Q&A: App the smart solution to party-goers’ safety

This week we chat to brothers Jessy and Jade Mullholland, who have combined their experience – Jessy as a DJ and Jade as a full-stack coder – to provide an alternative solution to safety at festivals through their app start-up SearchParty.

ISB: What inspired you to set up and develop SearchParty?

Jessy: SearchParty evolved out of personal experience and frustration at constantly losing my mates at festivals. Initially, SearchParty was designed as a low-latency communication and navigation app – I wanted to make it possible to pinpoint a friend’s location on a map, so you didn’t have to rely on messaging platforms which often fail due to network congestion at festivals. It’s a universal problem, so I wanted to create a seamless solution.

User safety was our next big priority. Over the summer festival season, five people died from drug-related causes at music festivals in Australia. I wanted a way for users to attract and seek help when they needed it – whether because they are drug or alcohol-affected, suffering from heat stroke or dehydration, lost or feeling unsafe.

ISB: How did you fund the setting up of the business?

Jade: SearchParty is fully bootstrapped which has been somewhat challenging but we were committed to delivering. It’s also meant we’ve had to adopt a deliberately lean approach, which means kicking goals fast. Our focus was on building an MVP, iterating, then getting to market as quickly as possible. We outsourced development, which has enabled us to scale up in the short term without carrying ongoing overheads and staffing costs.

ISB: What have you found to be the benefits of siblings going into business together?

Jessy: The major benefit has been trust and honesty. You know you can rely on family and you know they’ll always tell you straight. Jade took my vision and turned it into a world-first app – we complement each other’s strengths.

ISB: And, conversely, what challenges has such an arrangement thrown up, and how did you overcome them?

Jessy: Challenges happen in business all the time, although challenges with family and loved ones are a whole different ball game. We overcome these issues by being open with each other and making sure that we’re both comfortable with all major business decisions.

ISB: How do you see practical technology, such as that your app offers, making more of an impact in real life in the years to come?

Jade: Smartphones are getting smarter and better every year. The features and functionality that each interaction offers are growing. Smartphones offer us a base to develop or create practical applications that can help people in daily life. Augmented reality will be a huge part in everyday life in the coming years, so we’re hoping to adopt such technology within SearchParty this year.

ISB: And finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

Jade: Validate your idea before spending money on development. Creating an app is an expensive and lengthy process. If you do not validate your idea then you may over capitalise and create a product that no one wants or needs. Validating can be as simple as asking people on the street if they would use it. Do not ask friends and family since they’ll be kind to support you – you need objective, gritty honesty. Also, validate the monetisation strategy of your application. You can have the best idea in the world, but it may never make any money.

And, keep innovating. Setting up a business is the easy part – the difficult part is continuing to innovate to stay relevant. Companies that fail to keep up with market trends become stale and eventually their user base declines and transfers to another product that understood what people want. A perfect example here is Myspace and Facebook, or Blockbuster and Netflix.

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