I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Joel Brazil, Founder and CEO of Tipped Ltd. Tipped.co.uk is the fun and easy way to share tips on places in your local area. A powerful mix of local search, customer reviews and social networking, Tipped is available via PC and mobile handset.
Me : Please tell us about your background and your role in the company?
Joel : I started Tipped in January 2007 and continue to do most functions, except application development; we have real smart guys for that. Prior to Tipped I was Head of Mobile for MSN UK, responsible for developing mobile strategy and services. I joined Microsoft in 1995 and worked in a number of product management and consumer marketing roles. I spent six years in Windows Mobile Marketing and launched the first Microsoft Pocket PC and then Smartphone. In 2003 I relocated to the UK to lead the international consumer marketing team for Windows Mobile.
Me : What are the main features and services of Tipped?
Joel : Tipped is an online community for people to share tips on businesses in their local area. It combines local search with social networking and user reviews, to help users make informed decisions and discover new places. And Tipped is designed for use on both PC and mobile phones (http://tipped.mobi).
Local Search – Search for any local business from greasy spoons to Michelin-starred restaurants, and from old boozers to trendy bars. Tipped lets you find the best shops and boutiques, art galleries, spas, gyms, hotels, plumbers, builders and more. Users can quickly search by any keyword and/or location. Or browse by category, tag or both using our clever filter system.
User Reviews – It’s nearly impossible for consumers to make informed decision about a local business when there are literally thousands to choose from. Tipped solves this problem by providing reviews and ratings from real customers. And we give you insights into those customers by making their profile information, review history, favorites and friends available for all to see.
Social Networking – Tipped is a social network with a purpose: to help customers make better decisions and discover new places by sharing tips among friends. We make it quick and easy to add friends by importing existing contacts. And with Tip Stream you can see what they or their friends are contributing, providing a level of utility not available in a typical directory or search engine.
Me : What makes Tipped different from other websites competing in your industry?
Joel : Tipped is the only site of its kind to offer a fully featured, optimized mobile service. Other strengths include its intuitive, easy-to-use interface; engaging community features such as Collections and Tip Stream; and of course an easy to remember name!
Me : Tell us more about Tipped and it’s success story?
Joel : Tipped launched in Sep’2007 and is growing 40% + per month. Our aim is to have one million unique users per month by the end of the year.
Me : What are some of the myths in this industry?
Joel : We still hear a vocal minority going on about how they would never trust a review from someone they don’t know, versus say a critic or a journalist, but I believe we are close to the point where everyone will read reviews from real customers before any purchase decision. Another myth is that their needs to be enough reviews and ratings to be statistically accurate, but really you only need one recommendation from someone you trust to be useful.
Me : How do you develop your skills in this continuously changing environment?
Joel : I’ve mostly learnt on the job and from other friends who have started their own companies; things like how to design a website properly, how to write a business plan, how to pitch to investors, how to set up accounting, how to market a service like this, and way more UK law than I ever wanted.
Me : What do you see as the future of the industry?
Joel : Mobility will play a big part in the success of this space – you can imagine how useful it is to search for a tip when out and about. With the iPhone driving usage and awareness of the mobile internet, I think that the any local search and user review service needs a fully functioning mobile play to succeed long-term.
Me : What will be the challenges, do you anticipate any drastic changes?
Joel : Local search is a very competitive space. Not only are there formidable direct competitors, but there are the legacy directories to contend with, lots of big media companies who are increasingly talking about local and then some the big internet companies like Google and Microsoft who I understand are pretty well capitalized.
Me : Where do you see your company/website in the next 5 years? What about you personally?
Joel : I’m not sure I can predict 5 months let alone 5 years, but my guess is there will be some M&A activity in this space, and the Tipped brand will survive and continue to thrive! And I hope to have some kids in 5 years too.