London Startup Talks: Social Belly
Hello everyone, are you enjoying your Friday? I know Friday is not the most amazing day to read a blog post, but, no worries, it’s a simple, interesting and really nice one! 😉
This is the first of a new series of articles sharing the experience of early stage startups, especially when they’re run by women.
For this very first post, I’m glad to introduce you Dimple Lalwani, founder of Social Belly, a platform to let people host, take part and share amazing dinner parties.
If you have more questions for her, feel free to add them in your comments below! 😉
1) How did you come up with the idea of Social Belly?
I first came up with the idea of Social Belly towards the end of 2013. This was after I started hosting multiple dinner parties with friends of friends as a means to get to know new people. I was new to London and soon realised that my life was revolving around long hours at work and commuting from home to work. Most networking events I attended were a combination of drinks at pubs and/or work related events. But what I really wanted is to have a good meal with a few people I had common interests with. This is basically how it all started…
2) Being an expat, is it difficult to set up your own business in London?
Not at all. Actually, I felt it was easier to set up a company here than anywhere else. The procedures are really well explained plus there are lots of events for entrepreneurs to find out the first steps into starting a business. I definitely think that you need to be extremely passionate about what you’re doing. There’s a lot of research you should do and always try get the best deals out there.
3) What are the main things you need to do at the start?
First, it’s important to validate your concept through an MVP. Make sure you don’t spend too much money on this, remember it’s a product with the highest return on investment versus risk. Second, really narrow down who exactly is your target market. It’s easy to say that everyone would use your product however it’s important to be very specific, it will be helpful when you start your marketing campaigns. Finally, listen to your users. Keep talking to them and ask them the key questions; why are they using your product? Why did they sign up? Why would they visit your website again?
4) You’re based at Google Campus, which is the co-working space you’d suggest to people aiming to open a business in London?
Yes, and it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. I’m based at TechHub and the networking and community here is excellent. I had no background in startups before and I feel I’ve learnt so much in the past six months due to the community here. If you’re working on an idea, I’d recommend you work in either a co-working space or coffee shops within the tech city. It’s amazing how many people you’ll meet and build relationships with. For me, that’s been one of the biggest advantages since I started Social Belly.
5) Who’s the first person you would hire (or you have hired) at Social Belly?
It really depends on the business you’re in. I remember that one of the first things I needed for Social Belly was a prototype, therefore, I hired a Graphic Designer. After this, we won a startup competition worth £50,000 from Simpleweb and from that we got some tech support as well. After that, we’ve hired a CTO and now on the lookout for a COO.
6) Do you really think people will change their schedule to attend a dinner with strangers?
Absolutely. This trend has been going on for several years around the whole world. I think there is a definite market for people to meet like-minded people without the pressure of going on a date or a double date. When you’ve got a new job or when you’re new to a city, it becomes hard to meet new people outside of your circle and that’s where Social Belly comes in. We match Londoners based on common interests and let them bond over an authentic meal.
7) Is friendship possible in the startup world?
In my opinion, your success as an entrepreneur will be strongly impacted by your ability to build new business relationships. It really depends on what you consider to be a friendship. For example, I’m based at TechHub in Google Campus and I feel that we’ve become more than friends. When you’re working long hours and continuously supporting each other through difficult times, you become more like a family. Trust and support is key when you’re running a business and that’s probably the best thing about having your own startup.