Two years ago Oliver Lucas was a market researcher for London’s Arsenal Football Club. Now he’s the startup founder behind SpeechMate, a SaaS startup born out of Bali’s growing startup ecosystem.
SpeechMate writes personalized best man speeches for bestmen with writer’s block. And the target audience for SpeechMate is stressed out best men based in the UK.
But the idea was born over 8,000 miles away in a meeting room of Bali-based coworking space Hubud, which overlooks Ubud’s famous monkey forest. And over the last year, an international team of freelancers have worked on the design, development and concept for the site to create a product that acts like your own personal wedding speechwriter.
“I never in a million years thought I’d end up launching a startup, I was just coming to Bali for a sabbatical, but I’ve ended up creating a tech product – despite having zero technical knowledge.’
So how did a market researcher end up creating a software app for such a specific demographic?
Having been a best man three times, SpeechMate founder Lucas set up a blog for best men (iamthebestman) four years ago. It had already attracted a devoted following, and was having some success as a price comparison site for stag do events but Olly was in search of new revenue streams.
At an entrepreneurial event in Bali he said he was looking for suggestions about possible revenue streams. Resources about speeches were popular on his site, but many best men were left with a stark choice between ripping off a carbon copy pre-written speech and hiring a professional speechwriter for £400 ($550 dollars).
“Could you build something that somehow wrote the speeches?” an event attendee chimed in.
He later had a conversation with his new housemate Paul, who handily used to be Creative Director at Publicis-owned agency Razorfish. It was possible, and he was interested in helping.
Oliver spent over a year funding and developing a speechwriting app with a Dutch UX designer, who’d previously worked with clients like MTV and Nike, a British writer and the former head of development at one of London’s prestigious Brick Lane creative agencies.
“When I first left the UK I set aside enough money for a few months, and told myself that when that when the money was gone, it was gone. Then the freelance work kept coming. Now I get more work than I’ve ever had. And this has enabled me to self-fund development of the app.”
So what has his startup experience shown him?
“I think it shows that you don’t need to get angels on board to get your startup off the ground. I know people in London who’ve gone down that route and it’s all imploded because the pressure has been too much and they’ve ended up squabbling over equity.”
In fact, Oliver believes SpeechMate would never have got off the ground in London, because it would have cost in the region of £200,000 ($280,000) to build at a London agency.
“Just to stand still in London you have to be bringing in a decent chunk of money when you’re developing a piece of software and it can lead to huge amounts of stress.”
“In Asia, I was able to access amazing freelance talent at a rate that was affordable. And because I’ve self-funded the whole thing through my own freelance income, there’s no debt and no equity promised to external investors.”
Out in Asia, the objectives are different, Lucas explains.
“In London it seems more about the exit. I’m not seriously thinking about an IPO, the measures of success are more achievable here.”