11 Jun 2014

An update from Commonplace

By Lily

A guest post by Mike Saunders, co-founder of Commonplace.

I can’t believe it’s almost a year since we started at BGV. It means that this time last year Commonplace literally didn’t exist – there was nothing but an ambitious, but in retrospect, amusingly flaky idea in the heads of me and my co-founder, Neil. Thank you BGV for showing some belief!

I wouldn’t say we didn’t have a clue – but a clue was really all we did have. I suppose that’s one of the most challenging and exciting things about startups – you’re constantly trying to pull clues together to uncover some truth. But as anyone who’s watched Columbo knows, it doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would…

So whilst we’re making some good progress with our target market of property developers and their intermediaries, the place we’ve made the biggest splash so far has been in transport. I was quoted yesterday in an article about the future of commuting – that certainly wasn’t in the plan a year ago.

Sometimes the puzzle feels particularly difficult because there is so little data to go on in the early days. It’s like attempting a crossword with a vocabulary of only a few hundred words. We’re determined to base our decisions on evidence, but we’re a B2B service with only a handful of customers. With this small dataset, deciding which data points are the ones on which to act, requires judgement as well as empirical thoroughness.

A year ago, did I think we’d be where we are now? We have a great team, we’re (hopefully) about to complete our first funding round, we have paying customers, and a product that they like. Getting here from nothing in one year feels like an achievement. But when people ask me how it’s going I usually say ‘good, but…’ because of course we’re just at the first foothill of a big climb.

As we grow, keeping the culture of ‘skeptical optimism’ alive will be perhaps our most interesting challenge. One of my partners is the sceptic and the other the optimist. It’s a great combination – and maintaining the team dynamic throughout the undoubtedly exciting months ahead will be essential.

A year from now? Watch this space…