LetsLunch UK: Christopher Pruijsen
Online platform for networking lunches
Tell us what your business does:
Letslunch is an online platform that enables you to schedule offline lunches and make new contacts for business and lifestyle purposes. Letslunch uses a unique algorithm based on interests, location, time and availability to match people with relevant connections.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Our main inspiration was the theory behind Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, 2005. Our goal is to encourage in-person interaction to build strong relationships. Especially these days when online networking is widely used, the importance of in-person interaction is often understated. Increasing your business network can mean the difference between success and obscurity, and surprising results can come from meeting new people over an informal lunch.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Letslunch has already been established in the USA, Italy and New Zealand, and is currently also expanding into the Netherlands. In the UK there is currently no platform which allows you to make use of your lunchtime in such a fun and useful way, and especially in London, where there is a high density of like-minded businesspeople in various districts Shoreditch, Canary Wharf, etc., who could benefit from the service.
What were you doing before starting up?
I am the former president of Oxford Entrepreneurs, an organisation with approx. 8,000 members at the University of Oxford. I also worked with a number of start-ups, and am currently one of the directors of Oxfordshire Business First and an advisory board member of Venturefest Oxford.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have, although there was a time when I considered working in the City first, due to a lack of role-models to show me that anything is possible and that young entrepreneurs really can make it, especially in the current climate.
How did you raise the money?
Currently Letslunch is bootstrapped. As the technology has been developed in the USA and this is the UK branch, most of the work is PR and business development until we launch. We are releasing a 3.0 product in August and will subsequently do a fundraising round to fund our continued expansion.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
There were a number of challenges, such as the London Olympics for example. As the Games delayed traffic in London, we decided not to launch until just afterwards as we didn't want people missing their lunch meetings and having a bad first experience on the platform. We do have a page where people can register for an invite to the UK beta, and are registering VIPs and establishing partnerships at the moment.
How much do you charge?
Letslunch is completely free to use.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The first breakthrough for Letslunch was the successful expansion from San Francisco to New York and then to Italy. However, for Letslunch UK the first major breakthrough was reaching 12 registered VIP members – and we are currently working to register more. We are also busy expanding the team by one to two people, and hopefully you will hear a lot more from us over the next few weeks!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Firstly: anything is possible, but you have to give it 100%. For an entrepreneur, especially when starting, there are no weekends, no nine-to-five and probably a heavily mixed work/private life. Secondly: don't underestimate the importance of networking, and of professional networks and conferences. Deals are made much easier with people you know.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
In five years’ time I envision Letslunch being the norm for utilising lunch-time amongst professionals, and I hope to see the platform scaled across the rest of Europe, and possibly worldwide.