Alex Hearn, founder of Slipcase
Keeping Professionals in the know
Alumnus Alex Hearn’s digital business is going from strength to strength, recently receiving nearly £1 million technology investment from Everlution Sofware, a UK B2B specialist software provider. We talked to Alex (Business Management 2009) who told us about his business and how he found his niche in the market.
What does your company do?
Slipcase.com is a central content platform for the global commercial (re)insurance industry. Brokers and underwriters alike can come to our site and, by following relevant companies, topical areas of the industry and top publications, they are able to build a personal feed of daily news and thought leadership that is completely relevant to their day job.
How did you first come up with your idea?
In my previous role as a London Market Broker, I found that it was very difficult to stay up to date with what I needed to know. It was in response to this that I was inspired to create Slipcase; I saw that people were using similar platforms more and more to manage their social life and I wanted to capitalise on this familiarity and develop a site exclusively for a professional’s working life.
The feedback from our initial user base was invaluable and we adapted the site accordingly. We have pivoted away from the ‘social networking’ aspect, towards what we realised was the primary benefit of the site; the content.
Although the site has changed significantly since it initially went live 2 years ago, the core concept has remained: to enable professionals in the industry to simply and efficiently receive content from areas of the industry that are relevant to them.
How did you begin to develop your idea once you had thought of it?
I managed to find a platform that I could customise and pay for on a monthly basis. Only now are we creating a completely bespoke platform and apps from scratch. If it wasn’t for our initial provider it would have been very difficult to generate funding for an unproven concept.
What do you plan to do with your new investment?
The investment has enabled to pull together an expert panel of digital and industry consultants, to create wireframes and user-flows that will maximise the impact of the new platform. We are now able to develop the new Slipcase, backed by this expertise, as well as the knowledge we have gained from users and clients over the last 2 years. It is a very exciting phase for the business.
What were the toughest challenges to overcome when setting up your own business?
Negative feedback is a killer, and very difficult to not take personally. Also getting hold of that first cheque! Monetising a new concept takes a forward-thinking prospective client to take the risk. This is a very difficult thing to achieve, especially in traditional industries where there has been little technological change in recent years.
What would be your top tips for people thinking of setting up their own businesses?
I still have a long way to go, but running my own business for the last two and half to three years has been incredible. The tough times are incredibly tough but the high points make it all worthwhile. My only advice would be get some guidance on your concept, and if you feel it has legs, give it a go with everything you’ve got, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if it is ultimately not successful, you gain respect for taking the plunge and you learn a vast amount in the process, and if it works out then you are your own boss, which is a brilliant feeling!
Date: 26 October 2015