14 November 2012-Reading time : 5min

Startup Interview – Tapestry

Tapestry is a small company with the big vision of enriching the lives of seniors across the world, by helping them stay connected to their families, their friends and the communities around them.

The Tapestry website

 

Hi Andrew, can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Sure, although I’ve been around so long that my career is a little hard to categorize. I started out in technology, studying engineering & computer science at Sydney University. I did some electronics early in my career but very quickly moved into software, where I discovered I had a real love of user interfaces and user experience, and spent several years working on the technology side in this area. As my career developed I moved into senior management, with my last “proper” job prior to launching Tapestry being Director of Engineering & Technology at Honeywell – by which time I don’t think I had written a line of code in about ten years! It wasn’t quite a standard big-company career, however, as my habit of trying to do things differently from everyone else meant I took some big chunks out of that time to travel and write books about my adventures in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which have been published in the US, UK, Australia and even translated into German by National Geographic. It wasn’t until I founded Tapestry that I was somehow able to combine the two parts of my career – creative and technical – into a single job that now keeps me endlessly entertained!

Where does your initial idea come from? How did you come up with this project?

A few years ago I was studying an MBA in China at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. At one point we were looking at population demographics and some of the predictions we could make about economic change not only in China, but in all developed economies over the coming decades. It was pretty clear that the biggest challenge all of these countries face is the ageing population. It’s the biggest demographic trend in human history, and is going to transform industries, governments and societies over the coming decades. It wasn’t until I then encountered the field of social entrepreneurship, however, that the idea of Tapestry really clicked. Social entrepreneurship is a field in which companies aim not only to achieve financial sustainability, but also to fulfil a social mission. I had spent pretty much my whole life making products which make the world a better place, so this seemed like the best idea I had ever heard. I proceeded to complete my Master’s thesis on social entrepreneurship and founded Tapestry a few months later.

What is Tapestry’s clients promise? Who is your solution intended for?

Tapestry is a small company with the big vision of enriching the lives of seniors across the world, by helping them stay connected to their families, their friends and the communities around them. Our users are generally grandparents or parents who find themselves being left behind by constantly changing technologies, and as a result are not as connected to their children’s lives as they would like to be.

How many staff does the Tapestry team currently have?

We’ve got five staff: one designer, one front-end developer, one Ruby on Rails developer, one Android/mobile developer, and myself.

Is the Tapestry solution a lot different from what you were initially thinking of?

The details are constantly changing, but the core concept is still pretty constant. In the beginning we thought that younger family members wouldn’t want to use the product for themselves, so we focused primarily on our senior users. It turns out that families want to be able to collaborate and share in ways that are different from what’s currently offered by existing platforms. So we’re now building in some of those features.

How has been technically developed your solution?

Our back-end runs on Ruby on Rails, our web front-end has a combination of backbone.js and bootstrap, and of course we also have our Android tablet software which is written in Java.

The Tapestry Tablet

 

Can you quickly introduce us your business model?

We provide the Tapestry service as a paid subscription for Tapestry “Simplicity” accounts (free for family members). We also sell the Tapestry tablet direct to customers.

So far, what has been the hardest hurdle to step over for you?

I think raising capital is the hardest, because the outcome is so uncertain, and it’s such a binary outcome. The product development always throws up challenges, and we’re always learning about things we should have done better, but they are always much more in our control.

How do you plan to get your project growing in the next few years? What are you expecting for Tapestry in your wildest dreams?

We’ll be growing our customer base here in Australia over the next six months, with a view to raising capital for international expansion late next year. Wildest dreams? That we’re going to be one of Australia’s favorite success stories, of course!

Thank you Andrew and all the best for Tapestry!

And to discover what Tapestry is really about, make sure to visit the Tapestry website

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