The start of Availo
In March 2016 I decided to leave my old design studio Morrama and invest 100% of my time into Availo. A completely new company, in a completely different market, with vastly contrasting plans and a fresh team of people. Making the decision to step aside from Morrama didn’t take long, but there was a huge amount of build up to get to the point where I knew it was time to leave.
As my background is industrial design, my first company — Morrama was very much within this field of knowledge. As a hardware design studio we ended up specialising in helping startups design, develop and launch their products. The company grew very quickly over the first 18 months, which resulted in a 6 figure turnover, a team of 4 and equity holdings in a number of startups we worked with.
We were only a small team and quickly found that most startups needed help within all areas of design, not just with their physical product. This meant we often had to bring in freelance graphic, UI, branding and digital designers, which made us realise how hard it is to hire people, especially for short time contract work. After chatting through the idea with a number of other design studios I found they also suffered from the same problem. They also mainly agreed that none of the existing solutions had the immediacy and locality they required.
Solving this problem quickly became the backbone of Availo, a platform to help people meet and hire freelancers locally (the name comes from putting together Available and Locally). Within a matter of weeks I had a rough animated prototype to show potential investors, with the design focussing on encouraging direct communication between clients and freelancers.
I had recently been chatting to the awesome digital designer Nick Clement about a number of projects and I decided to talk him through the idea of Availo. After showing him the demo and explaining the potential roadmap of the company, he was eager to jump on as a founder and help out immediately. Nick quickly put together a rough brand and helped tweak the design of the app, making it a lot more presentable.
From there the next aim was to raise some investment, allowing us to work on this full time. Due to morrama working with a number of startups I already had a few good start points to begin raising investment. So after putting together the pitch deck and meeting around 5 angel investors, I managed to raise a small £30k pre-seed round of investment to help kickstart the company.
As soon as a raised investment I knew I had to leave Morrama. Other people had now invested time and money into the company so Availo needed all of my time and commitment. As a design studio, Morrama is very much a slow growth, profitable lifestyle company, that carries less risk when compared to a investment based startup. However the speed tech startups grow at is remarkable and, since working with a few at Morrama, I have wanted to build a company like this. So after getting permission from Jo Barnard (my co-founder at Morrama), I decided to step down from my day to day duties and become an advisor to the team.
Now I was full time on Availo myself and Nick needed to build out the software. Thankfully Nick is very well connected so quickly introduced me to Nick Wood — an award winning developer who has worked with clients such as Nike, Adidas and Land Rover. Again I talked through the idea with him, showed that we had raised investment and chatted about what we wanted to do. He agreed to join the team as a founder and a few weeks later we kick started our development process, spending around 6 weeks on the design and development of the Alpha release. You can read more about that here.
At this point we applied to Seedcamp as we new we needed help to make Availo reach its full potential. Myself and the Availo team went to a number of interviews and meetings with Seedcamp and eventually got invited to join their family. We’re now based in the Seedcamp workspace where their team are helping us rapidly grow our company and assist us in raising further funds. In around 3 months we went from starting a company, through to fundraising, launching an Alpha product and getting accepted onto one of the top programs for Startups in Europe! It’s been a bit overwhelming at times, but we know how fast we need to grow.
Morrama still continues to grow and is now in the hands of my Co-founder Jo Barnard. They’re working with some awesome companies such as Trunkster, Tzoa and BluBel and have some big kickstarter launching happing in the coming months. So do keep an eye out on them.
Myself and the Availo team are now focussing on building out the platform further, raising funds and gearing up to a full launch in September. If you’re a freelance or hire freelancers, do apply to get early access. We’re looking for the best people in London to test out what we’re doing and we would love for you to be involved.