We meet London-based Rytis Vitkauskas
From Stephen Fry to Ashton Kutcher, London-based start-up YPlan is helping many Londoners and A–listers answer the “What are you doing tonight” question.
Launched in 2012 by ex-investment bankers Rytis Vitkauskas and Viktoras Jucikas, Yplan is a free app that suggests gigs, screenings, et al, that Londoners can attend on the day – think Lastminute.com for events.
Yplan is based in King’s Cross and employs 30 people. It got quite a lot of attention early this year for setting up a pop-up ‘Vegas’ chapel offering free weddings in Shoreditch. (Yes, there was an Elvis Presley to solemnise ceremonies.)
Back in May, Yplan got £7.9m ($12m) in Series A funding, £7.9m ($12m) funding round, led by General Catalyst Partners (the US venture capital firm that’s invested in Kayak and Airbnb), its existing institutional backers Octopus Investments, and Hailo and Spotify backers Wellington Partners. And of course, Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher chipped in with his venture capital fund A-Grade Investments.
Vitkauskas thinks that YPlan could become one of London’s first billion-dollar tech companies. How will that happen? We ask him.
Q. Hi Rytis! How did you come up with the idea?
After we quit our jobs, Viktor and I spent half a year looking at the big ideas and trends dominating London and how they impacted people. Seeing how the world is increasingly going mobile and people are using it to socialise, we saw that there was a great opportunity in the mobile entertainment space. That was one of the 50 odd ideas that we were considering.
We were hanging out in San Francisco in late 2011 and after a long day of readings and work, we thought we want to do something cool for the night. So we starting googling to find concerts, plays, et al, but couldn’t really find anything. So after one hour we left in dismay because there was no service that would allow us to find last minute tickets. So we thought that this would be a good opportunity to explore so we added it to our list.
Q. Where did you get the first funding from?
We got £1.06m seed funding from Wellington Partners and Octopus Investments to get us off the ground. Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and Booking.com founder Andrew Phillipps are also supporting the business.
Q. Great! So how did you get the word out for Yplan?
The first thing we did was to approach YPlan as a brand and not just an app. So we make sure the booking process seamless, the customer support and we also make sure that the product lends itself to being shared. The absolute majority of publicity came from word of mouth. In fact, more than 10% of London’s 1.8m iPhone users since its launch last November.
Also, we care about a brand a lot. Ninety-three per cent of our reviews on the App store are five-star reviews.
It helps that celebrities like Stephen Fry and Brent Hoberman have tweeted about the app but the effect last only for a couple of hours and then it fizzles out.
Q. How did you get Ashton Kutcher interested?
We met at an event in Los Angeles and stayed in touch. As it happens, some of our investors are close to Ashton as well when we first started out. One day in London he tried YPlan when going out one night and he loved the entire experience. He saw the opportunity and decided to invest in it.
Q. What do you plan to do with the new round of funding?
We’ll use the funding to expand the app beyond London and also to help us to launch on different platforms like Android and the iPad app. Also, we’re planning to roll out YPlan in New York, LA, Chicago, Boston are in Berlin Barcelona and Madrid among other cities.
Q. Which other tech company should we watch out for?
I am friends and think very highly of Hailo and its founder Jay Bregman. The way they think about products and innovation will definitely make them a billion dollar business out of London.
Q. What’s the big future plan?
YPlan will always be a mobile only proposition and we have a challenge of cracking mobile commerce like no one else has. We believe that within the next couple of years, more than half of ecommerce will come from people’s mobile phones.
Also, I absolutely believe that we have the potential to be a billion dollar business. There’s a long way to get there so we’re keeping our head down to achieve that.
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