Urbello: “We Need Competition To Create Cool Products.”

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The mission of London based startup Urbello is to make people stay connected by sharing interesting stories about their cities. CEO Anna Halsall explains how it works:

Describe Urbello in 50 words or less.

Urbello is a platform for city content, where users read, post and share cool stories about their cities; from news to food reviews, art, politics and events.

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

I was ten. Everyday on my way to school I was thinking about a perfect name for my future company. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but at least I had a kickass name for it.

At 11 I hand-drew a school magazine mockup and took it to the principal. She was not overly surprised, since I came up with several initiatives for her to consider (such as running her school).

Creating my own thing has always been important to me. I enjoy finding better ways of doing things. I never believed in nor understood the hierarchies around me at work and elsewhere in life, hence following groups has always been tricky. I love creating initiatives, building something special, regardless of the circumstances.

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

Typical working days don’t exist if you’re a founder. I try to plan my week, so every day I do something different. For example: Mondays are for catching up, emailing, chasing people, social media, in other words PR, Tuesdays are for design: UI, designing pages, badges. Wednesdays are for business related activities, such as filling applications, strategy meetings.

This system works for me, because I can dedicate a whole day to something specific without being interrupted. In the past, when I tried to do everything in one day I would end up wasting a lot of time, as everytime I would need 15 minutes to “tune” myself into a new task.

What does it feel to be a woman in tech?

There is an issue with diversity in IT. Women very often feel discouraged, as it’s such a male dominated environment, but it’s changing.

Recently I attended the Codemotion Conference in Amsterdam. They invited lots of ladies and everybody, including the gentlemen, loved it. I think we need to push and stay visible, fight for an equal pay and stop being apologetic about it. It’s really shameful women still account for fraction of CEOs of funded companies in the Silicon Valley and that they earn 30% less. We should and we will change that!

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

urbello7 years from now I see Urbello being the main platform for city news, stories and inspiration. We’ll connect people, places and initiatives.

Since cities are getting bigger and people travel and relocate a lot, we’ll provide a place for content creators and readers to meet. Urbello will be the place, where you will follow specific cities and make sure you know what’s happening where you live or travel to.

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

I think Urbello will be successful when we reach 1 million users. I’ll stop flying with budget airlines (probably not though) and will even get a proper coffee machine for our new, fancy office. I am not sure where we’ll set up, but it’s going to look amazing. I already have a lamp for my future desk!

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

We are still in beta and this week we are updating our UI, which is super exciting.

We have a quite a nice number of users, which is great. We even got lovely emails saying how much they like our platform!
Urbello has evolved a lot since we started our work on it, we thought it would be a lifestyle short post platform, but now we’re expanding. We will allow long articles to be posted and shared on Urbello and we’ll add more categories: from politics to events and local news.

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

We are completely self-financed. We bootstrapped from day one, which meant I had to learn new skills and multi-task.

At the moment we are hoping to get on board of a good accelerator, master our pitch, create a breathtaking deck, so investors will fall in love with Urbello and throw money at us. That’s the plan anyway.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

Where do I start? First of all, I learned that an idea is just an idea. Creating a startup is blood, sweat and tears.
We spent months “architecting” Urbello, thinking about UI and UX, prioritising functionalities, creating mockups, pages then testing… The devil is in the details and building a big platform requires execution. I am very proud of what we have achieved.

My personal challenge was to allow feedback before the platform was ready. As a perfectionist I felt uneasy showing people an unfinished product. I could have avoided a few mistakes had I shown Urbello to a focus group before we committed to implementing major features.

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

I believe that we need competition to create cool products. It motivates us and pushes us to find better solutions to common problems. What’s bad about competition is that big corporations have an unfair advantage over the small ones. They can literally stop the newcomers from entering the market. That’s why I love the EU. They take care of that!

I think it’s important to find a niche and stick to it. Make a product that people love and enjoy. We’re just a couple of nerds living in East London trying to do something amazing. We created Urbello because we love cities, and we feel passionate about them. We believe great people make our cities great, and all we want is to make sure people stay connected.

What do you look for in team members?

I always look for people with a different set of skills to mine; people who will compliment what we already have.

We enjoy working with creative, fun people, however if you do not consider yourself fun, but you love spreadsheets you are also our person! I cannot stand working with spreadsheets and Ivan, Urbello’s co-founder, needs a partner in crime to go through them.

Why would a talent join your team?

Urbello is a wonderful startup. We value ideas, independence and creativity. We want people to have an opinion, be willing to brainstorm, get excited and help us build something truly amazing.

As most startups, we are run by a bunch of passionate people who don’t agree with the status quo, we want to make things better, different, and people friendly.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

As a designer, I was ecstatic to see Urbello’s design turn into an actual working platform. It was like seeing a child walk for the first time. It was amazing! I was literally in tears jumping for joy when we had our first sign ups.

Not all memorable moments are positive though. I also remember killing an investment opportunity by feeling ashamed to say how much money we needed. I simply could not be assertive about it, the numbers were too big! Worry not, I have learnt my lesson! I have no issues with big numbers anymore.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

First of all, don’t be secretive about it. Don’t be shy to ask for feedback. Your startup will never be done, you’ll always be changing, tweaking things, adapting. There is no need to do it on your own. Ask for help. You’ll need help. Don’t think you can do it all. You’ll get lonely. It’s going to be hard.

Re-evaluate your project. Making mistakes is fine, the trick is not to make a habit out of it. If something doesn’t work – change it.

Don’t be shy when you ask for money, value your work. Be humble and grateful.

Last but not least: Make sure your business helps the planet. What’s the point of creating something that ruins health/environment/communities?



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