GroupTogether founders, Julie Tylman and Ali Linz

How these first-time entrepreneurs turned inspiration into execution

It might be one that only a parent would truly understand, but here’s the scenario: a weekend devoted to children’s birthday parties, buying, wrapping gifts, driving, pick-ups, drop-offs, and a whole lot of cash – gone. Unlikely as it may sound, but that widely known experience is exactly what pushed Julie Tylman and Ali Linz onto the start-up scene with an online platform dedicated to making life easier for other pained parents, and beyond (they do have seven children between them).  

GroupTogether is transforming the group gifting process in Australia and it works like this: friends receive an invitation via email or link, they click through to ‘chip in’ and add a message to the card. The money is then transferred to the organiser at the end of the collection who can then go out and purchase a gift. So far, over 10,000 people have chipped in online for group gifts though the online platform.

“Nothing we’ve done in the past could have prepared us for building this service from scratch.”

It’s a story that takes a common path; a simple life experience yields inspiration – but as is often the way, Tylman and Linz being no exception, then what?

“Nothing we’ve done in the past could have prepared us for building this service from scratch,” said Tylman.  

“It was a brave new world for us. We very much learned everything on the go. It’s been an exhilarating, frustrating and constantly changing journey. We have both learned so much along the way.”

So here’s how they went about it. Or rather, how they’re going about it.  

Step one

“Since we are the customer, we literally sat down on Ali’s floor and outlined on pieces of paper what a service would need to provide to make us want to use it. We spent a lot of time and drank a lot of cups of tea while mapping out how to make the service,” Tylman said.

Validation

“Truth? Our friends, who are also the customer, thought it was a 'why hasn’t anyone thought of that before' idea but when we spoke to most men, their eyes glazed over. It wasn’t until strangers sent us ‘love letters’ saying this how much hassle it takes from their lives that we knew that it was resonating. They started using it for children’s birthdays, milestone birthdays, office farewells, engagement, wedding and baby gifts,” said Linz.

The first milestone

“We were promised a built product in 3 months. 18 months later we launched a much scaled down version, a minimum viable product in October 2014. The first real sigh of relief came after the 10,000th transaction. We knew the product worked properly and a high proportion of customers were repeat users. They liked us!” said Tylman.

The ‘to do list’

Tylman said “it’s hard to decide what is top of the list. However, releasing new development that will make it easy to collect for anything rather than just gifts, is only weeks away. After that, finally going out for that celebratory drink that we’ve been promising ourselves since we launched almost 2 years ago! 

Why it works

“For us, there are three vital ingredients: strong belief in your idea, the persistence to see it through all of the ups and downs and the sufficient funding to develop your idea into a business. We’ve often said, if we didn’t have each other, we probably would have given up ages ago – but because we believed in the idea, each other and ourselves, we persisted. We are tenacious optimists,” Tylman said.

Any parting words of wisdom?

  • Create a minimum viable product first - the simplest possible version that delivers your benefit.
  • Be prepared that everything will take twice as long as they (designers, developers, consultants) tell you will and cost twice as much! Know what you don’t know and figure out how to address that. 
  • Follow your gut.
  • As Nemo’s friend said “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

Dan Jacobs

Dan Jacobs is the Editor for ShortPress and an experienced business writer across a range of industry sectors. 

 

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