A few months ago I interviewed Matthew Webley, Founder of Wootzoo for an episode of the Wales in Tech podcast. Such is often the case in the startup world, while I was being tardy editing the episode, Matthew was busy growing and pivoting his business.
I stopped editing and let the dust settle. I didn't want to represent Wootzoo as something it isn't.
Matthew has kindly agreed to work with me again on this transcript instead. Not a podcast, but a long form interview. I think you'll enjoy it.
Rob: Hi Matthew, thank you for agreeing to do this again and sorry for my delay last time! Let's get started with the same basic five questions.
What's your company called and what does it do?
Matthew: It's called Wootzoo and essentially it's a booking, marketing and payments platform for nurseries, clubs and activities. It can be used by parents too to find suitable activities and childcare for their children in their area. And it’s not just for parents! We have classes for grown ups on there too!
Rob: Is it B2B or do you go direct to the consumer?
Matthew: It's B2B2C. We provide a service to businesses but also to the consumer.
Rob: Would you say you're an agency or 100% a SaaS business?
Matthew: Definitely SaaS
Rob: Have you received investment or are you bootstrapped?
Matthew: We are bootstrapped. I like the idea of staying bootstrapped too as, at least at the moment, I am trying to avoid that employee/employer dynamic.
Rob: Ha! That's interesting and it leads on to my next question, what did you do before or maybe what are you currently doing on the side?
Matthew: I'm a developer by trade. Before Wootzoo I helped set up an agency with a designer, Jon. And also a guy called Gweirydd, who was more of an ‘ops’ guy.. We were based in Cardiff and we worked together throughout COVID. Working as an agency was great fun, but I felt like I was employed again. Agency models can be rewarding but they also are a lot of work.
I eventually sold my share because I wanted to pursue something different - an idea I'd had for a while. That eventually became Wootzoo.
Rob: Wow, yes, I understand. I have worked in both an agency and at a company more focused on SaaS and both have their pros and cons. What's really nice about agencies is that you get paid for the work you are commissioned - you can budget a bit better as the projects start rolling in.
SaaS however, that's a bit more difficult. Sometimes you're building a fishing boat but don't know if there are any fish out at sea.
Is Wootzoo live now? Can people go and sign up?
Matthew: Absolutely - Almost all the bugs have been ironed out now, and we've improved it so much in recent months. We had our first client earlier in the year and now we're growing.
It's caused us to pivot slightly too - we seem to be quite popular with nurseries and children's clubs who want to use the platform to communicate with parents and also enable payments for certain things. My first client has been a great help and was very patient as we developed around her nursery.
Rob: So where did this idea come from in the first place?
Matthew: Well, it's a funny story really as it all started out when my partner was first pregnant, nine years ago. I thought it would be great if we had an app that could record things that happened during the pregnancy. After my first child was born, I thought it'd be good to be able to record things like feeds or naps that we could share between me and my partner. There were apps out there but they weren't doing what we wanted.
That idea then morphed when Luna, my daughter, went to nursery. Not many had apps back then. The idea grew to become a more formalised way of communicating between parents and the nursery, as well as accepting payments securely all in one place.
Rob: So that's when wootzoo was born?
Matthew: No. COVID happened and no one was going to nursery so we shelved the idea and started the agency instead. It wasn't until after COVID did I quit my job and decided to get this idea back off the shelf.
Rob: So where are we now? Can I use this app if I don't have a child in a nursery?
Matthew: Yes! So we're not just about nurseries. We also work with clubs, like sports clubs. Imagine that you have two children, one goes to ballet on Tuesday and piano lessons on Saturday. The other has rugby on Sunday and trumpet on Wednesday.
How do you keep track of all that, the payments, extra costs like uniform or outfits. How about photos from the club, shared with all parents. All that can be done in Wootzoo.
Rob: You mentioned earlier something about finding activities too? How does that work?
Matthew: Well you can also just go search for clubs and activities in your area who are signed up to Wootzoo. Obviously at the moment there aren't millions, but hopefully as we onboard new clubs, there'll be plenty to choose from. It's a bit like a hobby directory in that respect.
Rob: So are you doing this all yourself? I know you're a developer, but of course development is only one part of the puzzle.
