We’ve all been there – not in the mood to cook and deciding that tonight it has to be takeaway. So we dig out the pizza menu , the local Indian or the Chinese menu – it very rarely gets more adventurous than that. Until now that is.
Launched earlier this year, Housebites offers restaurant quality food, cooked by local chefs and delivered right to your door. We were delighted when Housebites founder, Simon Prockter agreed to tell us all about this gourmet takeaway with a difference.
Hi Simon, I understand that Housebites isn’t your first foray into entrepreneurship. Can you tell us a bit about the other businesses you have been involved in?
My first business of any worth was SpeedDater which was launched in 2002 initially as a speed dating company which we got up and running in 7 countries and made into the largest dating events company in Europe. It’s still going now but I sold in 2008. Our main revenue stream was actually internet dating but we kept the name SpeedDater throughout our products.
I then went on to launch an independent adventure travel company. It was a painful experience with low margins and got massively hit by the recession, BA strike, volcanoes and the weakening pound and we were forced to shut it down in early 2010.
Housebites began as a result of some awful takeaway experiences. Initially I found the delivery the worst problem: a motorcyclist in full gear and helmet who came from a long distance, got lost, was walking away before I even had the delivery in my hand and was certainly in no way involved in any of the cooking process. On opening the delivery it was clear that the food had been re-heated and I wondered if it was even a qualified chef cooking it. So I set about creating a premium experience for the same price and housebites was born.
As a nation of course we do seem to love our takeaway food – so there is a clear market already there. But what type of research did you do to determine that there would be a definite demand for this type of “takeaway” as opposed to the cheap “n” cheerful fish and chips and pizza etc?
That’s quite simple. If you asked people if they would prefer a freshly prepared, cooked to order, restaurant quality meal by a top local chef for less than the price of a large pizza you’ll get the same answer. 100% of the people we asked said yes. We did a lot of testing of a minimal viable product too. We also looked at the research but to be honest that could be spun in any direction. It was pretty clear though that it was a massive market and growing. Millions of us order takeaway regularly every week. We’ve also found we’re appealing to people that would have never ordered takeaway before now.
Social networking of course is playing a major role in the success of businesses these days. How important is the Social Networking element of Housebites to the overall business?
Social media is definitely important to us but I have to say it is simply the medium of now. 10 years ago there were different mediums that worked as effectively. Ultimately trust is the issue and whilst twitter, for example, gets us phenomenal exposure, referrals from actual customers is still the best form of marketing and it’s free. So we need to work on combining the two so that our ambassadors spread the word faster and to more people. Clearly social media is a great tool for that.
Between Housebites and the other startups you have been involved in, you are obviously well placed to give some advice on the “do’s and don’ts to any fledgling entrepreneurs.
What would you say though is the best piece of advice that you yourself have ever been given? And more importantly – did you take the advice on board?!
Listening to advice and actually taking it is something that I wish I’d have done more. But some words I definitely have eventually heeded.
Don’t try and do everything yourself. The trick is to find good people that can do it better than you.
Don’t get too bogged down on features pre-launch. Launch with the most simple features but nevertheless a brilliant conceptual product and see how it’s used. Test, talk to users then iterate.
Housebites is of course based in the so-called “Silicon Roundabout.” What benefits have you had from working in this type of entrepreneurial hub and what advice would you give to an entrepreneur who may be considering setting up an office in a similar type base in other parts of the country?
It’s great to be based in ‘Silicon Roundabout’ but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’. It’s a fun place to be as you’re always bumping into people you know and you can build up a good support network and there’s a fun social life here. The area is slightly cheaper to be in too. But, honestly, there are other great places your business can be based and whilst you might drink less beer and hear less about how hard it is to raise funding, you’ll still have the same chance of making your business work.
We’ll be launching our first city outside of London in February next year. And aim to begin rolling out even more towns and cities from March onwards.
We have some ambitious plans to grow the brand in other directions. Watch this space!