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Start me up podcast 3: An app called Albert
Start me up is our series of podcast stories about the side hustle, dedicated to those brave entrepreneurs who left their job to follow their dream.
Ivo Weevers and Dan Bruce had created apps for RBS, NatWest and BBC Sports. But like all freelancers, payment was an issue, and while on a flight to LA they came up with an idea for a simple invoicing app that would help freelancers create and track their invoices.
So Albert was born, and within eight months the pair had won some investment and quit their jobs to focus full-time on the app. They’re now a team of eight scattered around the UK, taking on the big boys in IT finance from ivo’s kitchen in north London.
Listen to Ivo’s podcast for the full story (and why they called it Albert), and read some of the business insights he’s picked up along the way.
Who, or what, is Albert?
Albert is a mobile tech startup that helps freelancers get their invoices done wherever they are. We found that a lot of people who’re on the road or doing flexible working didn’t have the tools to do their finances so we built an app that helps people track their cashflow on their mobile.
How is Albert better?
It used to be that anyone who used a proper camera really had to know a bit about photography. Later, the compact camera simplified the process and made photography accessible. Albert’s a bit like that. You may not get all the bells and whistles of an advanced accountancy programme, but it makes the core principles very simple and accessible for everyone.
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
When you’re doing it yourself, there’s no boss to ask for help and those moments can be hard, whether you’re looking for the right people, or for investment or for a technical solution. On the other hand, you also get really high peaks in-between the lows, and that makes it all worthwhile. It’s been one of the most insightful experiences we’ve ever had, so I’d recommend it to anybody.
Do you ever miss having free time?
Not really. Because it’s your own thing, your baby, you don’t regret doing it. Since I started working for myself I’ve never had a Sunday night where I’ve thought ‘Oh no, I’ve got to go to work tomorrow’. And I think that’s a massive difference from working in corporates like we did before.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
A lot of people, including myself, think we know the world around us, but we don’t. So when we built our first version of the app we thought it was going to be brilliant. But when we actually tried it with people they told us it needed to be different. That was a surprise, but then we realised that we’d been assuming that other people would work the way we work. But that’s not the case, I know that now.
What tech or tools help you to work flexibly?
All our team work as freelancers for our own company so we all use our app, Albert. But we also use a lot of online tools on our laptops and mobiles, it’s the only way we can make this whole thing work. We use Google Hangouts for face-to-face conferencing, and Slack, so all the team can chat at the same time.
We use file exchange programmes like Dropbox and Google Docs, and each of us has tools for our specific jobs. I always have design tools with me on my laptop, the developers always have engineering tools on theirs. So whether we’re at home, in an office or a coffee shop we can always work.
What technology could your business not do without?
I need everything on my mobile. So if I need to dial in to a conference, organise my meetings, check my email, track our projects, communicate with our customers – I have to be able to do it all from my mobile.
In a couple of years everyone will do virtually everything from their mobile and to understand how this will work I think we really have to live on our mobiles ourselves. And that’s how we’ll be able to keep building the best functionality for our users.
What’s your advice to other wannabe side hustlers?
Don’t be afraid to start. If you love something, there’ll always be someone who appreciates what you do. It’s scary, it feels uncomfortable finding clients, getting paid and everything else, but if you love it, you have to do it.
Listen to Ivo and other side hustle podcasts
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