7billionideas.com, Exclusive Interview with CEO David Harkin

Surbiton, England, UK-based 7billionideas.com is developing a platform to capture everyday ideas. The company recently raised £30k in equity crowdfunding through Crowdcube. Seven investors acquired a 15% stake in the company in less than two hours on April 2 (read here).
Co-founder and CEO David Harkin joined us to speak about the company, their (7billion) ideas, their experience on Crowdcube and future plans.

FinSMEs: Hello, David, thank you for joining us. First, can you tell us a something about 7billionideas.com? How did you come up with the idea of creating it?
David: It was a sunny May bank holiday weekend in 2011, when a group of friends spent the day socialising. I noticed how our conversation often flips between so many different topics but then often revert back to an idea that someone had. The ideas would range from the brilliant to the ridiculous, but were typically funny, thoughtful or very creative. We had a moment of genius when I turned to my friend James and said ‘wont it be such a shame that by the morning all these great ideas would have been forgotten. We must have forgotten so many great ideas in our lives. Going a step further, there are 7 billion people in the world, imagine how many ideas the world has forgotten. Someone should create a website that captures the funny, thoughtful and creative everyday idea, so that no idea is forgotten again. They should call it 7billionideas and should aim to capture an idea from everyone in the world.’ It was at that moment 7billionideas was born and here we are today.

FinSMEs: What is it? How does it work?
David: 7billionideas is a social media platform to capture the everyday idea, whether it be fun, thoughtful or creative. Our platform is accessible through the internet and soon will be available on smart devices when our app is launched later this year. When our users come up with an idea, they give it a title, pick a category, inform 7billionideas of where they came up with the idea and post it. They then receive likes and dislikes from other users, which helps provide feedback on the idea and also build up every users individual stats, which range from learning what day of the week they come up with good ideas, to whether or not females like them and indeed where in the world people like them. We believe it will have three major effects – give people courage to act on their ideas, influence behaviours by people reading them and of course provide humour. You can post ideas or simply participate by reading others; all you need to do is sign up.

FinSMEs:What’s your business model?
David:Right now, 7billionideas has one immediate revenue stream – Advertising. Going forward we believe there are multiple ways of generating revenue through our platform, with the next stream coming from corporate subscriptions. Once our user base builds and we attract people back to our website, we believe that corporate companies will want to have a profile on 7billionideas. They will be able to post ideas for public feedback, gain fantastic market research, engage with their clients and also help build up their images of innovative companies. They will also be able to spot an opportunity for them to build private communities for their employees to post ideas about how to improve their business or working environment. 7billionideas will announce when corporate profiles will be available shortly.

FinSMEs: Could you tell us a bit more about the features that differentiate the service from competitors?
David:7billionideas will compete with other topical websites and of course the mainstream established social media companies. However, we feel that 7billionideas has two of the main ingredients to be a successful online social media company – great content (ideas) and great reasons to come back (individual statistics). We think our vision and approach makes us different in this space.

FinSMEs: Could you introduce us the other team members?
David:Of course, it has not been a 1 man effort to get the business to where it is today, but a commitment of a unique group of friends. 7billionideas has 4 other directors – Christopher Harkin (Head of Design) and my younger sibling, James Warner (Finance Director) an economist from the city, Jennifer Pool (Head of Strategy) the glue to the business and Adrian Burrows (Investment). A mixture of everyone’s expertise, but more importantly 5 peoples’ drive and vision has turned this idea into a reality. They’ve been focussed on this journey and in going forward they all have a big part to play as we continue our journey.

FinSMEs: Why did you start thinking about raising funding?
David:It was crucial for our business to have an injection of investment to speed up the business plans and make it real. We knew it was important to build the platform for the internet and smart devices. We initially raised investment from our own crowdfunding in November 2011 with an objective of taking the designs from paper and putting them online. Once this would be achieved, we felt we could really sell the concept and vision to a new group of investors to help us raise the vital capital to build an app. We came across Crowdcube about 6 months ago and immediately knew that was the platform which was going to allow us to achieve that.

FinSMEs: Today, many tech companies try to raise crowdfunding and I know that this is becoming always more difficult. What did you do to reach this target? Was it easy?
David:We believe the reason we achieved our investment target in record time on Crowdcube was because we got our personalities and passion across on our video, but more importantly had a good business plan about how we were going to take 7billionideas forward. Our success was fully down to the hardwork of the 7billionideas team prior to going live and also our network who supported us with our business plan. Raising investment in a tough economic period is not easy, but our success is a sign that people are still prepared to invest and back new business plans if they are well thought out and the team working on it are passionate about their business.

FinSMEs:What can you tell me about your experience on Crowdcube? Who are the investors? What about your relationship with them? are they difficult?
David:Crowdcube have been an excellent partner to 7billionideas, we first heard about them through a friend and we liked the concept and we particularly liked that they used their own experience of crowd funding to start their business. We were fortunate to be successful in a record time, with our £30,000 being raised by 7 contributors in less than 2 working hours. We have now met and know all of them, all being delighted to be onboard and naturally we are delighted to have them as investors.

FinSMEs: How are you using the capital?
David:The capital is being used to further development the website, build an iPhone and Android application, initial marketing, legal fees (trademarking further) administration and Crowdcube commission payment. It will give us the full platform to drive our users too and importantly allow people to upload ideas on the go rather than having to wait until they are in front of a computer. This will vitally help our users to not forget any ideas again and is key to our business and vision. 7billionideas will require a third round of investment and we hope that building our platform for smart devices will give us the momentum we need and encouragement to potential investors that 7billionideas really does have a place to fill in social media on a much wider spectrum.

FinSMEs: Do you plan to raise an additional crowdfunding round?
David:As noted before, in our business plan we talked about having to have a third round of investment post the launch of the app. Crowdfunding on Crowdcube is definitely one way this could be achieved again, as a business we are considering our options in the coming months to exactly what we need and will definitely consider Crowdcube again, along with some other options. I hope you enjoy the website, sign up, start posting your fun, thoughtful and creative ideas and help us on our journey of reaching 7,000,000,000 ideas.



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