My Startup: Hollabox
Hollabox is an app that allows users to review their favourite places in London using video, enabling users to gain a more authentic and realistic view of what a place is really like.
Videos are taken by reviewers before being uploaded to the app under specified categories such as experiences, bars, cafes, restaurants, music, sports, clubs, pop ups and so on.
The company is now backed by Just Eat Ventures and partnered with OpenTable and Bookatable.
Founders: Adam Beveridge, Joshua D’Acres-Hylton and Arun Thangavel
We spoke to Adam to find out why they started Hollabox...
Why did you start Hollabox?
I never wanted to live out my days as a cog in someone else’s machine. After finishing my degree and spending time leading sales and finance teams for brands such as Lucozade and Ribena, I focused my energy on starting a business that shares something positive with the world, something I’m incredibly proud of and personifies my “life’s too short mantra”.
In terms of the platform itself, we want to help people have better experiences in the real world, finally providing an honest and authentic view between how a venue or experience is digitally represented, and how it actually is in the physical world. We found that while Instagram produces attractive content, there are far too many recommendations for where to eat, drink and enjoy the city based on filtered and paid for content.
So often you see marketed pictures of empty tables and chairs - and that’s a given for a restaurant right? You can’t tell what the atmosphere is like. You can’t hear the music. You can’t see the bartender expertly craft the most amazing cocktail you’ve ever seen.
Authentic, honest, peer-to-peer video is the only way to genuinely capture an experience without stepping inside the venue yourself, and other real people just like us, are the ones we trust most. With Hollabox, you get to become the eyes and ears of your fellow Londoners so that you can make better decisions about where you spend time in your city.
Tell us more about the platform?
Hollabox is the world’s first video-only, peer-to-peer review and experience platform, allowing users to see inside the city’s best venues and experiences through videos created and shared by real people.
Gen Z spend most of their income on going out and value experiences over material things. I feel the current landscape isn’t putting the desires and habits of the next generation first. Paid and marketed content has taken over, so nowadays when scrolling through social media we’re never sure what’s genuine and what’s not - yet us young people spend well in the region of £500m per month on going out and doing things, so it’s vital we trust the content we see and get the most value for our time.
We believe our content is key to solving this problem, and our platform is the perfect vehicle to get people out and about doing more things they’ll love.
Where’s the business at right now?
Things have really taken off recently after some new investment, and our team has expanded quite a bit. We’re bringing in more people to help make the platform the go-to place for reviewing and booking experiences. We’re proud to be able to deliver loads of unique offers to accompany user reviews - so we’re not only best in class for our content, but our conversion and ability to get people out doing more will become second to none.
What are your aims for the next year?
The vision is 24 by 24, that’s 24 cities by 2024, and next year we’re hoping to take the product to the Big Apple! There’s still a lot to prove here in London, but we’ve seen the growth and have an amazing scaling strategy that can be deployed around the globe.
What’s been the hardest thing about getting Hollabox off the ground?
I think finance is the thing that many startups struggle with, and it’s still a barrier when we want to do something to grow the business. Raising seed capital is difficult because you’re raising money based on a concept, a vision with no tangible results or track record.
We were incredibly lucky to be offered investment from Just Eat Ventures (JEV) Seed Programme at the beginning which helped us immensely, and we’re at a stage now where investors can see the success we’ve had so far, and actually have a physical product they can see in the market, already gaining traction - this is massive to help mitigate any risks potential investors have.
Why should more people be using or investing in Hollabox?
There are so many apps and websites offering review content, but both the people reading/viewing them and the hospitality businesses involved don’t get the best experience. The user doesn’t get to feel the atmosphere in the venue, and the venue itself doesn’t get to showcase all it has to offer - Hollabox is an era-defining review platform, because we have brought the way we review experiences out of the dark ages and given everyone the power to have their say in the most powerful way - through video.
As a video-focused platform, the content that users upload to Hollabox is the most engaging, insightful and transparent form of promotion for consumers, and is on-trend thanks to Snapchat and Instagram Stories.
The result, quite simply, is the truth. Businesses can’t hide behind paid-for content, but are able to benefit from something much stronger as a result - the authentic opinions and views from their customers, which is going to steer more people towards their venue.
How much will it cost customers? and why is it worth it?
Nothing. Hollabox is free, and the only thing it will cost users is the five seconds of time it takes to download the app or visit the website. If you want to take your social life to the next level, or just get some reassurance on that place you’re thinking of visiting, then you really can’t afford not to have Hollabox.
It was built by people that have felt the problem first hand; myself, my team and our early adopters are all gaining great value from our platform.