On the up · 12 January 2018

A Drake and Rihanna chart battle brewed business confidence in Snoozle founder

Snoozle CEO and co-founder Phil Neale
Snoozle CEO and co-founder Phil Neale

In 2015, Phil and Dan Neale were busy preparing for the final of ITV show Britain’s Got Talent, before gatecrashing the UK Singles Chart the following year. Behind the scenes, the musical duo were already building their social alarm clock app, Snoozle.

Now with eyes set firmly on making Snoozle a success, the Neale brothers are welcoming feedback from early adopters around the world via the app’s Beta version.

Snoozle lets users create and send voice messages which play at the time their friends have set their own alarm. The business cleared its six-figure crowdfunding target in just nine hours.

Before the product is fully monetised in 2019 through advertising and subscription revenue, Business Advice sat down with co-founder and CEO, Phil Neale, to hear more about product development and the crowdfunding record breaker.

  1. Who are you and what is your business?

I’m Phil Neale, CEO of Snoozle. Those with a good memory might remember me from Britain’s Got Talent 2015, when I made it to the live final as frontman of The Neales, alongside my brother (and Snoozle co-founder) Dan.

A year later we found ourselves sandwiched between Rihanna and Drake at number six in the Official UK Singles Charts. Given that we were unsigned and just three brothers and our Dad, I think that qualifies as disruption.

Whilst breaking into the charts as a one-hit-wonder doesn’t quite qualify as “success”, it gave us a lot of confidence to take on the big boys of tech.

Snoozle is the social alarm clock that swaps your alarm tone for an audio news feed tailored to you. Our product is a voice-focused mobile app that allows you to wake up to different content every day.

  1. What was the inspiration behind Snoozle?

Like most people, I hated the moment my alarm went off in the morning. Waking up is one of the few things that every single human does, every single day, and yet so many of us hate the experience. Snoozle exists to make those first few minutes of your day better.

The idea itself started materialising whilst I was at university. The day before an exam my girlfriend at the time sent me a voice message reminding me about a key fact for the next day’s exam. I’d manually set that MP3 as my alarm tone and found that waking up to a genuine voice delivering different content in the morning was a much more pleasurable and fun way to get a head start on an important day.

Snoozle co-founders Phil and Dan Neale
Co-founders Phil and Dan Neale were already developing Snoozle during their television spell
  1. What have been the biggest challenges in developing the app?

The biggest challenge we have faced has been not having tech in-house. Our agency was great and always went above and beyond for us, but naturally it’s costly and most of all, it slows you down. With tech out-sourced, it’s much more difficult to test, learn and iterate quickly.

  1. What kind of response have you had so far from the Beta version?

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman once said: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first release then you’ve released too late.” I have to agree. It can feel uncomfortable putting a Beta out there that you feel isn’t perfect, but it’s vital to do so.

There is a danger, when the only feedback you hear is from friends, family and sales people, that it’s all positive, because people are inherently nice and don’t want to rip apart your dream.

But our favourite bits of feedback from further afield include:

  • A woman in Utah having so much fun using Snoozle with her friends that she sent through a five-page UX takedown on how we can improve the product
  • A young man during his revision period describing his Snoozle alarm clock as “a mini motivational speech every morning”
  1. Can you tell us about your crowdfunding experiences?

We crowdfunded in October 2017, raising more than our £100,000 target within nine hours of going live (which we’ve been told is a record). We went on Seedrs and our speed of raise made us the number one investment opportunity on the site (which in turn led to even more interest).

I think key to this was complete and utter, self-aware honesty in our video and business plan. We believe Snoozle has a great future, and so we never needed to sell; we just wanted to tell people of the opportunity. Thankfully, people loved it.

But we were, and are, always keen to avoid the trap of overstating our progress, overselling our numbers and over-valuing our business – that kind of behaviour will always lead to issues down the line.

  1. Have you had any setbacks so far with the business?

Snoozle
Snoozle will allow content creators and influence to reach their own communities in a new way

We’ve had our frustrations and at times haven’t been able to move as fast as we’d like. Since we started, we’ve also had two of the world’s largest companies (Amazon and Google) focus TV adverts onto voice-based morning routines, and we have seen both release connected alarm clock products.

We don’t see these sort of things as setbacks, but proof of the market we set out to create. It’s all part and parcel of business, and it motivates us to move faster. I firmly believe we are in complete control of whether Snoozle succeeds or not, whatever we come up against.

  1. Can you explain some of your product development plans, and how you are looking to tap into smart devices?

From speaking in schools with students, we know there’s a huge problem with young people going to bed and streaming blue light from their devices into their eyes that disrupts the production of melatonin (which regulates sleep).

We’re really excited about testing Snoozle Lullabies – longer form audio content to help users drift off to sleep. Snoozle is built to be fun, but it’s important to us that we do some good with it and promote a healthy sleep routine too.

Smart speakers present a growing opportunity for Snoozle to deliver morning content, and we’re confident that a mobile device (be that a smartphone or smartwatch) will always be pivotal for the voice messages our users are creating and sending throughout the day.

  1. How do you plan on collaborating with influencers and creators?

This is a really exciting element of our business. Snoozle allows influencers and content creators to wake up their fans in a better and more meaningful way, adding value to their audience at a point in the day that is currently under-utilised.

Through my experience in music and TV, I’ve grown increasingly impressed with many influencers who are able to rapidly scale their own followings through content, persistence and continual learning of what works best to showcase their talent or personality.

The best ones, like Samantha Harvey (who has helped us along the way as we’ve developed the concept), constantly find new ways of leveraging different platforms to add value for their fans, which grows their own brand whilst improving the overall experience of the platform.

Find out how Channel 4 Posh Pawn star James Constantinou used his TV presence to grow a business empire

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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