How Justin Gruss (BSc Business Management with Communications, 2013) turned a culinary passion into a new social network that connects people with common interests.
The Co-Founder of Showzee – a platform to showcase ‘what you do rather than who you are’ - Justin found his inspiration in an unlikely place.
He said: “When I first started Showzee, it was a food-based mobile app for organizing meals with family and friends. The initial inspiration for starting this was that my brother and I had both recently won cookery competitions and felt that there was an opportunity to improve the accessibility and perception of cooking with young people. To cut a long story short, after discussing and prototyping the concept more and more, I realised that the idea could have much wider scope. As a result, we changed the name of the company and ended up with Showzee is in its current form. Even today, we are constantly learning and adapting the product.”
Justin and Co-Founder and brother Ryan, quickly saw opportunities that other social networks weren’t picking up on.
“We noticed that as more and more people become connected through social media, the amount of ‘noise’ on these platforms has increased, often meaning that you will find yourself scrolling through content that has no relevance to your life and your interests,” said Justin. “It also makes it very difficult for people to share their content with other like-minded people who are passionate about the same things as them. In the same way that Facebook connects you to the people you already know and LinkedIn connects you to other professionals, Showzee helps connect people through common interests.
“Starting Showzee is something which just seemed to happen naturally. It was always a risky thing to do but I told myself that if I was going to forge my own path and start a business, now was the best time to do it. I could give the business the time and energy it needed which I might not be able to do later in life.”
Help while at Birmingham came from the University’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Centre which provides services for would-be entrepreneurs, including coaching, mentoring, training, funding and access to office space and business technology.
Justin explained: “Working with them was really the catalyst which helped kick-start the business and helped turn it from an idea into reality. After pitching the concept to them, I was able to obtain a small seed investment which helped me to hire our first developers. They were a great source of advice and support, and would often provide workshops on topics such as registering a company and protecting intellectual property which were extremely helpful.”
The last two years have been a hugely exciting time for Justin and Showzee. Since the beginning of 2014, he has been managing a small team of developers in Prague and the platform has also been through a period of private invite-only beta testing. 2015 is set to be even more eventful with a range of product improvements and new features available on the platform.
“We have also begun building a Showzee iPhone app which will hopefully be released to select beta users within the next couple of months and we are continuing to build and grow Showzee into a global platform. We will also be launching publicly this year and plan to raise another round of funding from angel investors and venture capital firms. With this funding, I want to set-up a base in North America, either in Silicon Valley or Boston.”
“There is still a long way to go, but we feel we’re moving in the right direction so stay tuned!”
- Learn more about Showzee on their website
- The University of Birmingham Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre
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