Matthew: My ex colleague Jon is helped with the design. We recently rebranded and I really like what he's done. And my partner too - she's helping out where she can.
Rob: What about your go to market? Are you literally picking up the phone talking to potential clients or are you doing any content marketing, advertising, AdWords, anything like that?
Matthew: Right now no, just some direct contact. We're working on SEO all the time too. I aim to blog more and my partner Ali who knows a lot more about this stuff than me is working on some content marketing, lead magnets, etc.
Rob: What's your aim by the end of 2023 or within the next year?
Matthew: Ideally I'd like at least 100 businesses on there. I've worked out that will be the point where the business will sustain itself and I'll be able to continue working full time for the long term.
At the moment we are just UK but I hope in future we could branch out to European clubs and perhaps even the USA. That'd be amazing.
Rob: How are you going to get parents to sign up? Or is it a bit chicken and egg? You need to get the businesses on before the parents?
Matthew: Yes, I think we're going to concentrate on businesses. They can send a link to their membership for payments, etc, and of course then they'll have to sign up to Wootzoo. In the end the more people who are on there, the more easy it'll be for us to partner with new businesses.
Rob: Maybe you don't know, but my background is in languages and international expansion, but what's really interesting to me is, as a Welsh business, are you available in Welsh?
Matthew: Yes actually! I believe we are the only nursery app fully translated into Welsh.
Rob: That's really great! And hopefully you can add more languages in future... it's just a shame I don't run an agency any more to pitch to you!
How about dealing with parts of the business you're not so comfortable with? What's your plan there?
Matthew: I try to speak with people with more experience whenever I can. I have an accountant who occasionally helps with the financial stuff and I listen to a lot of podcasts - a lot! - and read a lot of books. I feel like perseverance is the most important here and I'm just going to keep learning and keep going.
Rob: Love a book recommendation! Which one has stood out to you?
Matthew: Traction by Gino Wickman
Rob: Will take a look! One of my faves continues to be Atomic Habits. The idea that if you just improve 1% a day or do 1 thing a day, at the end of the year, you've done a lot. I love that sentiment.
Matthew: Absolutely - I've heard that one before. I think I apply that to my work too, just a little app dev or a little work on the website. Eventually you get quite far.
Rob: Let's move on to Wales. There's been quite a lot of discussion on forums about there being fewer events than there used to be pre-COVID. Do you go to any?
Matthew: Actually, I used to go to quite a few. I think I saw you talk at Yolk Recruitment quite a few years ago now...
Rob: Oh! Wow, yes, like 7 years!
Matthew: I go to Product Tank. That's great. And I keep an eye out. They're a good way to connect with others and learn something.
Rob: How about Wales as a place to start a business. The UK is still one of the easiest places in the world to start a business, but how would you rate Wales and what the Welsh Government do to help?
Matthew: Yes, it was fairly simple to set up a limited company. I'm just not entirely sure that all the support is entirely useful. There's a scheme, a helpline, that wasn't so useful from a tech business perspective. I felt like perhaps it would be more helpful for a bricks and mortar business.
Then there's a few programmes I've seen over the years. They felt a little bit more like PR than anything substantial.
Rob: So you think more could still be done?
Matthew: Yes, probably.
Rob: Ok, let's say you're talking to someone who has never done anything before. You've run an agency and now a SaaS startup, what would your advice to them be?
Matthew: Don't be scared, give it a go. Don't listen to people that say you can't do it, sometimes it feels easier to not do it, but persevere.
Rob: What about people who get comfortable with a salary? I can appreciate later on in life you may have more bills or responsibilities. Would you have been able to start this business if you hadn't if you hadn't got a pay out from your last agency?
Matthew: What I would have done, I would probably have freelanced on the side while doing this. To be honest, I wish I could have got into business earlier. I feel like "how to do business" is one of those things you have to experience to learn well.
Rob: Ok, last question, what's your next steps with the business?
Matthew: We're working on the rebrand still... but I'm working mostly on features. Our clients are asking for certain things, so I'm building them. I want to make sure it remains useful and easy to use for our existing clients and to attract new ones.
Rob: Great! Sounds like quite the journey so far. Thank you for taking part in this interview and I hope we can sit down together next time on video to get an update on your business in a few months time.
Matthew: Thanks Rob! All the best.