I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with entrepreneur Georgina Nelson, the founder and CEO of truRating, a new mass market point-of-payment consumer rating system. Despite being warned against embarking on the venture and having no tech, retail or payments expertise, Nelson’s innovative technology has quickly made waves within the retail industry.
truRating enables customers to rate an aspect of their consumer experience from 0-9 with a single keystroke – in real time. This in turn allows businesses to track ratings over specific time periods, benchmark individual outlets’ performances, compare their ratings against anonymous competitors and link customer sentiment to spend and basket data. With her sights set on making truRating the world’s best feedback service for business, Nelson explained how she developed her idea and reflects on the challenges she has encountered along the way.
When did you come up with the idea for truRating?
I was a lawyer at Which?, the Consumers’ Association, where reviews of products and services were very much their bread and butter. It was whilst there that I noticed consumer review websites were failing. Consumers used them but ultimately didn’t trust them because many like Yelp or TripAdvisor are easily gamed with reviews written by business owners or a competitor.
There was the significant issue of representation – only 1% of users of these websites provided 99% of feedback. I thought if we could make feeding back to a business super easy and quick, and also tie it to a validated payment, then we would get mass, representative and trusted feedback. Asking just one simple question on the payment terminal before you paid seemed the way to go.
How difficult was it to bring your idea to life and to make a business out of it?
When we were starting out, I paid a consultant to do some work for us on how to get truRating to market. He’d worked for one of the big acquirers in the UK for 20 years and we felt he was qualified to do the job. His first slide was a running track, where beyond the starting line was a brick wall. He told us to stop before we had even got started. We would never make it work.
Much of what he said was true – it has been challenging working with banks and payment companies. People say in the payments space, you can generally multiply by three the time it takes to get to market and sign a contract. It is getting better, though; times are changing and companies are now more open to innovation than they were a few years ago. There is a growing acknowledgement that startups can really add value, as partners, to what were previously core services.
What are your secrets to highly successful fundraising campaigns, and what are the greatest challenges?
We’ve always been fortunate as we’ve had great buy-in and multiple funding options. The challenge has therefore been: how do you find patrons who are the right fit and with whom you will work well for years to come? This is critical, given that you are bound to your investors for the foreseeable future and they are so closely tied to the business achieving its vision. We have always tried to build a really strong relationship with each investor before we decide whether they’re the right fit for us. Think of it as dating – there are multiple coffees and dinners. You have to get to know them, how they would react in certain situations, what they think is important and make sure you are aligned.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
We are already live in the UK and Australia, and by the end of the year, we’ll be live in Canada and the US. We continue to focus on going live with the big retailers and high street brands who have confirmed pilots.
Earlier this year we hit the first landmark 1 million ratings, and just seven months later we hit 2 million – this time next year we hope to have 1 billion ratings in our sights.
What do you think is more important, “professional skills” or “entrepreneurial spirit”?
100% entrepreneurial spirit! I didn’t have any of the professional skills I needed for truRating. I’ve never managed anyone other than a legal secretary before and had no tech, retail or payments expertise. First, you need that entrepreneurial spirit to win the early key hires, who are the experts and who have the necessary professional skills to add value to you and your business.
If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring entrepreneur, what would it be?
Test out the market for your product as soon as you can, before you make the leap. Speak to the people who are going to put their hands in their pockets and buy it – what are their challenges, what problems are you going to solve, establish how badly they want it and how much would they be willing to pay.