The founder of BorrowMyDoggy, the wildly popular dog-walking website, gave a dinner talk about building and scaling a community platform. Here are a few points of wisdom Rikke Rosenlund felt like passing on:
- Test your model on a small, cheap scale. She put a website online that only said what she wanted to do, without any functionality or back-end to it. In 3 days, 85 people signed up. She then spent the initial period matching dog owners and dog borrowers manually. Her investment before she had an initial proof of concept was basically Zero. (I think that’s particularly impressing and inspiring!)
- Focus on the ONE message that is the common good factor. In her case, it wasn’t about putting your dog into the hands of a stranger. It was about building relationships between people who love dogs. Simple, clear and positive.
- Be prepared for doing a lot of difficult, manual labour in the beginning. The founder of Borrowmydoggy initially went to all dog owners’ houses to take their details. In the next stage she replaced house visits with Skype calls. Only later did they automate the process through electronically verifying utility bills etc. The interim period taught her a lot AND saved costs.
- A good name is invaluable. Borrowmydoggy is a name that literally makes people smile when they say it. Borrowmypooch would not have had the same effect. Choose the name carefully.
- Getting existing users to support you through “word of mouth” is invaluable, literally. Marketing is very expensive.
- Make lots of time to drill into the data you have, and don’t neglect this just because you are busy with dealing with day-to-day emergencies.
- Be prepared for the extreme highs and extreme lows that are inevitable during the initial period, and trust that over time you’ll become better at managing any and all situations which then leads to lows not being quite that low anymore and highs not being quite that high anymore.
- Testing, testing, testing beats talking about something.
Focus on the ONE message that is the common good factor
I hope passing on these notes, which Rikke did not object to, was helpful to some of you.