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Launched earlier this month, LoveThis intends to be the place where friends share their recommendations on everything from restaurants to plumbers.
LoveThis was founded by Alexis Dormandy, former Virgin Group board member. I've been asking Alexis about his new business...
In one sentence, what is LoveThis?
LoveThis is the compilation of all your friends best things, best times and best places, an online little black book of recommendations from the people you trust most.
What problems does LoveThis solve?
LoveThis is trying to help people spend their money on the best value products and experiences. There’s so much noise over the internet, that it’s impossible to find the things that are right for you with any confidence.
LoveThis allows friends to share the things they love with you - their needles in the haystack. By collecting them together, you end up with a life filled with needles rather than haystack.
When and why did you launch it?
I had the idea for LoveThis late last year. It came from a number of things:
- We are drowning in the amount of information available;
- We don’t trust anonymous sources, so we end up sticking to the things we already know;
- Trusted word of mouth is becoming more and more important to both consumers and companies.
LoveThis was a solution to all three of these problems.
It has been in a closed beta for about six weeks and we’ve seen four-to-one ratio of invites to new joiners. If you compare us to a review site, which probably has one reviewer for each 10,000 users, we’re getting 10 recommendations per user.
Our traction with media partners who want to make it possible for their readers to save their recommendations on our service, has been astounding. But it’s very early days.
Who is your target audience?
Anyone who trusts the advice of their friends rather than someone who they don’t know and who doesn’t know them.
What are your immediate goals?
First and foremost we want to make sure we make LoveThis the best service for giving and getting recommendations with your friends.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building LoveThis?
How we prioritise what we do next. There are an incredible number of opportunities coming our way at the moment. We want to do a small number of things really well, rather than try to exploit each opportunity which presents itself.
It's hard to do less and do it better, but it's really important.
How will the company make money?
The first phase is to focus on the platform and build an unrivalled user experience.
Once that has been achieved, we will be attracting customers through word-of mouth of our existing members (as you’d expect), via media partners who want our help in saving a sharing their readers recommendations, through small business partners who want their customers to recommend them, and through our Experts.
After the first stage is complete we will enable users to purchase, book or reserve the things their friends are recommending.
Who is in the team and what does it look like?
Although I originally trained as a doctor, I started my career at McKinsey & Company. I went on to work for Virgin Group and ran my first business for Sir Richard Branson aged 26.
I went on to be a founding director of both Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active, along with being a Virgin Group board member. Since then, I’ve been Chief Marketing Officer at Orange and been European Chairman for Bono’s charity, (Red), which has raised over $160m to support the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
I’ve also been Chairman, investor and advisor to a variety of European businesses before founding LoveThis.
The rest of the team (brought together by friends’ recommendations as you would expect from LoveThis) have worked in hotels, music, finance, consumer goods, beauty products, telecoms and photography, and have a number of successful business launches between them.
CTO Stuart Dillon is responsible for the successful creation, delivery and care of the 'LoveThis' technology, basically all the wizardry that makes your web experience fun. Stuart was born in the Emerald Isle and yet he earned his stripes as a technologist in the City of London as an Assistant Vice President at Merrill Lynch.
Our VP Product Gareth Capon previously founded Vibemedia, a new media and technology business; and Bandwagon, a new music start-up, following a career as a strategy consultant.
Marketing Director James Kydd used to work in advertising before spending over 15 years as the marketing director for various Virgin companies including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Media.
James was one of the founders of Virgin Mobile in the UK, which proved to be the most successful investments ever made by Richard Branson. James is a director of Start Ventures, one of the largest independent brand consultancies in the UK.
Commercial Director Matt Needham spent ten years at Accenture, first as a strategy consultant and most recently in business development. In his spare time he moonlights as a show-jumping commentator on Sky Sports and is a qualified rugby referee.
After studying History at Cambridge University, Marketing Manager Dave Colley started his career as a Business Partner at Unilever. He heard about LoveThis and convinced the founders that he should join before they even had an office.
Dave is responsible for promoting LoveThis to potential users, and understanding how people are using the service in order to help the product team improve it.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?
Our job is to make word-of-mouth efficient. That's what we want to do, and that's what we'll still be doing five years from now.
One of the interesting things about this business is that it already has customers in over 20 countries, so I'm sure we'll be looking to grow around the world.