A Q&A with Tapestry founder and CEO Andrew Dowling. The Ultimo, Austrailia–based company was founded in 2010 and closed a $600K Seed funding round in mid-November from the Sydney Angels.
SUB: Please describe Tapestry and your value proposition.
Dowling: Tapestry is the easiest way to stay connected to your family without needing to worry about technology.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Dowling: I don’t want to give too much away, but we’ve got some very exciting plans for how we expand our offering to multiple platforms and add a range of really interesting capabilities. Stay tuned. Our primary users are seniors and their families, as well as the communities in which they live, such as retirement villages.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Dowling: We take a pretty broad view of what ‘competition’ means, so for us this includes any of the alternatives that people currently use to communicate with their family. But what’s unusual about Tapestry is that we’re not out to replace these competing products, but to make it easier for families who use them to make sure that everyone in the family gets included. Many seniors, for example, don’t like the idea of using Facebook because of privacy concerns—we let the rest of the family continue to use Facebook, but to include their senior family members in what they’re doing.
SUB: What differentiates Tapestry from the competition?
Dowling: A couple of things make us unique. One is the way we allow senior users to connect to their family without needing to sign up for multiple different services—Tapestry does it all for them. But the other is the way we integrate this with the Tapestry tablet to provide the simplest way for someone to get the benefits of today’s technology.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Dowling: We’ve been around since late 2010. When we first started we were working on producing our own custom-built tablet device, which could meet the technology needs of anyone who wanted the technology in their lives to be simpler.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Tapestry? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Dowling: A little bit of both, actually. My career has always been in technology, and a few years ago I did a master’s thesis on social entrepreneurship—sustainable businesses that fill a social need. I was very inspired by this idea so I started looking at various social needs. When I stumbled across some of the statistics about social isolation in seniors, that was the ‘aha’ moment. One in ten seniors say they often or always feel lonely, and that the TV is their main form of companionship. I knew that there was something we could do about this.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Dowling: Names for startups are a tricky business—it’s really tough to find a domain name these days. That’s why many companies end up with weird sounding, or strangely-spelled names. When you talk to many seniors they find these names strange and alienating, so we knew we needed a name that was easy to relate to, and had really positive connotations. The idea of the ‘family tapestry’ was something that many seniors could relate to—so we thought it was the perfect name for a business like ours.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Dowling: I think the thing that surprised me most was how difficult it is to find employees who are really suited to working in a startup. Working in a startup is not a normal job—you need to be able to deal with high levels of uncertainty, are passionate about what you do, and are able to wear many hats—and do a great job on each of them. People like this are hard to find. But they do exist—and I’m happy to say we’ve now got a fantastic team and are really excited about what we’re working to create.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Dowling: Tapestry generates revenue through subscription fees from our users.
SUB: You just raised $600K in Seed funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Dowling: We’ve got a bunch of plans for the product itself, as well as marketing and supporting our growth as we roll out the product here and internationally.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Dowling: Raising capital is always difficult, and that’s certainly true now more than ever. But I actually think this is a good thing as it means you can’t just raise money off the back of a PowerPoint deck anymore. You really need to prove there is a market for your product before investors are going to be interested, and that’s good not just for investors, but good for startups themselves.
Tapestry – www.tapestry.net