StartUs Presents: HostedBy

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Julian Halder, co-founder of the nightlife community HostedBy, talks about dedication, competition and their approach to success. Read more!

Describe HostedBy in 50 words or less.

HostedBy is a trusted community marketplace offering private evening activities around the world. Under the motto “nightlife with like-minds” we connect newcomers (tourists, exchange students, etc.) in a certain area with locals. Through a peer-2-peer system, hosts can create their individual evening activities, which can be booked through HostedBy.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

“As a team sports player and former student athlete I am constantly looking for challenging assignments, professional connections and new business objectives. I like to differentiate myself through success and recognition.”

This is what you can read on my LinkedIn profile. This describes why I choose to become an entrepreneur. Building your own company is simply one of the hardest things you can do in life. At the same time it’s also one of the most rewarding things in life. At the end of the day, successful moments make up 1000 times for every extra hour and every euro spent.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

HostedBy is going to bring social interaction back to a more personal level. People haven’t actually met with more than 10% of their Facebook friendslist. We believe, that all the virtual networking through social media will not be satisfying for people in the long run. With HostedBy, people can spend an unforgettable evening with like-minded people from all over the world and make true memories. Our private evening activities are the perfect set-up for in-person networking and intercultural exchange.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

As a community platform, user growth is the most important KPI especially in early stages. We do keep an eye on financial KPIs as well but definitely put user growth in the pole position of things to be monitored. The community is simply the most important asset of our business model. The more people are using our service and the more cities our services are available at, the higher the value added for all stakeholders.

For example when travelers visit a city where they go on a legendary HostedBy event, they want to become a host in their hometown eventually. Therefore we want to grow quickly and spread our platform in many countries and many cities. To make sure we don’t lose track, it is key to reflect on customer feedback constantly. We are also trying to look one step ahead and prepare for different scenarios. So it really comes down to listening to customers and preparation for future events.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

  1. 1-2h email session
  2. Phone call or meeting with Clemens Giselbrecht, my co-founder
  3. Meeting with cooperation or sponsoring partners
  4. Phone call or meeting with Clemens
  5. Investor tracking, cold calling, follow-ups, reviews, schedule meetings
  6. Phone call or meeting with Clemens
  7. KPI monitoring and analysis
  8. Phone call or meeting with Clemens
  9. 1-2h email session

So more than 50% of the day is just discussing with Clemens. My girlfriend is even a little jealous.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the community marketplace like you imagined it in the beginning?

At HostedBy we try to establish diversity in regards to event types. So in the beginning we only positioned ourselves as a community platform for individual private evening activities. The only way we categorized event types were “Admission-Free” events or “With-Admission” events. However, we soon figured out that with this set up, we are not sending a clear message, what users can use our platform for, or what users can find on HostedBy. Also it interfered with already existing concepts such as meetup. So we ended up removing the “Admission-Free” events and introduced our four main categories, which are “Homeparty”, “Pre-party & Nightclub”, “Culinary Evening”, and “Artist”. These are the concepts we want to move ahead with.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

Until now we’ve invested money raised through family and friends into a prototype and a proof of concept phase. Currently we are in prosperous investor negotiations and we are confident to get parts of our capital requirements for the first 18 month financed by the end of March 2016 through seed round angel investments. However, interested investors are always welcome to get in touch with me 🙂

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

It is fascinating, how many new ideas emerge every day and how dynamic the startup environment is. At the end of the day you are convinced of your idea and also of yourself right. So we believe in ourselves and also want to go our own way. That’s why I don’t want to run on each startup event and listen to others how to build a company. Of course sharing thoughts on different things and also advice is positive and important. However, in the end you want to be unique by making your own experiences and creating your own story. I believe this is also how you stand out and don’t get lost in the shuffle.

What do you look for in team members?

Good character and hungry eyes. Those are the most important attributes to me. Especially in early stages you want to work with people that you would also invite for an after-work drink. I’m not saying, try to bring your best friends on board but it’s just easier to work with people where you have a solid personal relationship. That also includes trust. You want to trust the people that you are working with. And then I want to see fire in the eyes of team members. This is only possible if our team members are passionate about what we do at HostedBy. If someone doesn’t care about getting in touch with new people he will be struggling to like what HostedBy represents and consequently wouldn’t necessarily be a good fit.

Why would a talent join your team?

HostedBy is a very simple and easy to understand business model. When we pitch our idea, after 30 seconds everyone knows what it is about. It is about having fun, making friends and about making your own event profitable. That’s why almost everyone can relate to it. As we say, “Legendary moment’s don’t have to arise by chance.”

You don’t need to stumble into an amazing homeparty accidentally anymore where a friend of your friend got invited and you just joined your friend. We created a platform, where people can make those types of events visible and accessible for others. So I think people would join us because it’s just a cool thing and our concept offers so much space for creativity. From the revenue model in behind over partnerships or additional event categories, there is so many opportunities to move the business forward. I think that’s what people are looking for. They want to be able to personally impact the business, which is only possible, if you give them space to change something. Everyone who believes he can sustainably and positively change something at HostedBy is more than welcome to contact me.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

A little while ago, before we even had a prototype ready we were trying to get an investor on board so we could create a really cool prototype with a tech savvy person. As we don’t have development skills in the co-founder team, we had to pay someone to do it and the guy we really wanted to become our co-founder wanted some money and not only shares. So we got some slides ready and started to speak with people from our private network and we knew they have cash. We thought it was really successful because they all liked us and gave positive feedback. One guy even signed a deal for €50k with a handshake. Eventually all of them dropped us for random reasons. The guy who didn’t keep his handshake argued that the €50k wouldn’t be sufficient and he wants to drop the deal because he was recommend so by his advisors. This was really frustrating because we were stuck. We didn’t have the money to pay for the prototype, so we ended up doing it by ourselves. We created our own DIY community marketplace.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Becoming a founder is not starting a new job; it’s starting a new life because it follows you in every moment. So if you’re not able to handle emotions, be tough and resilient, not even dare trying. To those of you who confidently think you are in position of those attributes, you only fail when you stop looking for solutions. And then I would also recommend trying to make your own story. As mentioned earlier, listening to mentors and other entrepreneurs is important, but eventually go your own way and do what you believe is right for your company and yourself.


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