on their phones, so we have functionality that will be great for them to use. Our target audience are those who like to meet new people and socialise; be involved in activities; etc., so it is a great fit.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs wanting to start their own business?
Just one haha?
The most important thing is to hone in on the concept behind what you are trying to develop or execute. You need a strong concept behind it, that is the foundation upon which you then create the necessary features or systems to take that concept, from a concept to a format that people can start interacting with, recognise and see benefit in.
Having a strong concept will give your idea longevity. It may take a little bit of time to gain traction from an audience, but once it does and the concept is strong, it will give lasting value. You can come up with something radical and imaginative, but if it’s a bit of a gimmick, without a solid foundation, it will be short lived. Not saying there is anything wrong with a gimmick, if that’s what you want to do, but for something lasting it needs a strong base.
I firmly believe in giving something with a long duration, value and benefit to people using your product or service.
What has been the most exciting and the most challenging experience so far?
Half the time it was as if one were sitting at the edge of one’s chair, making sure that the development went to plan. The most exciting isn’t tangible, but more around the benefits that this platform can give to people. The possibility of people connecting with people around them, who they may not have met otherwise. This person may live at the end of the street and they share the same interest or passion; like music or an instrument. It’s about changing people’s experience.
For me personally, you get so much more of an experience meeting face-to-face with people rather than over email or social media for instance.
What this platform facilitates is very exciting for me!
The most challenging would be working to time lines. Some we did set ourselves time lines, for the sake of keeping momentum going, because there are various aspects that needed to fall into place to keep the development pushing forward.
How would you define being an entrepreneur?
I believe an entrepreneur is someone with the self-belief, drive and passion to do something they set their mind to. Someone who doesn’t feel too challenged by the conventional system; they don’t necessarily want to conform, but instead challenge and come up with alternatives or just do things differently; for greater results and productivity.
I think being an entrepreneur is liberating and you feel as though you are taking advantage of your existence; your destiny. Rather than putting all your effort into someone else or some other organisation.
What plans do you have for HeyGreenGO over the next 12 months?
The immediate plan is to promote the latest version of the app, which went live this weekend. We will be working on gaining greater traction with our target audience and letting them use the app; appreciating the benefits and encouraging others to use it. It does require a critical mass of people for it to work as effectively as it can, so building the user base is priority over the next 12 months. We will be doing it in a way that really engages with our users, so we have a great marketing team; with plans to make it a fun campaign.
There are still more features to come out, we have a road map, that we are developing 12 months ahead. These features will go live every couple of months, to further add to the current functions.