We caught up with Katy earlier this year to talk about all things Town Square, her founders' path, and what exactly a founder does on their ‘downtime. ’
A day in the life of Town Square co-founder Katy Wilson could involve everything from sales meetings or writing a blog post, through to all things contract and tax related.
“I guess there isn’t really an average day — a lot of the time I’m on my computer but sometimes I’ll go out and meet with venue owners and event organisers, and I try to go to startup events around town to stay in touch with what’s happening. Some conversations I’ve had at those events have triggered lightbulb moments!”.
The Elevator Pitch, a quick overview of Town Square.
Katy describes Town Square as “an innovative events discovery platform, which makes it easy for anyone to find great events happening near them.” Katy and her co-founder kicked off the business in January 2017, with a launch of their first version in April. Before long Town Square had expanded into both Auckland and Christchurch, with Hamilton and Tauranga added in April 2018. “We’re also developing the event organiser side of the business, so that people can easily see which events an organiser is hosting in the future, get reviews, and follow organisers they really like to hear about new events coming up”.
How did you get started with Town Square? Why did you decide to launch this business?
Mohit (my co-founder) and I met while studying in a programme that took us to 3 different countries. Because we didn’t have time to get to know a place well, we wanted an easy way to find out what was going on, but couldn’t find anything to suit our needs. We initially started to provide an easy way to find out what’s happening in a city and to showcase the great events that many people do not hear about. After moving back to Wellington, I also wanted to go out to new places but struggled to find one platform with a good mix of fun events. Often I would only hear about a great event after it had already happened. Talking to smaller organisations we also realised that a lot of them don’t have a way to get their event out to the public, as they often have little or no marketing budget.
We’re stoked to have you as part of the Collider Collision Labs cohort, what are you hoping to get out of the programme?
“I’m really enjoying working out of BizDojo, the people are very friendly and I’ve already had some really helpful conversations. I’m looking forward to getting to know the other startup teams in Collision Labs better as well. I enjoy spending time with other founders and helping each other out, often startups face similar challenges so it’s nice to just be able to chat to people who are in a similar situation.”
To date what has been your biggest learning curve, and what would your advice be to other founders based off this?
During the first few months after launch it was important to realise that building up a user base takes time, and that you need to be very consistent to be able to grow a user base while maintaining engagement levels. We had to accept that at the start testing the product and making it good is more important than trying to get the maximum numbers of users right away. Now we’re in more of a scale-up phase, so it’s more about getting our product out there and growing it, which is a bit of a mindset change. Founders need to be aware of what stage they’re in — you can always spend more time trying to improve the product, but consistently testing to see if it’s good enough will let you know when it’s time to switch your focus to growth.
I have seen TOWN Square is not your first experience launching a business as a founder, can you tell me a little about your other venture Iruya? Why you started it, what have you learnt from it that you are pulling across into Town Square?
I started the social enterprise Iruya while studying. I am very interested in social enterprise, and wanted to create a way for people to shop sustainably. I started off by working with producers in hard-to-access places in South America as I’d previously lived in Peru and knew about the beautiful products that are made there. For Iruya, my connections to Peruvians were very important, as they helped me build relationships with the suppliers there and continue those relationships while I was back in NZ. The same has been very important for Town Square, building and maintaining relationships with event organisers has helped me to understand their perspective and really build something that works for them. The feedback and buy-in we’ve gotten from early adopters has been invaluable, and maintaining those relationships has become a key part of what I do.
There is a lot happening in the small business and startup scene in New Zealand at the moment; what trends or other businesses are intriguing you and why?
I’m particularly interested in the social enterprise trend. I was lucky enough to go to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch in September last year, and hear from many different companies in NZ doing great things.“On the world scale social enterprise seems to be more advanced, and many social enterprises are very successful multi-million dollar companies. I’m excited to see that trend continue in NZ, to see what social and environmental impact the startups coming up now can create.”
One example is Conscious Consumers, a social enterprise combining technology and data with a social purpose, which I think is a really innovative way to scale business and purpose.
What do you think the business community and those that support them could do better to help founders like you thrive?
feel like I’ve gotten huge amounts of support since moving back to Wellington a year ago, which is also one of the reasons that I wanted to start a company in NZ. People have been very happy to take time out of their day for a coffee chat, to share some advice or to put me in touch with someone who could help.
One thing that really helps support startups is when people in established companies are willing to give them a go. When companies are open to working with startups and trying something new it enables startups to get a foot up and really build something valuable. The company will get the benefit of an innovative new product, as well as contributing to the wider ecosystem.
For people who might not be in a position to make those decisions, making time to meet founders and help them out a bit can have a big impact. Acting as a mentor or giving someone an introduction to a potential customer could be the lucky break the founder needs to grow their company.