Intelligent algorithms create Confeti for the perfect wedding day
This month TGC’s Founder Feature is local entrepreneur Paul Carr creator of AI-powered, wedding website, Confeti. Using an integral search feature, similar to Airbnb, Paul is helping couples plan their perfect wedding day. The effective service-matching algorithm creates a seamless and extraordinary experience saving couples time and money as they prepare for their special event.
Paul’s background in strategic policy in the Premiers Department gave him a unique understanding of the startup space. It gave Paul an insight into the state of entrepreneurship in Queensland and also what was being done by foreign governments overseas. “It was such an awesome way to start my journey. It gave me a really good understanding about what was needed.”
Before starting Confeti Paul developed the idea of Zenue (Confeti’s sister site). “When you get an idea that’s almost impossible not to pursue that’s an indication to drop what you’re doing and start,” he says.
Zenue piggybacked off an idea similar to Airbnb except it focused on finding events in really cool venues throughout south-east Queensland. From warehouses to carparks, unused office spaces to architecture firms, Zenue created a collection of interesting spaces for distinctive functions.
As Zenue took off, it became apparent there was a huge opportunity in the wedding market.
There were many revenue opportunities to build something useful for our clients, “not only around the venues but also helping them find ancillary services like catering and photography that come after.”
The companies were split into two in 2017—Zenue focused on corporates, while Confeti focused on weddings. “When we were going down that path of weddings I became a pseudo wedding planner for one year. I got to know our customers really well and know their pain points.”
Paul found one of the biggest recurring problems was a huge disconnect between the inspiration stage and the time for couples to find wedding suppliers. Couples plan 90% of their wedding on Pinterest and Instagram, mapping out their journey, saving hundreds of images about what they want their wedding to look like. “They’ve got these saved boards and no actual way of connecting that visual element to real life—or to actual wedding suppliers who can turn their ideas into reality,” says Paul.
The little details help predict the big decisions
The Confeti concept was strengthened with machine learning. Users can be shown thousands of images from intricate details like the dress, flowers, and all of those finer elements to the larger wedding details like venues. When an image is liked or disliked that informs the next image to appear on the platform. “Visually there is the ability to predict the kind of wedding that person is looking for with a very good degree of accuracy. This allows couples to find a supplier matching their style and connects them with the right contacts.”
That’s exactly where machine learning comes into play.
Confeti learns what a person likes over time. The more the platform is used the greater degree of an accurate prediction. It’s the same way Netflix, Stan, AppleMusic and Spotify predict what customers like.
Discovering an accurate way to search
Paul believes the speed at which the tech industry is moving means the current way of using a search engine “is dying”, at least for some things. Google has been the most powerful search tool for so long.
However, to be able to search in Google you have to know what you’re searching for already. Most people don’t actually know what they’re looking for to start with.
For example, “In order to find a dress you already have to know what style of dress you want.” This is where this whole idea of a discovery engine comes in. “A discovery engine is something like Pinterest. “You go in there at a very cold basis and not have anything in mind in particular.” You then start saving things and liking things. Over time the engine not only learns what you like but will suggest 10 other things closely associated with your interests.
When you go down “this incredible rabbit hole you spend hours on the platform and end up with incredible things you didn’t know you were looking for.” Paul says, “That is what is taking over in this industry. In this world you won’t have to look for something—it will find you based on your actions on the internet.”
Learning your needs—so you don’t need to compromise
Confeti uses machine learning to narrow down the field in relation to amenities, budget, location, capacity and takes the same approach as a wedding planner. Confeti asks: How much do you care about this? Is it a must have or a nice to have? “It provides a result which is based on your criteria. From there you can decide if you want to compromise on the fact the venue doesn’t have a chapel on-site but has many other things.”
The wedding website has proved a huge hit with couples, “we’re getting amazing results from our users and we’re getting great feedback from people who are loving the platform,” says Paul.
We’re onto something pretty special. We want to link in with other ancillary services to make this whole process easier.
Turning big ideas into future tech
When beginning a startup one of the biggest turning points is when you get the freedom to properly focus on product. Paul says, “We were bootstrapping for so long and I had left my job which meant we needed to survive.” The team needed revenue to keep the business running. The tricky part is when focusing on making revenue there could be a lack of focus on the product. “Sometimes you’re just chasing the money,” says Paul.
Pitching in to find the right support
Enter a company like Pitchblak which helps Australian entrepreneurs get investment for their startup idea. Pitchblak works with lots of startups and also runs an online education course. Paul began working with them from 2015, “They worked with us on an individual level and the mentorship I received was invaluable.” Paul says, “When you come into this space you don’t even know which way is up. There are so many ways you can destroy your company before it even gets off the ground.” Without some kind of support network it’s no surprise so many people make so many mistakes in those first six to 12 months.
I’m so grateful I avoided so many big landmines based on their support. It is a huge win for Confeti.
Adrian Osman, Pitchblak’s CEO, has been on the startup journey with Paul since the beginning. “We always saw potential in Paul and knew he would succeed in executing this idea—he’s one of the most determined founders we’ve worked with. We helped him run validation experiments to prove that people actually wanted the idea. Once we had solid proof that this was a problem worth solving, Paul was able to secure his first round of investment.”
Validation in the pre-production stages
Adrian says, “We believe founders need hands-on support in the first 12-18 months of their startup journey. “We do this by running validation experiments and manual versions of their idea. We also help founders craft a compelling story to attract the investors they need to build their product and focus on their startup full-time.”
It’s crucial to get support at the idea stage because so much of the venture capital, funding and support is at the post-product stage. Paul says, “45% of companies fail” because they build a product with no market need. There needs to be proper validation for a product otherwise potential founders could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building it. Anything that can support that pre-product stage is going to be important.
Paul warns future founders to take early validation seriously otherwise valuable time and money could be wasted. “If you’re convincing yourself that there’s an attraction to your product it might take you two to three years of your life to fail.” The potential problem is without early validation, “you might take money from family and friends, or, take your cousin’s house deposit… There could be all kinds of irreversible damage that happens.”
Startups providing economic growth in Australia
Startups are incredibly important to Australia. There are large incumbent companies providing “close to a 0% job growth over a 10-year cycle. It’s already proven the single biggest contributor to new jobs is new companies,” says Paul. Companies employing the “most amount of people in the shortest amount of time are high growth tech startups.” They will be the biggest drivers of economic growth over the next ten years. Paul advises there should be more support to build a stronger startup ecosystem. “Anything helping the startup environment grow will be hugely beneficial to Australia.”
Little company name with a huge impact on weddings
Whether or not you have a budget for a Royal wedding or a small chic event, check out Paul’s latest company—nūdo. nūdo is an events company disrupting the wedding industry with thoughtfully crafted and scalable wedding and event packages.
We believe the cost of a modern day wedding is not only extremely over inflated but it’s also incredibly confusing to navigate for a newly engaged couple.
With a talented team on board with a decade of experience in weddings, events and cutting edge technology, nūdo curates ‘on trend’ wedding packages at a fraction of the cost of the traditional method. From the venue hire, to flowers and even the DJ, nūdo has everything planned. All couples need to decide is what to wear.
TGC hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s Founder Feature. Don’t forget our other articles including last month’s incredible story, on Chief Startup Evangelist and Techboard Co-Founder, Peter van Bruchem.