The following article is the winner of a selection between articles produced by the students of the Creativity and Innovation course of the spring semester of the Academic Year 2014-2015 by Prof. Giovanni Emanuele Corazza, within the Graduate Course in Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Bologna.
During these Creativity and Innovation classes, students learned about the DIMAI model for creative thinking, to understand the creative process and clarify the difference between idea generation and innovation, as well as approaches to face hurdles and strategies for success. This semester in particular the course focused on the ICT business world: six students teams presented their own project on the ideation and consequent possible implementation of a new start-up. In preparation to this task, students produced articles about a succesfull start-up to be considered as an inspiration for their work.
Nowadays, the world is ruled by social networks, and even there is a lot of concepts already implemented in that sector, there’s always new ideas coming each year, sometimes they are successful and sometimes they are not.
I think that YPlan is a really good example for a successful startup company, because they are an example in international expansion and innovation.
YPlan allows users to "spontaneously" discover, organise and book tickets for a night out. By targeting users 48 hours prior to a certain event, the company caters to its target demographic while stealing market share from ticket merchants who traditionally aim to sell out months in advance, but by also selling this way they get an important benefit. The YPlan app, which reached 500,000 downloads a year after launching, operates in densely populated cities such as London, New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco based on the premise that busy city dwellers don't typically like to commit to events far in advance. By pushing a daily curated list of premium ticketed events straight to your smartphone, users win time from sifting through infinite options. In terms of the market, the company sets up a win-win situation: YPlan generates profit from sales commissions through its partnerships while event promoters profit through incremental sales of excess tickets.
So how could this innovative idea succeed? The founders, who quit their jobs (one worked at Goldman Sachs and the other one at Summit Partners), decided to think about several concepts that could make an innovation to people’s daily life. YPlan was not the best positioned idea, but someday they wanted to do something at the evening, and they didn’t know where to look for inspiration or buy tickets, so YPlan was the solution of their problem. They realized that a large number of people faced this same dilemma and they established an in-depth knowledge of their target demographic. It was important for them to know which customers they faced, so after this process was done, they launched the app in London first. Before of launching it, they had to spend some months for getting to know the concert halls, galleries, restaurants and bars, as well as running trials, and other options, so the options they offered were as comprehensive and personalised as possible. By choosing London, they also were ensuring that they selected a location where there was a good density of events. The key was to keep tapping into the behaviour and habits of each city as they were expanding internationally, so they could connect with the customers worldwide. For example, when it came to New York, they heavily researched its social cultures, establishing a local team that knew the city well. They made sure that they understood the challenges the new operation would face in a new market: they personalized the app and their teams for each city they expanded, and that was the key of the internationalization success of YPlan. While it’s important to be thorough when carrying out initial research, it’s also important to move quickly. They already secured $12m worth of series A funding (from some investors), that is a really significant amount, higher than the amount that Twitter, Dropbox and Soundcloud achieved when they were at a similar stage of development. So the investors where confident of their business, a two-sided market place that was able to expand and make benefit, and with a good team that was the main difference among others. So they are already rolling out their product into as many markets as possible and as quickly as possible to maximise the opportunity. They launched in New York at a star studded event headlined by Pharrell Williams – a contact who they were introduced to by these same investors– who has since joined the company as a special adviser. They have just launched in San Francisco and have ambitious expansion plans across North America over the next few months.
The importance of the recruitment is one of the first keys of their exit. Their rule is: “No matter where we are, we continue to hire the best. “Maintaining the right company culture is crucial, everyone needs to be fully committed to what they do. Startups tend to flourish quickly in the early stages because the core team is so involved with every aspect of the project; they know its inner most workings and can adapt quickly to new challenges. The two founders interviewed every single person that joins the team, even if its time consuming, the rewards it’s worth it. So the lesson I learned with YPlan is that aside from your product, the company is only as good as the people who work for it. Making sure you invest in your team is vital. And also one more lesson I have learned is that the expansion of a product is not easy, and we have to adapt our team and product for every city, every social group, for making it successful and useful for that new sector. So if that team, working that way, reached the 500,000 global downloads within one year, and still they have a lot of things to come (by seeing the potential of their idea and also his team), what can we bring to de world with one good idea and the will to work hard for it?