DesignMyNight is a nightlife discovery website that constructs nights out based on where the user wants to go, what sort of night they want and how much they are willing to spend. Spanning over five cities, London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Brighton and Manchester, we have hand picked all of the venues catering for every occasion from a romantic drink for two, a night out with the girls to a corporate work party for over 50 people. We have innovatively created a platform which allows the user to discover their night out and book their table or area through this resource. 2013 saw the launch of the DesignMyNight App which gives you access to thousands of venues and events, with ratings and reviews, right at your fingertips and the opportunity to book tickets through the app and website to your favourite events. We have our very own ticket platform which allows bars, clubs, pop ups and event organisers to sell tickets for nights out and we have recently launched Collins, the first ever bar specific booking and enquiry management system.
Who is your startup aimed at?
Our clients are far-reaching as we aim to be very inclusive. Whatever type of night you are looking for we aim to be able to help, therefore our customers range from students to tourists, young professionals to newbies to a city, corporates to those still not too old to party. Currently we are getting 1.5 million impressions, 400,000 unique visitors, 15,000 heads booked in with 5,000 tickets purchased a month through the site.
How does your startup stand out against it’s competitors?
DesignMyNight differs itself from its competitors by offering such a huge range of search options but then being able to filter the results in such detail that the site brings back only venues or events that are perfectly suited to the user. DesignMyNight has broken the mould and paved its way as a discovery site, offering endless choices and the option to buy tickets online or make bookings. Being one of the first companies to take bookings as a nightlife site and also sell tickets all in the one portal, places DesignMyNight as a one stop shop for users
We also offer a free concierge service and has a dedicated booking team to serve its users.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
We, myself and Andrew, were on a trip to New York and were blown away with the amazing nightlife knowledge of our hotel concierge. After a few (too many) ice-cold Margaritas a business idea was born. We decided we’d had enough of the half-baked nightlife websites and the constant hassle of planning a night out in our favourite city in the world… What London needed was a site where you could discover and unlock the best, the new, the wallet-friendly and the secret nightlife on offer. But also a website to help plan and book online and let the site do all the hard work so you could simply enjoy a cracking night out!
Did you have any concerns when starting your business, if so what were they?
The main concern was, as always, funds. We were funding the startup ourselves and quitting our very comfortable and well paid corporate jobs. Could we pay our rent? Could we pay our bills? Could we even afford a monthly oyster card. Going into a startup is obviously entering a blind tunnel. We had no idea if it would work, if it would make money, if it would become our livelihood. We had to be ready for a 100% change in lifestyle and habits. It transpired that we wouldn’t pay ourselves a wage from the company for the first 14 months!
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I (Nick) worked at L’Oréal in the marketing department for their portfolio of worldwide power brands for 5 years launching two new luxury brands into the UK market. Andrew worked as a Management Consultant at Santander Retail Bank as well as a Consultant at Accenture, advising clients on Operational and Technical Solutions to Investment and Retail banking clients.
When we came up with the idea of DesignMyNight we were so excited about it as we really wanted to bring the idea to life. Obviously the thought of being our own boss was a great perk and having the freedom to run a company the way we would like to see it ran was an advantage. We were always really interested in other start ups and how they managed to get their company off the ground and seeing young people succeed in business is such a great motivator that I think we just wanted to be a part of it. It’s a great feeling when you see positive results and people interested in something you have started and have been growing over time…all that hard work pays off!
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
We started the business with £15K of personal funds and have since taken on £500K in angel funding from a group of 6 private investors.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
The day we confirmed our first round of angel funding from a group of 6 influential online business angels. We were about 2 weeks away from having no money personally and as a company and most probably having to decide to close the company and return to the security of our old corporate jobs. However the day the 6 angels said yes to us, which was literally sitting by the phone waiting for a yes or no, transformed the business into what it is now.
How do you keep your business relevant, and engaged with your audience over the last several years?
We keep DesignMyNight.com updated on a daily basis with new content. The content team are constantly hunting out new bars, pop ups and venues that may not even be open yet but we have them on the website ready for when they are. We have such a huge search directory that we cater to whatever you are looking for in London nightlife so this keeps us at the forefront with our audience. Last year we launched the DesignMyNight App which helps us to engage with people through mobile. With so many people always on the move, it was natural for people to want to search and book while on the go so we adapted to this and created the App to suit all of their needs, including full search options and searching from current location. It’s a very fast moving business but with our amazing, ex-Google, in-house tech team and vast content team we can always keep on top of new trends and always try to make the user journey on the site as easy and enjoyable as possible
How long has the startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
We have been working on DesignMyNight for about 5 years since we originally came up with the idea in New York but the company only officially launched in 2011. We have a team of 20 in the London based office in Shoreditch made up of sales, marketing, content and our in house tech team. We are blessed with a fantastic team. We always seem to find “hidden gems” with our staff. Young, energetic, smart, willing and motivated. It is a young company, with the average age in the office around 26 but this is proof that if you give young people responsibility and passion they can really fly. It’s very hands on so everything everyone is doing is all 100% worthwhile and all contributing to the growth of the company, which I believe is great for them to be a part of.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner?
I would say the the pressure to succeed, generate a steady income and support your staff. Everything we do is geared towards giving the customer a great experience and therefore converting as many customers to a booking or ticket purchase as possible. There is the non-stop pressure to ensure a constant stream of money comes into the company to pay all the bills. (and try to make a bit of profit too!)
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
The next 12 months are the most crucial for the business. We are experiencing great growth on our consumer site with traffic and bookings on an upwards curve, month on month, but we are looking at a bigger B2B focus in 2014. We have built, in-house, our very own ticket software which allows bars, clubs, pop ups and event organisers to sell tickets for nights with the added benefit of promotion to our DesignMyNight customer base…a very very captive audience. Something that no other ticket platform can offer. We have also spent 12 months building, in-house, the first ever bar specific booking and enquiry management system; Collins. We aim to bring the bar industry up to the levels of the restaurant industry and have built a software dedicated to their needs (very different needs than restaurants). Having launched in December 2013, Collins is already in over 50 bars, including some of the world’s top bars such as Callooh Callay and Purl as well as larger chains such as Belushi’s and CG Restaurants.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Stick to your core business goals and principles. Be prepared to pivot if needed and always keep smiling.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Do your research and don’t ignore the results. If there could be the start of something, start small, start simple and just get the idea live without pouring everything into it and then see what happens from there. If you don’t try, you’ll never know!