Rohan Jerrems and Elliott Spira are the founders of thesauceco.de, a small dev agency focused on agile web and app development. Their first project was shakeandpay, an app for splitting bills easily with groups of friends, followed by Bottelio, an innovative platform to help users find their favourite liquor on sale at a bottle store nearby. The founders are former IT executives who were working in financial services and felt constrained by the creative boundaries of a large organisation. They met at a work networking event in which the room was segregated into four different groups based on their personality traits. Being the only two “doers” in the room, they struck up a friendship and were soon talking business ideas over lunchtime burritos. Before they knew it they had quit their jobs and were on the rocky but fulfilling road towards developing a business together.bottelio.com thesauceco.de shakeandpay.com @bottelio facebook
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Whenever we were on our way to pick up liquor for Friday after-work drinks, we found ourselves asking the question “I wonder where I could get ‘x’ at a good price”. We soon realised that when it comes to liquor, people have specific tastes and are quite brand aligned, so this would be a pretty common question. We were also well aware of the inequity in the marketing between the Davids and the Goliaths of the industry. We felt that this was contrary Aussie values of the “fair go” and decided that we wanted to take a stand, to bring niche products and independent bottle shops to the forefront. Before we knew it the idea was in flight. If you want to be one of the first users, you can sign-up at http://bottelio.com
Please explain your business model
We have a tiered pricing scheme in which our partnered stores unlock a number of monthly special listings for a monthly fee. All tiers, including our free evaluation tier will come with our loyalty management solution and customer analytics tools. The combination of digital marketing and loyalty management means that independent bottle shop owners will be able to reach customers in their area, establish lightweight loyalty programs and earn repeat business. Customers will be able to instantly access products and specials in their area.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
At present we are working hard on putting the finishing touches on our mobile app and developing our customer base. We have discovered it’s nearly impossible to do business without a mobile presence, so we are extremely excited to release our app and get feedback from our customers. We are also shopping around for founding partners; looking for a collection of forward thinking bottle shop owners who are as excited about Bottelio as we are.
How do you make ideas happen?
By pitching. The first step invariably involves pitching to each other. If we can’t excite one another, the idea falls to the wayside. Once we have nutted out some general details, we start talking about it with people to gauge their interest. Making ideas happen is a continual feedback loop and many IT startups rely on early feedback from their customers. When we first started out, we made the mistake of keeping our cards close to our chest, which ended up being detrimental to our overall progress.
What does your typical day look like?
Our days vary, but most days we will have a mixture of cutting code, talking to our customers and trying to get the word out on social media, all of which is punctuated with the sound of our office nespresso machine and quick shots of office basketball. We throw in a workout on most days, which saves us from turning into slugs and helps break up our long workdays.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
Given that the population of Australia is small compared to that of the US and Europe, regardless of your business, if you only operate domestically, your audience will always be of a comparatively small size.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
A service that collects email messages in a conversation and turns them into a modern accessible web format which gracefully displays links and media and can be easily shared and distributed. Imagine an email conversation with friends that looked like this:
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Atlassian. They make great software products and their gigantic customer base proves that their pricing model is appropriate for large and small businesses alike. I also think their ability to operate internationally whilst remaining an identifiably Australian business is a great example to other Aussie start-ups.
What about internationally?
We are big fans of Cloudflare. Since launching in 2010 at techcrunch they have done incredibly well. They have an amazing product and a very generous free tier.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I think that businesses enact social change in a variety of ways. Firstly, a full time employee will spend approximately one quarter of their entire week at work. If businesses revolutionise the way that work is done, how their employees are treated and are able to provide them with a sense of fulfillment, businesses can catalyse huge social change in the attitudes of society towards work and the general happiness of the population.
Secondly, when businesses are principle based, they can have a positive impact on the communities they deal with. This is something Bottelio is passionately trying to achieve through bolstering the public support of small homegrown businesses.
Finally, something big within software businesses is their commitment to open source software from the private sector. It is hard to find a software startup these days without a github page with publicly available source code free for use by any entity for commercial purposes or otherwise. This continues to enact social change, as it gives any individual or business the capability to develop software that can change the world and the way that we think.
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Trello – awesome project management
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
All of the above. At the moment we are particularly interested in funding to grow our business and bringing on some new team members to help push things forward. Basically, if you are interested in our business, please get in touch.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could give some advice to other people in the community, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people about your idea, this is the first step to figuring out if you are on to something. Try to be active in the start-up community and don’t hesitate to approach other start-up founders for advice.
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
We’re fans of Gusto cafe in 5 ways Paddington. Great spot for a pre-work coffee and muffin. Love the coffee and cake at Weizrkowski in Queen St Woollahra too.