When Nick Katz started our part-time Digital Marketing course in London, he immediately became immersed in the network of GA students that would go on to become his co-founders. After completing the course, Katz teamed up with fellow graduates to create an app, Splittable, to help anyone who lives with housemates and has shared expenses.
Splittable launched in the summer of 2015 and the team has now closed their first, seed investment round from some of London’s leading tech VCs and angels, including Seedcamp, Playfair Capital, and Lord David Young. They are also backed by the Mayor of London’s Co-Investment Fund.
“London’s tech and science sector is flourishing and the city is a hotbed of talented and ambitious people buzzing with exciting ideas who are setting up new companies in their droves,” said London Mayor, Boris Johnson. “I am delighted that the London Co-Investment Fund is helping companies like Splittable to make their ideas a reality and deliver jobs and growth for the capital.”
Earlier this year, General Assembly got to chat with Katz, the Chief Housemate at his company and talk about his predictions for the Splittable launch and how the team has evolved. The self-proclaimed “super fan” of GA has a lot coming up with the help of his company of nearly all GA graduates.
1. What brought you to GA? What course did you take?
I was already a massive fan; I’d convinced my former intern to take the Web Development Immersive, and my co-founder and CTO Vasanth Subramanian had taken the product management course. I knew I needed to beef up my digital marketing skills to help build a scalable consumer-facing business, and also got help for some of the funding from a government program called Growth Accelerator.
2. Your company has a huge potential to change the way people share apartments and houses. Tell us about Splittable and where the idea came from.
The specific instance that brought the need for a platform and an app to really solve this problem was with a mate in London and my now fiance when we lived in a flat together in Dalston in East London. We were tracking all our costs on a spreadsheet that he was managing and he was paying a few of the larger bills. He was on the hook for the rent and council tax while I was responsible for gas, electricity, and water. We would tally these things up, and settle up as and when we could, but it was such a pain we ended up waiting for the better part of 6 months to settle up.
We assumed he was doing a good job, but when it came to the end of the year, to our horror, we each owed him a tremendous amount of money for bills we hadn’t budgeted for, and he’d also slapped on all sorts of expenses for things like beers and nights out. We had completely different approaches to money, and it ended up ruining our friendship.
Going through the course, we were always reminded to go through the processes of customer development and empathetic imagination. When we went into the market to talk to people about their property problems, I was blown away by how many similar stories we heard about friends being broken up because of money issues, leases being broken and other deep frustrations. Once we’d had the idea validated by a ton of other people in the market, we went about building our product.
3. You have a few staff members that are GA-affiliated. What does it mean to have hired your team from a single place like GA?
I think the cool thing about GA is that the brand draws a certain type of crowd, as does the style of education. The people that go to learn at GA go there because, they WANT to learn. Taking classes at General Assembly is not the norm just yet, but what you find is a super high caliber of individuals who really want to better themselves in a specific area of expertise or are committed to switching career.
GA pulls together communities of true startup minds, and while some people go on to get high-paying jobs at big corporates or go and start their own business, these people are all entrepreneurial, intellectual, social and the type of people that you WANT to have on your team.
4. What have you learned about yourself over the past year?
Whew, what haven’t I learned! I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to have the confidence to admit what you don’t know, and the commitment it takes to do something about it. I might not be the best marketer in the world, but I think I’m becoming a great leader—I recognized where my own skills needed tightening, so I went and improved them.
5. What are your goals for Splittable?
First and foremost, we want to have the happiest and most satisfied customers. We’re doing well there so far with all five-star reviews in the app stores and our users now helping to promote the app for us around the world to their friends. Our vision is to help young renters to become happier householders, preparing them to take their property journey on with confidence.