Craig Davies, Stephen Powell and Craig Gidley are the Founders of Viper, a nightlife app that allows users to browse and book exclusive drinks packages, VIP tables, and queue jump at Manchester’s top bars and clubs.
“As long as you are willing to learn, listen to and act upon advice, and be ready to change direction when needed, we think you can’t go far wrong.”
The three founders of Viper are Manchester-based marketing/communications professionals with big brand experience at the likes of Manchester United, Genting Casinos, Everton Football Club, Team GB, PZ Cussons & John West. Despite being very passionate about their professions, the trio of best friends always discussed creating a business together. They wanted to do something they loved and when deciding to take the leap with Viper, they found a gap in the market with nothing currently offering bar-goers and businesses the kind of stress-free nightlife service that Viper does. Before Viper, often the only way to get VIP deals in the best clubs was by ‘knowing someone’. With Viper, users can browse through dozens of bars and clubs, book tables or packages, and enjoy an unforgettable night seamlessly whilst feeling like a VIP.
What makes Manchester a great place to start a business?
The amazing thing about Manchester is the huge support network it provides to people looking to set up a business. Because the city is one big community, we have been supported every step of the way, whether that’s CEOs of huge businesses providing nuggets of advice and guidance, or even friends and supporters providing introductions to key people that can help our business thrive. From a tech perspective, Manchester is ever-expanding and is really thriving when it comes to the tech community and businesses in general. Not too long ago Manchester was ranked first in the top-10 of cities to do business – ahead of Paris, Berlin and Rome. We’re also very lucky to live in Manchester and have a good knowledge of Manchester nightlife industry which is flourishing. With no restrictions on how many bars, clubs and restaurants can be introduced to the city, it has been the perfect place for us to test the market with Viper.
What makes a great startup in 2018?
In 2018, we think startups need to have a strong understanding of their audience, have a great brand marketing strategy, and not be afraid to take (calculated) risks. When we launched the app in September, we could have spent another six months trying to perfect it, but we knew that the sooner we got the app live, the sooner we would be able to get feedback from live users. In the eight months since launching, we have been consistently adding and removing elements of the app to get to a point where we feel we have created the perfect user journey for customers looking to plan the best night out! We also think that team dynamics are central to the success or failure of a startup. For us three, as startup founders, our company is our life. It’s in our minds almost 24/7 and despite the inevitable ups and downs, we’re extremely focused on achieving our objectives – no matter how big or small. We’re three friends so bounce off each other constantly and we’re lucky to be able to do that.
What inspired you to start the business?
We were actually on a night out in a taxi from the Northern Quarter to Spinningfields knowing we were three lads with a bit of money to spend but no real way, at that time, of letting the bar know what we were willing to spend. Without trying to get in touch with the bar through social media or by phoning the bar well in advance, we’d have to go and face the door staff and try our luck. We immediately realised that if we could make that link easier for bars to know who was coming to the bar and when they would arrive as well as knowing what they wanted to buy, we could create something special and support the bar industry by using tech to help them become more efficient. Once we’d sobered up the following morning, ‘Viper’ was born. We’ve noticed there isn’t really anyone solving this problem in a meaningful way by leveraging technology and that’s inspired us to drive the business forward.
What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
We feel there is nothing coming close to what we are offering, and our links to the best bars in Manchester ensures users have unrivalled access to exclusive upgrades during their night out. Whether customers need to find the best bars, have drinks ready on arrival, find which bars have VIP booths available or simply need a queue jump, Viper lets them do this from the palm of their hand. Viper’s top priority is to ensure only the top standard of bars in Manchester are available on the app and the likes of Impossible, The Living Room, Dirty Martini, Revs De Cuba and Neighbourhood are just some of the first to realise the impact the app can have in the city. We want all night out goers to think about using Viper ahead of every night out – the same way they would think to use Uber for their taxis or Skyscanner to book a flight.
What surprised you the most when setting up your business?
The amount that we have had to learn in a very short time is probably the most surprising. We started the business thinking we knew everything we needed to know – but we quickly found that wasn’t the case. As long as you are willing to learn, listen to and act upon advice, and be ready to change direction when needed, we think you can’t go far wrong. One of the things that has surprised us most is the amount of moving parts that we need to keep control of even as a relatively small startup. It’s key to have a strong relationship with every bar on the app to ensure they are servicing customers requests quickly and efficiently, but at the same time, we have to work extremely hard to market the service to enough app customers to keep the bars mentally and financially invested. Once we have an initial critical mass of users, things will definitely get easier because when you’re discovering Viper from your friend, you’re much more likely to trust that brand and the product than if you just saw it on a Facebook mobile ad or a Google ad. For us, everything we do is to create a strong initial following and then grow from that.
What keeps you motivated?
We’re driven to achieve our vision of making Viper a global brand that makes night outs easier to arrange. Every day a new challenge is put in front of us, but we love every second of it. Without meaning to sound too cheesy, we are doing what we love and a lot of what we are doing doesn’t feel like work! All three of us have worked in marketing, branding and communications for ten years and while we have maintained very good job roles, the overall dream is to run our own, successful business.
How does your business help give back to Manchester?
Although Viper has recently expanded to Liverpool, Chester, Leeds and Sheffield – Manchester will always be Viper’s home. We’re making Manchester the base for the app and our roots will always be here. As the brand grows and becomes more well known throughout Manchester, opportunities to give back to the community have arisen along the way. An example of which being that we recently joined the charity Forever Manchester as ambassadors, where we have committed to raising money for local communities through Viper events and fundraising activities.
What are your business goals for the next 3 years?
Viper is completely self-funded by the co-founders and we are currently looking at potential investment opportunities to allow us to expand at an exponential rate. Our goal is to have a Viper presence in every major city in the UK but also expand internationally. Although we started as just a nightlife app, we are also quickly expanding to become a social media marketing and events support team for bars and clubs – just another way we can help add significant value to our partner bars.
Our first annual ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’ feature is our pick of the most inspiring startups and stepups in our city. If you’d like to be featured in 2019’s ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.