Doing What He Loves: Founder of LoveThis Debuts Personal-Recommendation App
Alexis Dormandy didn’t enter the app industry inexperienced. He didn’t start coding his application in his parents’ basement. And he definitely did not have to find investors to believe in his app, because he is one.
Dormandy is a London-based, seasoned start-up entrepreneur. Here’s a glimpse at his resume: He was put in charge of Virgin’s soft-drink business at the age of 26; he was the Founder of Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active thereafter; he went on to serve as the CMO of European telecom company Orange; he launched singer Bono’s (RED) charity in Europe; and he writes for the UK–based The Telegraph tech blog, as well as his own website Alexis.Dormandy.com.
His latest venture? Launching LoveThis, a personal-recommendation app. Sure, the free app doesn’t exactly sound as impressive as a worldwide, multibillion dollar company, but it enters an increasingly popular app category that’s being noticed by the geek community nonetheless.
Here, the Recapp catches up with businessman Dormandy to talk about LoveThis and his advise for start-ups in the mobile business (or any business, really). Discover how LoveThis, as Dormandy explains, may be a newcomer to an emerging trend, but it bears a completely unique solution.
- Tell us about the LoveThis app.
Life would be more fun and of better value if we all knew the best places, products, shops and services that our friends have found and would recommend, if only they would remember to tell us. The problem is that we forget to tell each other about great things we’ve found, and even when we’re told about a book or a restaurant, for instance, we tend to forget about them before we’ve even left the room.
LoveThis lets good recommendations pass very quickly between friends. You can recommend anything to anyone (even if you’re the first user amongst your friends), and friends can share and pass on recommendations with a single tap.
- How do think your app stands out from other recommendation apps like Womzit and Stamped?
Those other services are great—if you manage to convince all of your friends to join them.
LoveThis, at its core, is a communication platform that allows you to send recommendations between Facebook, email, the web and the LoveThis app. LoveThis doesn’t need your friends to be users; you can share and discuss recommendations with anyone, whether or not they have the app. So, you could discuss a great restaurant you’ve found with one friend on email and another on Facebook, and you’ll all be part of one conversation.
- What functions in LoveThis are you most proud of? By contrast, what features do you think need improvements to make your app even better?
We’re proud of the ability to send a recommendation to Facebook and email and then the comments friends can make back in the app. This is unique, and it means each recommendation builds up a rich story which is useful for you and all your friends.
We’re also pleased with the fact that we’ve stuck to our guns on keeping LoveThis about friends’ recommendations and friends only. Most of our competitors claim to be about friends but then lose their nerve, opening up to the wider community because there is a danger of the app being empty.
We’re working on improving how easy it is to find and connect to your friends. Since we’re private, that’s more difficult to do.
- What is your advice for emerging start-ups?
I have five solid recommendations for emerging start-ups:
- Customer: Really understand what the customer problem is. Solve that problem, and don’t get seduced into doing something just because it’s clever.
- People, people, people: The people you recruit are everything – you can make bad decisions with good people, and they’ll save you. Good decisions with bad people will fail.
- Spend late: If you can conceivably live without it, do. This especially applies to people, and even more to outside contractors.
- Numbers: Understand the key numbers that will drive the success of your business. Track them and prioritize everything against them.
- Assume you’ll get it wrong the first time: The first product you build will be wrong in almost every way; it’s only by the fifth iteration that things will really start to work, so treat early iterations as disposable. Get 90% of the solution quickly, test it, iterate again. (You will fail to do this, I promise).
- What kinds of features do you feel mobile applications need to have nowadays to become popular and successful?
A simple design with a simple solution to a clear customer problem.
Apps I Love
Hollywood’s Heartthrob Turns App Investor
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Leonardo DiCaprio has been one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs since his performance in Titanic, and he has preserved his reputation as a worthy actor with other hit films such as Inception, The Departed and Catch Me If You Can. But DiCaprio is switching gears from show business—whether it be for a side gig or a change in career—by investing $4 million in the app Mobli.
Going off of the tagline, "See the world through other people’s eyes," Mobli is a social network where users can share photos and videos, and the app automatically tags each post with a location or major event in the surrounding area. Users can also follow channels that display photos about a particular topic, such as Leo himself.
Mobli CEO Moshe Hogeg told The Huffington Post in October 2011 that Leo’s not much of a tech guy, but he is very excited to be involved in the marketing aspect of the app. “He believes in the vision of the company and thinks that this is the future of media. He wanted to get on board in the beginning, influence it, and give his input into the company.”