Meet the entrepreneurs – Michael Hadjijoseph, co-founder and CEO, Stagedoor

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1) Give us the elevator pitch for Stagedoor.

Stagedoor is a theatre performance listings app, which changes the way people discover new theatre performances. It is a powerful discovery tool – the first of its kind – which makes it easy to explore what’s on in London theatre.

Stagedoor gives relevant recommendations to theatre lovers based on their personal preferences as well as based on what their trusted friends are recommending – making the discovery process more personalised, social and transparent.

It’s the first ever app which allows users to follow specific venues, theatre professionals as well as theatre companies in order to stay up to date whenever they have an upcoming performance and reminding them before they close.

It aims to bring people closer to the theatre by making the discovery process as frictionless as possible.

Stagedoor is available on the Apple app store : ‪http://www.apple.co/1C4IvnY

2) What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs I’ve always had the urge to start something of my own. That’s why after graduating from Cass Business School in Investment & Financial Risk Management – I decided to turn away from the much sought after (at the time) banking industry and join a high growth startup as a product manager. 

Product manager is a role that combines commercial, design and tech and which in my opinion is one of the best routes to start a technology company.

Having worked for two amazing London based start-ups over the last four years, peopleperhour.com and onefinestay.com, I felt it was time to take the leap and start my own venture.

3) So why theatre?

The initial idea was conceived by my other two co-founders (Yiannis Gavrielides & Paris Erotokritou) who are partners in a theatre company as well. (http://www.fresh-target.com/). Our founding team comprises 50% start-up/product guys and 50% theatre professionals. 

Yiannis and Paris had an interesting idea about a theatre listings app, “replicating word of mouth in theatre,” which could evolve into becoming the IMDB for theatre. I was intrigued. Not just by the idea but mostly by their enthusiasm and drive. I instantly knew they would be the kind of people with whom I’d like to team up.

Since I was a kid my mother, who graduated with a degree in classics, ensured our family had a fair dosage of theatre on a yearly basis, which led to my current appreciation of live performances and showmanship. 

Through university, I found myself wanting to go to the theatre more. I never really knew what was on and what was good though. None of my friends were into theatre. This was also one of the reasons why I found the idea really interesting to work on and took on the challenge to bring people closer to theatre by making it super easy to discover shows they’d love to see.

Lastly, we chose it because It’s an amazing business opportunity. The theatre industry is completely untapped by technology. It is very ripe for disruption from a lot of different angles, and we are exploring a lot of different ways Stagedoor could evolve in order to tap into some of the opportunities out there. By doing that we feel we also have a lot to give back to the industry itself, bring more people closer to the theatre and enable marketers to engage with new audiences in unique ways.

4) How have you funded this venture? Did you find funding hard to get?

We initially raised some cash internally to build the product and get it off the ground. 

The app has been launched for a bit more than two months now. Since then, the response has been amazing with people tweeting us that “it’s their new favourite app” and others saying “they are in love with it” all of this with very minimal marketing.  

In order to take Stagedoor to the next level, making it ‘the go-to app for theatre’, we decided to open our first Angel round for £200,000 two weeks ago. I’m currently flying between Cyprus and London opening leads and speaking to potential investors. It’s a very challenging process, as I had never done it before to this extent. However, I think if you are methodical and strategic with who you speak to, and open up the right leads, you can raise the first round pretty fast.

So far we’ve had a couple of people interested, and specifically people from the industry which is great – but as everyone will say, the hardest thing is getting the money in the bank.

So this is my focus at the moment, If any of the Cass Alumni reading this feel they would be interested in participating feel free to contact me at: [email protected]

5) How do you plan to scale the business?

There are two main ways want to scale the business at this stage: through the product; and through marketing.

We try to be very strategic in what product enhancements we make, thinking about the different stakeholders of the theatre industry, how they can benefit from them and how they can be incentivised to drive users to the app themselves. I can’t go into too much detail, but lets say we are working closely with theatre venues and independent theatre reviewers.

On the marketing front, we are fortunate enough to have a very targeted audience. So we are testing out different ways we can engage this strong community both online and offline.

6) What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs based on your experience to date?

Make the first step as it’s is usually the one that requires the most inertia. it;s not the hardest because once you start and the company begins growing it only gets harder, but making the first step is really important to get going. 

Step outside of your comfort zone, speak to potential users before you even have a product and start building it. People have a tendency to be afraid to start – for example a lot of people who have an idea and say they want to start a business, will be much more likely to spend  £2K of their savings on a summer holiday than invest it in their idea. It all boils down to fear of failure. You should ignore that fear, look at it as if it is another experience and just start.

Surround yourself with great people and have mentors who are further into their entrepreneurial journey than you. Those can be the people that will shed light in your darkest hours, rationalise you, and push you to go further.

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so surrounding yourself with amazing, like-minded people can be one of the most important things especially in the early days.

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About the author: Riaz Kanani

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