"KillBiller is the app that takes the complexity out of selecting a mobile phone plan. KillBiller performs an audit of the calls you make, messages you send and data you use, and then uses this information to calculate exactly how much you would spend on every plan on the market. On average, users are able to save hundreds of euro per year after spending two minutes using KillBiller."
Hi Bart, and welcome to InspiredStartups.com! Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up becoming an entrepreneur.
Thanks – it’s great to be here! I have always had an interest in the world of entrepreneurship. My father started a technology company in Dublin in the late seventies that is still going today so you could say that it’s in the blood.
Dublin is a great place to meet people interested in starting companies or working on fun things. I met the other KillBIllers at a Launch48 weekend – basically a weekend where people go to discuss ideas and hack something together. I had gotten to a stage in my career where I didn’t get to write code day-to-day anymore and I really went along to the weekend because I was looking for a side project to do a bit of developing on. Over time it turned into more than a side project!
As an entrepreneur, do you think you have a different work ethic to other people?
I think it’s more of a different approach than a different work ethic. The hours are certainly longer, but I find them really enjoyable so it doesn’t really seem like work. In reality, if I wasn’t enjoying it, I would find it hard to put in those late nights, early mornings and long weekends. Everybody on the KillBiller team takes the same approach, if we weren’t passionate about the product, and its ability to save people money on their phone bills, I don’t think that we would have spent the time building it.
The biggest challenge is actually pulling back on work and realising when you are pushing things too much. Even when you want to work 24 hours a day, it is usually not the best idea to do it for any sustained period of time!
What are the key learnings of your entrepreneurial journey so far? I know your co-founder Shane Lynn said the team was very technical and realised it needed to focus on other areas as well to be successful-- maybe you could talk about that?
The biggest learning for me is that a startup is really just one big experiment. The sooner you realise that whatever business idea you have, it is just a hypothesis that needs evidence before you can say it is true, the better. It’s often hard to let go of an idea that you think is great, but if nobody is going to pay you for that idea then you need to move on. Treating everything like an experiment that needs validation means that it becomes quite black or white as to whether you should change or not.
Also, focusing on the business rather than on the tech is key. While we all had technical backgrounds on KillBiller, I had moved into more commercial roles over the past few years so that side of things was something I was more used to. It is hard to resist the temptation to focus on technology rather than ensuring that you have a product that is suitable for the market. I think we have grown to strike the right balance - we are not afraid to drop something if it is not right, no matter how cool technically it is!
The other thing we learned is to look for budget and appetite from customers as early as possible. There is nothing worse than a ‘long no’, so ask customers the hard questions up-front and early. It saves time and money on both sides in the long run.
KillBiller started out at a startup weekend, Dublin Launch48, and has taken part in a range of programmes (e.g. AIB Startup Academy; New Frontiers) since then. From that standpoint, how important has setting up in Ireland been for KillBiller, and what events would you recommend to other startups?
I’d honestly go to as many as possible as long as you can strike a balance between taking part and actually running your business. Dublin has a great ecosystem and chances are you will meet somebody interesting at them – and if nothing ever comes of it, you will at least have some fun. We’ve got a huge amount from both the EI New Frontiers program as well as the AIB Startup Academy. In particular, some of the mentorship from the EI program has been fantastic – they really make you focus on all aspects of the business and force you to ask yourself the hard questions.
The accelerator programs do take up a lot of time however, so I’d avoid getting involved in more than one unless you have a bigger team who can handle the level of involvement that they demand and deserve.
Short events like Launch48 or hack weekends are great though and always worth dedicating time to. We also won an event called Dublin Beta last year, which was a great event for sounding your ideas off hundreds of people – a lovely way to spend an evening.
How did KillBiller expose itself to its thousands of users?
We do a mix of things (and measure everything so we know the impact of them). We try to do as much PR work as possible because we feel that we have a product that consumers really benefit from, and luckily a number of personal finance and tech journalists seem to agree. We also do a reasonable amount of online advertising and some face-to-face things like leaflet drops – sometimes the low-fi approach works!!
We are also working on competitions – we recently launched a campaign and accompanying competition to win a prize worth €292 – that’s the average annual savings that a person makes when switching networks. We have been prompting people via daily ideas for what you could do with €292, things like fly to Barcelona and back three times, have 64 pints of beer, bring a bunch of friends to Wimbledon etc. If you make a suggestion and we like it, we will give you that prize!
KillBiller first released on Android before launching on iOS this year. Why did you choose to begin on Android, and how does your experience on the two app stores compare?
We focused on Android first really as the barrier was lower. The iPhone version was going to take a bit longer so we went with an MVP approach and went Android only. This meant that we wouldn’t end up spending development time on something that nobody wanted. Thankfully people did take to the app and we ended up having well over a thousand people request to be notified when the iPhone version was released.
Android is a bit of an easier experience for development as you can launch whenever you like. With iPhone, the review process adds a few days to each release. We have just launched support for prepay plans and we would have launched it a week or so earlier had it not been for the mandatory Apple delay!!
Before the iPhone app was even released you knew what was needed on its first update. What can you say about releasing updates early and frequently instead of waiting while you develop something else?
It is really hard to ship something when you know you want to add something else to it. We are all really proud of the apps that we put out and we want them to be perfect. We always have the battle of saying “oh, but if we wait just one week longer we can have this cool feature in there”.
Once the functionality works well though, shipping early is almost always the right decision as you get feedback earlier and get to put it in the hands of real people.
What's next for KillBiller?
We have just launched support for prepay plans in the app, which was something we had wanted to add for a long time and are really excited about. Next up is to move to other markets – we built the technology to be as transferrable as possible, so we will be working on doing that as soon as we can!
Before, we let you go where can our startup community find you online?
The easiest way is through email on firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the feedback form on www.killbiller.com. I tweet via @high_tower_man also. Always happy to hear from others in the startup community!
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Mark is a current journalism student in DCU and has covered a range of topics across print and radio. Having taken a class on entrepreneurship, he found startups were the most exciting thing happening in Ireland and developed a keen interest in them. Apart from technology, Mark has a love for biographies and Woody Allen films. You can contact him on Twitter or LinkedIn.