Crowdfunding winners – iNeed on Crowdcube

Continuing our series of reviewing latest equity crowdfunding pitches – we ask, is iNeed a crowdfunding winner?

It must be tough trying to raise money just before Christmas – and this may explain why iNeed’s fund raising growth has flatten off.

From an initial charge to raising 24% of the requested £100k total – this has now plateaued.  Or perhaps the crowd is telling us something. Let’s have a look…

Pitch Video and presentation

The video is good and it leads with the people – the CEO and the business angel / Director and takes us through how the service may work. The video is well presented, although some of the diction is hard to make out.

The business plan is a powerpoint presentation that gets a clear message across.

The financials are details and lay out a lot of the assumptions about growth in Suppliers and the source of revenues.

Score 9/ 10

Management team

The business is led by CEO – Simon Grice and angel investor Julian Ranger, who is also a director.

Both of these people have a track record in developing mobile services and running successful businesses – although I didn’t check out those claims, they seem credible enough.

The company documents list another Director – Tony Fish – but we don’t see him in the video. That scores a minus point.

The documents also list three guys in the development and design team and one in the marketing team. This suggests an ability to build a team – which is critical, but I wanted to know why they aren’t in the video?

The financials suggest that they may not yet be hired directly to the company – but this isn’t clear.

I’d like to see and hear from them and know why they are the right team.

Hence, in terms of my ability to evaluate this deal, this still looks like a one-man led operation supported by an able and experienced investor / director.

One potential concern is that the CEO is a director of 9 other companies. Some of those may be dormant, but either way, is he really committed to this project?

Score 6/10

What customer pain or problem does iNeed solve?

“iNeed automatically matches nearby providers for small, local jobs”

Initially, I thought iNeed might be competing in the online classified ads space of google or google mobile – but the video gave a different impression

‘I need someone to help clear out my garage…and I’ll pay £20’

‘I need someone to walk my dog this afternoon…’

I have some reservations about whether this is a service that people either need or will be willing to pay for.

The key USP that iNeed claims is the ability to find you ‘trusted’ people.

In the video ‘trusted’ people are described as friends of your facebook connections.

Trust is critical, and the iNeed team recognise this, but how many of your Facebook ‘friends’ do you trust? Or have you ever allowed into your house? Me? Not many.

I’ve seen similar services offered – such as working-bees.com struggle to gain traction – and there are a number of competitors, which iNeed has listed in its documents.

So how does iNeed know that this supplier or that supplier can ‘walk dogs’? How will it handle random requests?

Say an old lady asks ‘I need help carrying my shopping up the stairs’? How will the system select suppliers? This isn’t clear.

This challenge will be at its greatest at launch as you are most likely to have Mark of Malvern asking for a plumber – but your plumber is based in Pimlico!

In other words, if everyone is connected on iNeed, then there is a reasonable chance of being able to connect suppliers and needs – but at the beginning, none will be.

I’m struggling to give this a score for customer pain of greater than 3/ 10

Evidence of market need?

To illustrate market demand for this service, iNeed posts a snap shots of various twitter or facebook posts of people asking their friends/ contacts for recommendations for piano teachers, handyman, carpenter, plumber  cake bakers, curtain makers and plumbers, again.

Whilst this suggests a willingness to use social media to solve ‘help’ problems, there isn’t any evidence that current social media doesn’t solve this need, is there? So, I guess that is a hunch.

iNeed claim to be ‘Location sensitive’ – but isn’t this best solved by google?

iNeed also claim to be ‘Time sensitive  – well, I guess this may be true if iNeed has permission to push messages to suppliers – but, this depends on the suppliers being sufficiently interested to read through all the pitches?

I have seen similar systems operate with freelancers – where the freelancer might be paid between £250 for a day to £5,000 for a month – and it is pretty hard to get them to respond in a timely manner. My concern would be this – who is going to respond to ‘clean out my garage for £20’?

Interestingly, the current use of social media fails to add – I need a plumber and can pay £xxx!

Equally, if the suppliers get sent too many random and irrelevant messages (ie not in my area – geographically  not in my area – skill wise or just not in my price range) then won’t they switch off fast?

I’m sure if people offered large amounts of money for simple services, then they are likely to get quick response – equally, if they are using twitter to hire people (without paying a recruitment broker, because they are skint) then the chances are that they won’t pay much – and so the supplier won’t have much incentive to respond?

Still, I think iNeed are missing a trick by not forcing their people in need to put a monetary value on what they are willing to pay. After all, if I request a plumber at 2am and its an emergency, I’ll pay an extra fee, right?

So, in the real world, the degree of timing – it has to be done now – is solved by money? I don’t yet see iNeed demonstrating this awareness with their current version.

Lastly, iNeed claim a USP of ‘Trusted suppliers”  – and for me, their definition of trusted is not credible. Here’s why, I don’t actually know half the people on my facebook account and 90% of them have never been to my house. Would I recommend they visit your house? Well… no.

When someone contacts me on social media for a recommendation, then I only select from those people that I have personally used for a similar service. How will iNeed replicate this and incentivise people like me to match up my real friends and trusted suppliers?

Lastly, the business is not only pre-revenue, but pre-trial too – with a trial planned shortly.

Is there potential here? Yes. Have iNeed solved it? Not yet!  Score 2/ 10

Business Model and Size of Opportunity

iNeed looks to take a subscription fee from suppliers – this will work if the suppliers get high value/ well paid work. If it is a route to get work on the cheap, then the suppliers won’t stay.

Can iNeed deliver on this? May be yes, but probably not. Or at least, not without an iteration or two.

iNeed also looks to take a % of the transaction fee. This is a model that I doubt will be enforceable. For instance, many freelance matching sites have been built – but very few manage to get the employer and the freelance to use their payment systems – and therefore allow the site to collect a fee.

The exception to this is when the supplier and buyer are seperated by distance – so a London digital agency buying a day from an Indian PHP freelancer. In this case, the site can collect a fee because it uses an escrow service to ensure the supplier gets paid.

However, iNeed’s model depends on hyper-local. So won’t they just exchange cash at the end of the job?

The business plan expects £8.5m of revenue within 3 years with 250,000 providers paying £34 in verification and transaction fees.

Realistic? Well, for instance, www.mybuilder.com/handymen/in/uk claim to have over 8,501 handymen with 119 feedback reviews.

iNeed is planning to beat that number by a factor of 29. That is a big number and would take an exceptional plan to deliver.

Lastly, iNeed is attempting to match up low value services – the example in the video – clear my garage for £20 – is an example. The amount of money that a service can earn in a low market value is low unless the volume is massive.

I just don’t see anything like that potential here but this would explain why the founders believe the valuation of the company at £1m pre-trial and pre-revenue.

Normally, pre-revenue and pre-trial businesses are valued at around £100k. Currently, iNeed is an idea that needs testing and proving. This is a good rule of thumb for valuing very early stage startups.

It is just too early to be investing in this business given that valuation of the business at £1m – so this gets a 1/10.

Summary

If iNeed, or any company, can solve the ‘trust’ issue on the internet – then there are numerous ways to monetise that. However, iNeed is a pre-trial business and whilst it may be able to solve this problem with a potentially talented team, the valuation is set far too high for its current situation.

The management team look promising and this is a well presented pitch. However this is not an investment that we could currently back based on current evidence.

 

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