In this interview I chat with Bradley Gough about creating the Groubook App with no previous experience and pivoted due to the pandemic. We also discuss business strategy with some seriously good knowledge to help you grow your business.



Bradley, tell me a little bit about your app if you could, please?

Groubook was conceived in October 2019 by myself and a childhood friend called Ollie Pod. We basically went to a boat party for one of our friends who was relocated from Nottingham to Glasgow to join the merchant navy. He had organised the event for about 24 people, and after speaking to him on the night, we just found out what a nightmare it was to organise, arrange and get all those people in the same place at the same time. So we’ve developed the concept of Groubook, to simplify and reward users for going on nights out and seeing the friends more frequently.


So you created the app from scratch with no knowledge, that must have been quite daunting? 

Yeah, most definitely. I think that with apps and with creative people in general, you have to just have a go at it. It is a case of learning on the job. And as you will know yourself, in any business setting, you constantly develop and grow anyway. So it was daunting, but you get through it, and you become better for it.


How did you start? Did you go to find funding? What was your route to actually getting the app to market?

Like most technology founders will tell you, we went down the phone list first. It wasn’t successful, because we tried to sell a concept that wasn’t proven. And so we spent a long time looking into how we could actually run the platform ourselves. And so in terms of the coding we first tried to put too many features in it but then simplified it back down after hearing back from our base users.


Did you approach an app development company to produce the app?

We did initially when looking for funding. We approached a development company and got a quote from them but then built it ourselves. We chose not to go down that route because it’s a hell of a lot of money to get these guys. They are extremely professional and knowledgeable, but we wanted to be much more involved in the actual inner workings of how the app works. So if there were any issues with the backend we understood them and could fix it ourselves. We could better manage our customers that way.


So you mentioned is an expensive proposition, what sort numbers were you quoted to have the app developed?

It depends on how sort of significant you want the back end and the front end to be. We where initially quoted £114k!



People may be thinking it would be consistent with having a website created, maybe a basic one done for £1k, but something bespoke and more functional moving into multiple thousands.

I spent the majority of the time with a third partner.  The internet’s absolutely fantastic for finding platforms in which you can build your own platform on. And that’s exactly what we found. We sort of designed it and changed it around from a similar product, but in a different area, and tailored it to our market and the back end and the code of that side.  We changed the design, the layouts, and things like that. And then we got it built in about five months, which is pretty cool going considering we didn’t have any knowledge of how coding works. And you know, how that development process works, and deep linkage, for example, API linkage, and we had to learn all this as we went along. And then, you know, we were very lucky. It’s fun. What we found in terms of partners and advice that we had is absolutely key in launching so quickly.


That’s amazing. Can you share those platforms? 

There are a couple of different platforms. Again, it depends on what sort of app you’re building. There’s a great company in Nottingham called App Institute which allows you to programme your own platform, we’ve also got a company in America called Build Fire and they can build in some certain areas of your code. So if you wanted an extra feature, whether it be, I don’t know calorie counting, if you build a calorie counting or fitness app, they could build that in for you. It costs you a bit more for the features, but the principal functionality of it is absolutely fantastic for doing quite a basic app. And also, again, if you’re looking for websites you can Google anything from different platforms or whatever it maybe, you’ve just got to spend the time. 

This is absolutely key in any young business, researching into these businesses, seeing success stories and looking at the pitfalls and trialling them a lot as they have free Make sure that anyone who’s developing technology themselves, if they are not a coder or developer use the free trials and spend some time looking into the products.


Did you need any seed finance to start with business?

No. We did spend a lot of time looking for VCs though, but because we realised you don’t need as much money if you’re going to do it yourself we didn’t pursue that route. And we invested ourselves into the business. We were very fortunate to have a someone join us as an intern who fell in love with the business and invested a significant amount of capital herself. 

Due to Covid we have also been able to use government grants and the bounce back loan scheme as well as our own capital. This means that we can push on and develop. Once we had got the platform out there, we started seeing a lot more interest from angel investors and smaller venture capital companies. They took interest because we had traction. And it’s looking a lot easier now as we’ve had three or four meetings in the past few weeks with investors to raise an extra £200k, which would give us a 2 million valuation, we’re currently set at about three quarters of a million. And what we want to do is put that money back into product and marketing in order to develop the business from there.


Have you got people to know about your app in terms of the end user, but also the bars, restaurants, hotels, venues?

I’m an old school salesman, so I picked the phone up 40-50 times a day. And that’s how we got in with the merchants initially. And it was a case of old school driving around the city or walking around the city and knocking on doors saying “Hi, this is what we do, would you give us a chance?”. Same with users, we spent very minimal money in terms of marketing, because, we were building a product, and we’re spending a lot of time on that. But what we eventually did was go back to the real basics of getting flyers printed out and going into the city handing them out. That what you do, but it’s a case of really trying to drill down that word of mouth referral and giving users incentives to book with us because we offer them fantastic incentives in terms of rewards and discounts. We make it simpler as one of the biggest pains of getting together with 60 friends is organising it. 


BUSINESS-QUESTIONS.COM – That completely resonates to me. I remember in the 1990s speaking to a mobile hairdresser. She explained that one day she was moaning to her mother about not having work. Her mother told her to get leaflets printed as it was so cheap and wear your shoe soles out delivering them, as if people don’t know you exists how can they book you?  I also used to be a wedding photographer and if you exhibited at a wedding show you got the database of the brides and grooms who attended. Everyone else just emailed them, but I phoned and  got booked out solid. 


We had a customer that had an issue with something so I contacted them personally. She said that she had never been contacted by business after leaving a review. It’s important to me. And I mean that, because what I don’t want is to become a business that just thinks constantly about profits., Profits are very important, but your customer is always the most important thing. And as you’ve said, this goes back to this sales and everyone gets nervous about that word. I’m not a salesman, I am building a relationship just like you would a partner, a friend. It’s about relationships. So whether you’re Google Microsoft or Joe Bloggs flowers around the corner, you know you will get repeat business because of your relationships, people buy from people. And that’s so fundamental, you can have the greatest idea in the world. If you know you don’t, you don’t come across as genuine or very well or you’re not willing to put those hard yards and you’re not going to succeed, you’re not going to retain customers and grow your business. And it’s the same in every aspect of your life. 


If you work for someone, you have to have good relationships with your colleagues and your boss. And thats how you get on. But it’s all about that relationship on both sides. You will always learn about your business and how to improve it by asking questions. What can I do better? 


In terms of the in the app? Did you develop it for Apple and Android? 

Both, it’s on both platforms. That was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Getting it approved by Apple required something like 14 variations and changes. It was a nightmare. Google and Android was actually quite simple as it’s just submit, bang, there you go. But all of that stuff is a different world entirely. Apple is very good though because they make you think about everything. They sort of improve you without actually having anything to do with you. 


And how do you plan to roll out around the country?

It’s going to be via digital marketing. You have a plan in place for that and have you gone out and actually learned to advertise on Facebook. At a basic level is very easy but you have to go away and really learn how to do that at a far deeper level. If you’re your latest hairdresser in town, you don’t want to be attracting middle aged bald men because they don’t need you. You can get 250,000 impressions with £100 or whatever it may be, depending on your area, but one thing, you’ve got to make sure you’re hitting the right target market, because all of these are adding to your cost per acquisition of a customer. 


Do you think there’s any sort of minimum spend you have to make to really see a return on Facebook?

We ran a campaign very early on back in August, just after we launched. It was the first big event that we had working with a local bar and the only one in Nottingham charging for a boxing fight. It wasn’t Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury so not easy to sell. We invested £50 with Facebook and got 60 bookings. It was very targeted.