We sat down over lunch with Low-Fi’s founders, music-lovers and all around kickass ladies, Anne Dvinge and Stine Hulvej, to talk about the new Low-Fi website and how it came into an existence. The early stages of building a startup are such a steep learning curve, so we wanted to get our hands on a bit of wisdom from them.
Can you talk about when and how you realized Low-Fi needs a new home?
Anne: I think we’ve known pretty much from the beginning. We had our first platform on Sharetribe and it was amazing as a MVP (minimal viable product) as a way to test if people even wanted to go to a concert in someone else’s house, if musicians would play a living room concert and most importantly if people would pay for this. So, it was really good for that and Sharetribe has been amazing, so helpful, we love what they do. However, their product is built for a two-sided marketplace and Low-Fi is a three-sided marketplace. The three sides being musicians, hosts and concert goers. And one user can be all three things, so it is a lot more complex than you renting your bike to someone. That’s only two parties involved. And it became clear very early on that we need our own platform. So, it was more a matter of when can we afford to build something.
Stine: And the other thing is that Sharetribe is built more for physical products. The whole flow of buying something: giving a review, confirming, just makes sense for buying a product instead of a ticket for an event that will happen in the future. And naturally that created some bumps for our users along the way.
So, how did it come into existence, how did you make it happen?
Anne: Innobooster made it happen.
Stine: By coincidence (laughs). Not really, but it was quite interesting, because we got the Innobooster grant at a time when we had just decided that we want to postpone building the platform and focus on sales and growing the numbers. We had applied once and not gotten it, so we had moved on in a way.
Anne: Initially we applied back in Oct 2016 and we got a no and I got super offended, it’s like telling someone their baby is ugly (both laugh). I was like “What?! You don’t want to give Low-Fi money. What do you mean it’s not pretty, it’s beautiful!”. The amazing thing about Innobooster is that it is not to your detremement if you reapply. It’s actually the opposite, if you rewrite your application, you show you meant it. So, we asked for feedback from them and got a really good explanation and I realized I hadn’t managed to explain the potential market and the business case well enough. So, I rewrote the application and sent it in. But since we had gotten a no the first time, we didn’t want to get disappointed again and we had kind of convinced ourselves that we won’t get the money. So, instead Stine and I set this whole plan for 2017 and a good part of 2018, that was pretty much let’s make money this year and we can always built the platform ourselves next year.
Stine: It’s also interesting how creating that plan happened. We went to a summer house in the start of Jan of 2017, just after NYE, to plan and create a strategy for Low-Fi. By the second day we had the whole summer cabin covered with post-it notes. And one of the big resolutions was that not only we need to make money, but we also need people to help us grow this idea and test it even more.
Anne: Shortly after I get this email from the Innobooster that said that they have made a decision, but you had to log in to actually see what the decision is. And I almost didn’t want to, but of course I did. It said “Congratulations, we are happy to….” and my very first reaction was “YAY…..Crap!” (both laugh). Because, it was amazing and we were so thankful. See, I told you my baby is beautiful! (more laughs) But now we have made all of these plans that did not take into account the Innobooster and now we need to rearrange everything.
Stine: And then we actually had to figure out how to build it.
Anne: Exactly, suddenly we were like “Oh, okay we are building this thing… What is it we are building again?”
Stine: Luckily, we already had met our designer Delia Albu-Comănescu. Who had a big part in steering things in the right direction.
How is the new website better? What would people have now, that wasn’t available in the old one?
Anne: I think the community features, the way you can follow somebody, the way you can have conversations is much simpler. But also the collaborations between hosts and musicians are much more easily facilitated. We really made an effort to make that intuitive and simple.
Stine: And safe. It’s safer for people that want to go to a concert, now they get a ticket with all the information they need. On the old platform the host needed to provide that information manually.
Anne: So, there is easier communication, actual tickets for concert goers, and it’s much better for musicians – easier review flow and better opportunities for collaboration. And on top of that, musician get this really beautiful space for their music, that is geared towards their needs and will help them look and sound fantastic, so that people can discover them.
The website is still in beta. What could people expect will change?
Stine: People can expect less bugs (laughs). Aside from that, it’s pretty much done. But of course, we are planning to build more features and perfect things in the future. However, we want to do that when we actually have more data on what is it that our community needs out of the website. Because, we can sit here and try to think of what we think our users need, but the reality is sometimes you just need to have something that people can interact with, so that you can get more knowledge of how people use your website. The more of that you have, the easier it is to figure out what to change in order to make it better.
Anne: And that’s actually something really important. It was really difficult to get data from Sharetribe and now we can do that in the new website. We can get data on how our users use the platform and we can learn from it and build better features and so on. Here is the thing, when you build something, at some point it stops saying beta, but it is always going to be in development. We will always keep going to change little things, fixing, improving and trying to come up with new functionalities. This will never stop, it’s an ongoing thing.
Stine (dramatic voice): It’s not a project, it’s a process (both laugh).
Happy Low-Fiers at the new platform’s launch party. Left to right: Stine Hulvej, Anne Dvinge, Jonas Viby Sommer, Mihaela Yordanova
Speaking of process, building a platform from the ground up is a huge process. What did you learn from it and do you have any advice for other startups that are about to embark on this ride?
Stine: We learned a lot. We went into it really confidently, I had an IT background and was used to big IT projects, but never from scratch. Delia, our amazing designer, was used to making incredible, beautiful designs, but not for an entire platform. Our developers were used to building stuff, but not community marketplaces like ours and certainly not as complex. And we all kind of underestimated the effort that it will take. And it was probably a good thing at the time, because if we knew what we are about to enter, we would’ve come out with a totally different product. All three parties were super excited and optimistic when we started and as it went along everyone had realizations like ”Oh my god, it is so much more complex and bigger than we had anticipated”. But the thing is, now coming out on the other side, we are all back to the super happy and optimistic stage from the beginning. And we did learn so much.
Back in the very beginning when we had one of our first meetings with Delia, what we were describing to her was very much a booking platform. And then she challenged us and asked “Aren’t we about community and people sharing their love for music?” and of course we are and she brought us back on the right track and we didn’t end up building a booking platform. Which was so important to have her there to challenge us and tell us not to worry about how complicated it is to build a community platform, but to focus on what is it that we are about and be really ambitious and honest about what we want to create.
So, if we have to give one piece of advice it would be, see what is around you when you are starting something like this and be honest about what you want to build, and feel if it feels right to build it in that specific way and then go with that.