It’s a key question for many startups: “What problem are we trying to solve?” Remind2Find, based in Leeds, is looking to solve a problem that’s more universal than most: how to buy gifts for others without knowing what they really like or need.
Founder Steven Binnion left his job in IT to focus on the platform, which invites users to share details of their interests and favourite brands in order to provide inspiration and remove the guesswork from gift buying. Rather than competing with retail giants online, Remind2Find exists as an aggregation point – a complementary connector between people and ecommerce sites.
We spoke to Binnion to find out more.
What’s your startup story?
Steven Binnion: It may be a sign of age, but I found myself buying gifts with alarming regularity. If it wasn’t for my own children, it was siblings, nieces, nephews, parents and so on. On almost every occasion I made an impulsive purchase, often at the last minute. I became pretty good at buying something that was okay, but the end result was more a feeling of relief for me than delight for the recipient.
Rather than going through the same process each time — that is, opening Google or browsing Amazon — I wondered whether there was an easier way of doing things. I also thought about the amount of waste going on — I was buying gifts for people who appreciated the gesture but didn’t really want or need whatever I’d bought.
Before Remind2Find, you either created an online wish-list, typically with one retailer, or guessed what somebody wanted. While I’m still a little uncomfortable with itemised wish-lists, I see that they have a place. It set me thinking about a halfway house where people can add information that they are comfortable with sharing, that can inspire and make life easier for buyers while retaining an element of surprise for the recipient.
Why do people find it so difficult to buy for others?
In a world bordering on infinite choice, the chances of buying something that somebody really likes are so slim that it’s far more likely you’ll get it wrong. I remember when Harvey Nichols ran a campaign that used the hashtag #giftface, referring to the smile you put on when receiving a gift that you’re not interested in, and it just struck a chord. That’s what we’re trying to help people avoid.
When did you realise that you wanted to turn it into a business?
My second biggest challenge was sending gifts to family overseas. Even once I’d decided what to buy, I needed to find a trustworthy local supplier. Sending gifts directly from the UK was not always straightforward due to import restrictions and duty. It was also expensive and at times unreliable.
It occurred to me that a community of people in similar positions could help one another by recommending retailers in their own countries. What we needed was a platform that could do all of the other things we wanted and allow this information to be quality checked and shared.
In answer to your question, it was a combination of seeing that we had the potential to solve a real problem for millions of people around the world along with the realisation that it would take a lot of time and effort to come up with something that would do the job well.
How will you monetise the platform? Would you become a retailer?
We have no aspirations to become a retailer; instead, we are the gateway and connector between networks of friends and the retailers and brands they love.
We make money by adding value for all involved. As a gift buyer, my job is easier as I have a much better idea about what the person I am buying for likes. As a recipient, I receive things I really like rather than stuff I don’t. As a retailer, Remind2Find allows me to get the right messages to my loyal customers (and those buying for them) at the right time, when they are looking for inspiration and about to make a purchase.
What were some of the challenges in the early days?
I ran Remind2Find in parallel with a full-time job and spent quite a long time making very slow progress. I was determined to keep it going and then the opportunity came along to work on it full time and I took it, and here we are.
The biggest challenge was getting some form of website that could take our product to market – that’s been a long and reasonably expensive journey. I first partnered with a digital agency, who were great, but my budget ran out and we both realised that what we now needed was far more complicated than the original specification.
How did you get around that?
Learning to code was not an option because of the time it would take. I was introduced by a friend to Marc Mills who has since become my co-founder. Coincidentally, Marc had previously tried to solve a similar problem, so he quickly bought into what I was doing. In return for a share in what we hope will become a profitable business, Marc brings great experience and a set of skills that make us pretty much self-sufficient, which is fantastic.
Have you had any investment?
No – we’re bootstrapped so far, and face the challenge of proving our model by getting a significant number of users onto the platform.
We would benefit from investment for a few reasons. The first is helping us to accelerate growth of the user community. Second, with more development resource we could fast track many of the ideas and features that we know will improve the user experience.
What’s next for you?
Right now, anybody can sign up, create a profile and invite their friends and family to do the same. Each user benefits from reminders before an event along with access to their friends’ profiles that contain whatever people have chosen to share.
As users invite one another, we are very keen to see how quickly we grow organically before deciding what we need to invest in marketing. We are also planning to speak with investors who share our belief in the vision that can help us to accelerate our growth and the rate at which we improve the platform.
It’s an exciting time. I’m already benefitting from using the platform. I feel a lot more organised and starting with a view of what someone likes makes a refreshing change from firing up Google and crossing my fingers.