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IMG_0301Whilst at Cass, Alumna Ashuveen Linsbichler (neé Bhadal) (Executive MBA, 2013) met her partner Lukas (both pictured), and began her journey into the entrepreneurial lifestyle that’s been in her family for generations. She’s now up and running with VEVA, an app designed to make meeting up and going out with your friends easier by combining all the elements you need in one place – chat and venue search complete with reviews and offers.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

Wow – my time at Cass was intense! I did the Executive MBA, so I was working full time as usual and then studying on evenings and weekends. One reason we both started at Cass was that we were keen to start a business, it’s in our blood – both of our families are entrepreneurs going back generations.

I had fantastic times with great people. Cass really gives you an incredible network – for example, I met my CTO for our company here. I have nothing but praise for Cass and the support you get.

I learned great business tools and how to scale, but nothing really prepares you for business until you do it. It’s based on intuition and hard work – but the knowledge is all Cass. Most useful is business strategy, what is important on a more holistic view, how to structure the business, and how to speak to investors in their language.

What happened next?

An idea emerged in late 2012 around ordering and payment (then known as QPiranha) that was taken forward by Lukas’s MBA dissertation. I left my career in late 2013 to commit full-time to the venture to drive it forward and take the leap. The co-founder team was formed with complimentary skills, fuelled by a desire to innovate and a vision to make life easier.

We spoke with venues (pubs, bars and clubs) and found the order and payment space is tricky, and this is where the MBA comes in – how to turn it around. We learned that the venues could logistically not handle pre-order by phone at busy times, well, they weren’t interested – their biggest challenge is filling the venue off-peak. The issue was further compounded when we looked to scale the product. It could take six months to a year to integrate with a firm’s point of sale system, by the time we had 40 bars on board and were concerned people may stop using the app, thus limiting scalability and growth. The app was called Drinqsmart at this point.

We re-pivoted after this, to focus more getting people together and give people a tool to meet as well as finding promotions designed to get spontaneous footfall. After extensive user feedback the app went through a facelift, focusing on high quality imagery and an easy to use interface.

So, here we are, rebranded as “VEVA”. Now more energetic, about life and living in the moment – being able to see who’s free to meet and find a place or offer on the day, everyday.

Now it’s out there and people love it. We’re getting hundreds of downloads, but we want to push it to thousands. We’ve also got ~5% of all venues in London signed up. It’s an exciting time. I’m glad we didn’t give up on it even though it’s been a lot of work, especially alongside our other projects.

And what is the idea in a nutshell?

“Going out just got a lot easier!” VEVA wants Londoners to “Live in the moment” by finding a great place or offer to meet a friend on the go, everyday! No more long emails, endless WhatsApp groups, missed evenings or frantic web searches. All you need for going out in one app. People love the ability to see who’s free to meet by tube station; it’s relevant but not intrusive to people’s privacy.

VEVA shows you when someone is free to meet based on the closest tube station and allows you to find a place or offer based on your mood – a rooftop bar for a cocktail with the girls, a pub with sports for that football match or a bottomless brunch at a funky place in the West. You can always find a place with an offer tailored to your need (2-4-1 cocktails, free pints, or 20% off your bill), invite friends and let VEVA handle the updates – Denis is running late or Bea is coming at 7pm.

So what is VEVA exactly?

We’re onto something big. Imagine a social network coupled with a venue/offer discovery platform customised for going out. That’s VEVA and the future “How to bring people to places” and “a contextual way for venues to promote to mobile users – when they decide to go out”.

There are lots of apps that are location-based to help you find your friends nearby, but they fail to focus on the fact that you need somewhere to go. And on the discovery side, there are hundreds of apps for bars but they are limited because they focus on a small part of the big problem – “Where”, but we’re also thinking about the “Who” and “When”.

VEVA brings it all together – you can see Who is out, Where to go nearby and easily agree When to meet and chat about it all in one app.

Our users think it’s the future and once hooked use it every time they go out – the next big thing hopefully; discovery doesn’t add enough value, neither does social. We combine images from Foursquare with reviews from TripAdvisor and offers from Twitter (we have an algorithm that picks them up in real time) – all these mean we can scale quickly. We’ve also added a chat function that can be between two people or a group. WhatsApp is great for group chat, but it can be vague when trying to get together – here you can do the discovery in the chat and stay in the conversation. Some scenarios I’m sure we can all relate to:

1) You want to go out but you’re not sure if anyone is free – ping an email or message to 50 people or switch on the app to let friends know you’re free or see who is free close by. 2) You’re strapped for cash and need a deal – scout the web or open the app and filter places to find one. We also pick up last minute tweets by venues so offers are as real-time as they can be. 3) You just finished a pint at the pub and need to find the next place for a boogie – look at Google maps tapping on bars, reading reviews for hours or use VEVA, filter by nightlife and find the closest bar with the best reviews. 4) You’re planning a night out on Saturday but you’re not sure where to go – use WhatsApp and send a million links back and forth or setup a group chat on VEVA, send venue suggestions that you can browse in the app, agree a place and send an invite. And we’re only scratching the surface here.

App Shots_DiscoveryApp Shots_Social

How do you connect with friends?

VEVA auto links you with friends based on a two-way match on your phonebook. If both you and your friend hold each other’s numbers the website auto links you as friends. If you hold your friends number but they do not hold your number in their phonebook, or visa versa, the app assumes a one-way match and does not auto-link you as friends. Auto linking is built to protect user privacy and ensure false friends cannot add a user on their phonebook to track status or location updates.

How did the development go?

An intense roller-coaster ride – developing, testing, designing! We have managed to keep a core team of developers who are brilliant, love the product and find the project very exciting – it’s like building 3 apps in 1. With 40k+ lines of code you can imagine what a monster the app is, this is excluding the web portal for venues. What a project, what a ride!

We have dozens of integration points to give our app users accurate, real-time data: Foursquare for images, Tripadvisor for reviews and Twitter for offers.
And we’re only scratching the surface here – we’ve got sophisticated algorithms and logic refined after months of discussion and market testing: that’s VEVA.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Nailing the consumer angle. Me and Lukas both have a B2B background, and we had underestimated the importance of the consumer and how to get and keep their attention. There is no special tool for doing this, it’s trial and error and market testing to find the right approach.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice, what would it be?

Spend at least 4-6 months refining the concept with consumers before developing. Development costs (time primarily) rise exponentially with each new feature.

Also be persistent! Keep at it and never give up – it’s a hard journey and it takes longer than you think. You could be on the edge of something really amazing, getting to the peak is the hardest part.

What’s next for you?

Pushing VEVA out to a wider London audience and signing up more venues to get special offers for our users. We want to focus on traction and self-funding with revenue from venues. Once we hit the 25k+ user mark we would seek a Series A investment round to scale the brand to UK and beyond!

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Shoreditch and the City – it’s got the best pubs and bar concepts
Favourite holiday destination: Greece
Must-check-every day website: FT, Twitter, Time Out, Londonist, About Time London
Dream travel destination: Caribbean
Cheese or chocolate: Ooof! Depends on my mood – I’m a fan of both!

Download VEVA from the app store here.

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