Your reputation. Your reward — Reputationaire

Meet Andrew Hine, Co-Founder of Reputationaire. An innovative online platform with a mission is a future where trust is easy to prove, enabling strangers to trust each other and interact with confidence. We recently sat down with Andrew to hear about his entrepreneurial journey.

What is the name of your business and what do you do?

Our business is called Reputationaire – we allow our users to provide proof of ownership over the ratings and reviews they’ve built on almost any website, and then organisations can request access to this data. This allows them to save time and money during application processes.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
The idea came from when my life partner, co-founder, and CTO, Dee migrated to Australia from India two and a half years ago. She had a permanent residency and a job lined up as a manager at Redbubble. She had booked an Airbnb, thinking she’d need it for about a week whilst she looked for permanent accommodation in the CBD. Unfortunately, she kept getting rejected for her rentals because she had no rental references in Australia, her Indian references weren’t accepted. After six weeks the Airbnb was getting pretty expensive, she was thinking “I can get any Airbnb I like because I’m a good guest, what’s the difference between that and a normal rental?” She decided she could use that to prove she was a reliable, clean and rent-paying tenant. She actually printed out those reviews and gave that to the estate agent, which helped her finally secure a rental. That’s how the idea was born.
How did you turn your initial idea into a business?
I’ve always been interested in the idea of reputation, I used to be the UK’s largest online ant supplier. I used to sell them on eBay – before they banned live animal sales. My rating was obviously super important because that’s the first thing customers look at. I was also a private tutor, so all my student testimonials were very important in terms of building trust in me because obviously, parents are sending their kids to someone who is essentially a stranger. Needless to say, I’d always realised the inherent value of reputation, but it had always been locked away in that certain domain and wasn’t really applicable across the board.
I started looking at blockchain at the start of 2017 and realised that that was finally a way to give people proof of ownership of their ratings and reviews. Much like Bitcoin, users of Reputationaire have a private key which they can selectively use to give people access to information. It allows you to prove you are skilled, reliable and trustworthy.
What has been the biggest challenge so far in your business journey?
The biggest challenge has definitely been commercialisation. My co-founder and I are both tech founders, so building the blockchain product was the easy bit. We didn’t start very lean; we built the product but we kept it very generic on purpose. IBM awarded us $220,000 in service credits to help us build the product and we were also granted the government R&D incentive grant. Both being tech founders, determining the best product-market fit, in terms of which organisations and sectors would need this the most, has been a slow learning curve. If we did this interview about a year and a half ago, you wouldn’t be able to understand what our business was about. It’s taken a long time and a lot of different marketing courses and accelerators to be able to articulate our business and the benefits of what we’re doing.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received?
Really understanding who and which sector your product or service will have the biggest value add for. You need to figure out how to target your product towards their pain points. I’m not great at sales but I’ve learned that when you go into a sales meeting, it’s best to let the other person do all the talking. You can then go away and think about what they’ve said and return with a customised solution – don’t try to problem solve or even sell your product within the meeting.
What are your top tips for starting a business?
  1. Build something people want. We didn’t take the lean approach, which in hindsight could have been a mistake, but I was pretty confident with this general concept.
  2. Sell it before you’ve built it.
  3. Ask yourself who your product would best service and speak to them as soon as possible to validate the idea.
  4. Launch early. Don’t spend a long time building the product, because you may build something no one actually wants, which happened to us in a way. We’d sold the product then had to add features in two days to meet the customer’s needs.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset?
Yes. I used to sell ants and I also had a web development company. After university, I built a content management system which was a bit like WordPress before it existed. I used that to build my own websites for clients back in London. My platform was created two years before Weebly; I could have released it into the public domain and allowed people to build their own websites but I didn’t because I was nervous about product quality. In retrospect, I should have just released it and seen what happened. After that, I also built e-commerce sites as side hobbies.
My life mantra is to make a significant improvement to the world that I can be remembered for. I’m hoping that by allowing people to prove that they are skilled, reliable and trustworthy through Reputationaire, we can make a positive impact on people’s lives – which is why we’re doing it.
Have you had business mentors?
When I was running the web development company, I don’t think I even knew what the word startup meant. With Reputationaire, we have a strong board of advisors, including the co-founder of 1Form, who sold their free online rental & tenancy application form to REA group. We also have John Williams, the co-founder of Culture Amp, which is a company that focuses on measuring employee happiness. It’s related to what we do because we’re also trying to help organisations increase their diversity and inclusion by allowing them to employ people they normally wouldn’t through conventional reference checks.
We currently have a strong board of advisors. It’s great to have mentors but you’ve got to be careful about having too many. Everyone has conflicting advice which can be quite confusing, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to take all the advice and decide what you’re going to go with. It’s definitely worth seeking advice; it’s great to meet people who have been successful in the past who believe in what you’re doing and want to see you succeed. It’s also a great way to get to know their networks. Most of our clients have come from referrals from our advisors – obviously, a warm introduction is best when you’re new and people don’t know who you are.
How did you hear about Activator?
We know Brian from Brandollo (LaunchHUB alumni). We met at a pitching competition a year ago – he came first and we came third – and kept in touch. He told me about Activator and said that it was a great experience so we applied.
What has been the best part of your journey at Activator so far?
I think the individual attention and support from the mentors – we’ve done a blockchain incubator, Y Combinator Startup school and lots of other LaunchVic courses but none of those had the level of attention Activator provides. Adding to that, the attention and support from Matt and Dave and having them really understand our business has been second to none.
Five people (dead or alive) you’d love to have dinner with?
Albert Einstein, I don’t get how he was so smart. Also Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Elon Musk and maybe someone crazy just to make it a bit more fun, Arnold Schwarzenegger –  just to mix it up!
What does 2019 hold for Reputationaire?
Working with Matt we’ve realised we need to focus on finding our real niche in the market, and how we can create the biggest value add for organisations. We’ve also realised that we need a large volume recruiter. We were recently chatting to the company that supplies people for the Australian Open, so we’re hopeful that we can get a partnership with one of those and run a project that will bring significant users to our platform and increase brand recognition for us – that’s what we’re aiming for this year.

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