Hello Felix readers! This week Tom and I move into more personal territory, touching on the beginning of our journey as entrepreneurs. This will be followed next week by a final piece detailing Impromptu itself.

The inspiration for our decision to create an app stems from our time as PhD students in the Faculty of Medicine. For years we had talked about random app ideas; several of which launched at a later date and became very successful. We eventually realised that it was pointless having these conversations (and the subsequent depression!) unless we were willing to take the proverbial bull by the horns and act upon our ideas.

Our aim was always to develop an app which would benefit university students and academics. If we could also extend this idea to society at large, even better. Our initial brainstorming sessions yielded no short of a dozen ideas. To our credit we were able to immediately recognise that the majority of these were poorly thought through and devoid of any significant USPs. Twelve became two! At this time Tom and I decided to meet with someone who had been recommended to us as a potential partner. Our team grew, adding relevant industry expertise. This gentleman was smart, personable and established in the tech world. We collectively selected our preferred idea, a community based lending platform, and set about realising this by designing our own prototype using online resources.

Our background research into the viability of this idea was favourable. Our goal was to be as self-sufficient as possible and to design and build the platform without seeking expert help. In hindsight this was a mistake. Our choice of name was spot on. Our colourways were great. But our knowledge of branding, functionality and back-end (databases and so on) left a lot to be desired. Our new partner was also finding himself incredibly busy with two young children and his day job (his employer had recently been acquired by Microsoft). Despite his best intentions he was finding it harder to allocate time to the project and the technical aspects he was expert in.

This state of limbo went on for months before we formally approached a development house. This was exciting to say the least and also served to reaffirm confidence in our ideas. The developers were keen and offered to build our prototype for a small upfront cost. This was to include high resolution mock ups of 20 screens, branding, colourways and technical specifications.

The next two months saw various changes in the team and the near-completion of our prototype. We were almost there, or so we thought.

The final week of prototyping brought some unwelcome news. A startup had just launched with exactly the same idea. Furthermore, they had executed the idea nicely and had announced the procurement of significant funding. We were left with a dilemma; continue on, knowing we would have to adapt functionality to compete, or change track entirely.

The former was simply not viable for a number of reasons. We had no alternative but to start again. As you can imagine this was disheartening. However, the decision to pursue this first idea was narrowly won and we had an alternative which we were very passionate about and which our developers thought was easier to implement. Our developers took pity on our situation and were kind enough to allow us to switch ideas without penalty. This idea was to become Impromptu.

As I’m sure you can gather, our journey to date has proven to be somewhat of a rollercoaster. This is not dissimilar to many others in our position and is not meant to deter you. Rather we hope to illustrate that there are often solutions to seemingly massive problems.

Join us next week where we detail our app and its functionality.