Julian Keenaghan and Alex Parish
Tastebuds Media Ltd
The match-making music buffs helping single people find harmony
Company name: Tastebuds Media Ltd
Founders: Julian Keenaghan and Alex Parish
Age: 29, 27
Based: Kentish Town, London
Staff Numbers: 2
Date started: October 2010
Tell us what your business does
It’s a dating site based around music. You import your profile from a few different sites around the web – like last.fm or Facebook - and the site recognises your music ‘likes’.
We then show you a list of people who match your taste, who we think you might be interested in. You can then discuss your shared interests, and concerts you might be going to.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We were both musicians ourselves, and passionate music fans. It’s an idea we’ve had for a while; we go to a lot of gigs, and we thought that there was a market need for this sort of thing.
What’s your USP (unique selling point)?
(The idea) is relatively unique, in the sense that music is so core to the experience. The sharing of music and content is integral to how you communicate with people.
What were you doing before starting up?
Before starting Tastebuds I was working as a developer for Spoonfed Media, a London events start-up. They evolved from being an early-stage start-up into an established player during my time there, so it was a very valuable experience.
Alex cut his teeth in the web industry with Spook Media. He was working there as a developer and was eventually promoted to the role of technical director, managing a team of developers and designers. He had actually left his permanent position about six months before going full-time on Tastebuds, and was working as a contractor.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
I've always wanted to run my own business, though this is my first start-up. I definitely find the independence to make your own decisions, and the variety of challenges and interactions you come across in a typical day appealing, from a personal development standpoint.
What planning did you do before you started up?
We had a live product with many thousands of users before we started to go full-time on the business, so we had some market validation to work with. With both of us being developers it was easier to dip into the product and experiment, without too much forward planning - definitely an advantage. We did do one free course at the British Library on how to attract funding for your project, which was very useful.
How did you raise the money?
We’ve had a bit of a hand from friends and family; that’s been enough to keep us going for these first few months, but we’re looking to meet some people who could help us out. We’re just meeting who we can at the minute, and trying to redefine our strategy and what we’re actually planning to do.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
Not having any cash to spend on marketing has definitely been a challenge, particularly when launching a business of this nature, but in a way it's forced us to spend time concentrating on building a compelling product and be creative in trying to attract free publicity.
We've been lucky to attract a lot of PR, and have managed to generate some hype and a sizeable userbase. Having a product with an unusual angle definitely helped.
Where is your business based?
We're based at home, on my kitchen table in Kentish Town.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
You do find yourself having to make room in between the Macbook Pros to have your dinner at times! But we've tended to have a meeting or two elsewhere during the day, to get out of the house.
How have you promoted your business?
We had a lot of success on Twitter when we launched. We've also tried to make it easy for people to share the product and tell their friends about it. We launched our blog with a light-hearted post which got a lot of attention online and was a big success.
How much do you charge? How did you decide this?
The service is currently free to use. We felt it was important to lower the barriers to entry in order to gain some traction.
Ultimately, we’re looking at two different revenue sources – firstly, we’re looking at trying to integrate vanity payments, things like self-promotion and virtual goods, using SMS. And then we’re looking at how we can make extraneous revenue from the music industry, including advertising and affiliate revenues.
What about staff – how many do you have?
The two co-founders are still the only full-time staff, though we've had help from freelance designers and PR experts from time to time.
What has your growth been like? When do you expect to be profitable?
We still have some more product development to do; we need to try and figure out our customer acquisition model and how we can get the word out there as cheaply as possible. We’re probably going to turn a profit sometime towards the end of this year.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We were lucky enough to get featured on Mashable.com the week we launched, which ended up taking our site down under weight of traffic! This was the first validation we had that we were onto something interesting.
What would you do differently?
We never spent too much time planning our launch at the beginning, which meant when we got the initial attention, we weren't ready for it in some ways and probably didn't make the most of it.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
If you're building something technical, like a website, there's always a risk you'll never get the product off the ground so it's best to start building and getting feedback as soon as you can.