Helpfulpeeps is a social media platform that relies on the good nature of other people and one of the startup success stories that used Apps World to help put their product in from of the eyes of mobile leaders. Saf Nazeer is one of the Co-Founders and idea men behind Helpfulpeeps, we managed to get some time out of his busy schedule to tell us all about how he and his team plan to take their startup to the next level
Can you tell us a bit about your start-up?
Helpfulpeeps is a new social network born from a collective belief that life is better when we help each other. We make it easier than ever for people and charities that want help to connect with those willing to help by ‘paying it forward’. We’ve gamified it so that each time you help, you earn ‘karma’, which acts as your social capital on the platform. We call it the karma economy!
When did you know it was time to convert idea in to reality?
We pitched Helpfulpeeps as a concept to Webstart (Bristol’s internet incubator) and once we got accepted onto the programme we knew it was time to convert our idea into reality. My co-founder Simon moved to Bristol and we used our time at Webstart to take Helpfulpeeps from a concept to launching a pilot with our minimum viable product (MVP).
How did you establish your USP?
There are plenty of platforms that connect people who want help with those offering services for a fee but the interactions tend to be very transactional. We wanted to provide an alternative by creating a platform for people who share our values of community and sharing to be come together and ask for help when they want and help others where they can. By taking money out of the equation we believe that we create opportunities for deeper, more meaningful connections amongst our users.
What are the major challenges you've faced so far?
We have faced one major challenge after another with all kinds of crazy highs and lows thrown in between. We had heard the analogy from Elon Musk that starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss so I guess on some level we knew what we were signing up for. Day 1 of Webstart presented us with a major challenge, as we knew we had to develop an MVP but Simon and I couldn’t write a line of code between us (we still can’t). We had received some pre-seed funding as part of the programme but it was nowhere near enough to outsource the build to an agency. We’d even explored working with freelancers locally but even that proved to be too expensive. After much rejection we were introduced by a friend to an experienced developer in Sweden who liked the idea and agreed to build our MVP for mates rates and lots of karma. Following the build we were faced with yet another major challenge, which was to raise awareness of Helpfulpeeps and get people to sign up with no marketing budget. Once we had a few thousand users and had proved the concept we then had a new set of challenges – raising funding, building a team, coming up with a viable business model. So it’s been a really steep learning curve with many challenges and no doubt more to come but that’s just what’s it’s like to run a start-up.
How have you attracted investment?
We decided quite early on in our fundraising journey that we wanted to attract experienced investors that could add value beyond just their financial investment. As such we spent a considerable amount of time as a team mapping out the right individuals and then leveraged our personal networks as well as Twitter and LinkedIn to reach out to them to introduce Helpfulpeeps as an investment opportunity. What followed were numerous Skype sessions and trips to London to meet potential investors in person and I’m pleased to say we learned a lot in the process and managed to overfund our round with investors who will be able to help us execute our ambitious vision.
How do you ensure success when hiring staff?
To date we’ve only formally recruited 2 team members and both of them had been involved with Helpfulpeeps as volunteers. Over the course of several months they demonstrated that they were a great culture fit and added so much value that it really was a no-brainer to ask if they wanted to join full-time. Moving forward I still think we will place a huge emphasis on culture fit and whether new hires buy into our mission, as we believe that’s the best way to build a successful and motivated team.
To what extent are you trying to innovate to stay ahead of competition?
I think everyone is trying to ‘innovate’ and so it’s become just a bit of a buzzword. However the fact that we are a small team that has the tech in-house means we are able to try lots of different things and we recognise that some of those experiments will fail. We aim to learn from those failures and to continue trying new things and this kind of culture I feel lends itself to innovation.
How do you plan to grow Helpfulpeeps?
Our plan is to launch city by city across the UK. Bristol was an obvious starting point for our pilot and we will now start looking at other cities with a view to officially launch in London early next year. We have a number of tried and tested channels that have worked well for us so far that include PR/Press, Word of Mouth, Community Ambassadors and Social Media. We have a very engaged community so the plan is to leverage them to help us grow the network.
The winners from Apps World 2015 including Helpfulpeeps
How important has winning last years Apps World startup competition been?
Apps World last year was the first time we’d entered a start-up pitch competition, so to come out as winners against some fantastic international start-ups gave us a huge confidence boost. It also provided us with additional validation from the expert judging panel that Helpfulpeeps had huge potential and that we should really go for it. We also got some great press coverage and met some very helpful people at the event, many of whom we still keep in touch with.
What's the next steps for helpfulpeeps?
We are now in the process of launching a much-improved version of the product based on all of our learning’s from the past 12 months. Our biggest focus is on growing our user base as the more people join the more helpful the network becomes. Get involved at www.helpfulpeeps.com