Telling the truth about SME life today

Matthew Rowe on how to develop a technology brand


Matthew Rowe

Role and company:

Co-founder and commercial director of iVIP Ltd

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We are the world’s first and only premium lifestyle app.

What’s the big vision for your business?

To develop a recognised international lifestyle and technology brand, and to setup iVIP hubs in the world’s most important cities.

Current level of international business and future aspirations:

We have a global network of partners and city editions of the application covering London, New York and St Petersburg. We are actively pursuing opportunities and growth in other major cities including Paris, Sydney, Shanghai and more. Ultimately, we want our iVIP members to be able to get VIP Treatment in any city in the world.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

The first iteration of the iVIP apps took three months longer to develop, and three months longer for Apple to approve. We missed our expected “go live” estimation by months and it taught me (amongst other things) never to pin too much on a launch date. Things always take longer than you expect?

It also made us doubt whether the business model we envisaged was even viable (as it relied on Apple’s approval) and to take nothing for granted. Fortunately, it eventually proved to be.

What makes you mad in business today?

People thinking mobile apps are the quick way to a fast buck. There have now been over one million approved by Apple alone and it takes tremendous hard work plus no little luck for yours to be a success.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

The growth of HTML5/web applications. The financial demands, especially for small operations, are prohibitive when developing across all three major platforms (iOS/Android/WP8). Building a web app that will run on all three is far more cost effective. Whether currently, relatively closed ecosystems allow them to flourish remains to be seen.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow” If not, what can be done to improve things?

There are numerous apps that have developed into standalone businesses, but that number is incredibly small relative to the actual number of apps that exist. Getting funding for “your idea for an app” is incredibly hard. Developers are constantly approached for revenue share ideas but 99.9 per cent of the time the risk isn’t worth it.

Platforms that specifically connect these two parties (for example, SellanApp) will help, but the problem is also the sheer volume of apps. It makes it very likely yours will be lost in the ether. The platforms need to clamp down on quality and duplication to make it more possible and realistic that a good, new app can be successful.

How would others describe your leadership style

The perfect mixture of autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire.

Your biggest personal extravagance

I take a lot of taxis. I do love cabs.

You have two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

There is a glaring hole in the support of and for entrepreneurs; the idea stage. Investors and banks will lend/support you when you have proof of concept, sales or a product – but it’s getting there that is the challenge. The government should take more risks, more punts, in giving entrepreneurs with great ideas true seed funding to get their businesses off the ground. They should support the ideas man, not just the business man.


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