Having made an audacious start in the live music promotion field, Posse did a 360 degree turn – transforming into a retail-oriented app, raising $1.2 million in funding from assorted Australian and Silicon Valley angels (and only recently, an additional $500,000 to design an iPhone app) and becoming a genuine Australasian digital success story. While the company is busy moving from Sydney to New York, founder and CEO REBEKAH CAMPBELL has kindly found time to chat to us about Posse’s rise, the possibilities the engine offers and – among other things – her oft-punishing schedule.
Aside from being Posse’s founder and CEO, which other roles within the company did you find yourself in, Rebekah?
What I tended to do in the past was come up with original ideas, but then I was also involved in planning – “how are we going to do this?” – raising investments from angels and VCs and recruiting the team. I was also texting users to get their opinion about the product: what they like about it, what they don’t like and how it can be improved.
I first became aware of Posse in 2011 when you did presentations at the Brisbane Powerhouse and later at BigSound. Back then, Posse was about live music promotion, but then became something else completely different.
Yes. We’ve had technical challenges with music and our site required integration among many different sites to be viable, so we’ve completely shut down the music site and opened a new site dedicated to discovering awesome retail stores, cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms, fashion shows – all those kinds of places. That’s what the site is about and it’s using a lot of the principles we learned when we were involved in music.
We discovered that retail was a much bigger market and we had something really original, and reached out. Then, we’ve built a social search engine where you can search for anything you want – like “quiet, sunny restaurant” or “cheap cocktails”. Posse will show you the favourite places of your friends, friends of friends and so on – and also the location.
Can you tell us a little about Posse’s ongoing developments?
We’ve been assigned “global” from the get-go – anyone from anywhere in the world can join the site, which is awesome – but our main focus is Sydney, where we’ve got a really good community seed: there are over 17,000 shops in our system, and many of them are from Sydney. There’s a good number of shops listed now, and we’re now seeding other markets: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and also Auckland, New York, San Francisco and Austin [where Posse recently did a showcase at the annual music, interactive and film extravaganza South by Southwest, or SXSW – Ed.]. We have a blog, an advisor program and a system in place which we can roll out to other cities.
What does your average day as Posse CEO involve – if there’s such a thing as “average day”, of course?
It’s so busy at the moment it’s crazy! Getting up at 5.30am, going to yoga – once a day is very important! – then rushing home after the yoga class to get a shower and then to the office to have full-on meetings until 1pm solidly; going to design agencies, writing talks and proposals, doing phone meetings, responding to questions and then going to a business dinner. It’s manic at the moment – no spare time.
That is hectic. No downtime whatsoever?
No [laughs]. I do catch up with friends on the weekend and do social things, and I generally work on at least one day of the weekend – but only Saturday or Sunday afternoons until 7pm. I try to take Saturdays off! I do yoga every day – it keeps me sane.
Do you have any words of advice for young startups with exciting original ideas?
I would say just do it! Get started, write your plan, make something live as quickly as you can and then start learning. Just understand that this is a massive learning process – no matter what the business is, you’ve got to spend a lot of time learning before it can take off. You want to start your learning as quickly as you possibly can and you want to get something made and get it out there as quickly as you possibly can.
Spend a lot of time talking to your users and potential users: this is something startups don’t do nearly enough. I’m quite a good salesperson, so I’m good at selling ideas to people, but when you’re interviewing someone, you can actually tell whether the idea is good or not. You can’t tell whether your idea is good or not when people buy into it – that’s got a lot to do with how good you are at pitching, but when you actually sit down with people who have no vested interest and you’re not selling to them, but just asking them questions, that’s when you can tell whether your site is going to work or not.
Wise words indeed – thanks Rebekah!