What made you start your business?
Silver Sharers sprung out of my own lived experience. I was sharing a flat with a man of a similar age to myself (I’m in my 50s) and my partner, aged 63, was looking for a place to live. He had recently closed his business and was transitioning his career to being a freelance project manager and, as a result, didn’t have the credit history to rent his own place. I suggested trying to find shared accommodation and it was while helping him to do so that I realised how challenging it can be as an older person to find this type of place in which to live. I decided to spend more time researching this problem and discovered many more people of my age living with others in this way.
I wanted to help older people find compatible people with whom to live and avoid them having to waste time trawling through websites to find home sharers which had clearly been aimed at much younger people. As an older person myself, I understood that our requirements are much different from sharing when younger, often living with others for longer than we might when sharing may be a precursor to living with a partner.
What do you find challenging?
My co-founder Steve and I made the decision when we started to go down the ‘Lean Startup’ route, building our MVP (minimum viable product) using off the shelf technology. It’s very hand-cranked, each step of the way and that has been both beneficial in terms of getting to really understand our customer’s pain points but also time-consuming. COVID-19 and lockdown arrived just at a time we were starting to see exponential growth so we used the time, that otherwise, we would have used to onboard new customers, for customer research. Thankfully, at that point, we had just been accepted onto a tech-for-good programme with Bethnal Green Ventures that came with some funding so that was a big help to us.
What do you love about it?
We’re aiming to solve a big and complex problem which, once we crack it, can contribute to one way of helping older people remain in their homes, rather than downsize and potentially provide a form of affordable accommodation to the millions who have been priced out of the housing market. It’s not trivial or lightweight and that’s what makes working on the business so exciting.
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What tips and tricks have you found that really help you?
My co-founder and I are based in separate locations – he’s in Newcastle and I’m in London. Even before lockdown, we were both home-based, so we’re used to the discipline that’s required to work from home successfully. We couldn’t get by without Slack, which we use to communicate and separate the different aspects of the business. I started a Facebook group three years ago tied to a non-profit I run on the side called Advantages of Age, now over 3.5k members. They have been a great help in kickstarting the business, spreading the word and being supportive of what we’re doing.
How does using the Asto app help you?
It’s transformed the way I conduct my personal finance. Running an early-stage startup, I’ve had to juggle multiple projects to supplement my income that includes hosting events for the Soho House group, copywriting, and jazz singing. The Asto app makes it super easy for me to invoice, to know how much I’ve earned, and when I’m due to be paid.