My third Launchpad interview is with Rob Hinchcliffe, European Community Manager at Qype.co.uk, my favourite crowd-powered reviews site. Qype isn’t one of those websites that gets a lot so attention from the social media in-crowd, but with over a million members across the web and mobile and 15 million users per month, it’s definitely worth a look.
Qype started life in 2005 as the brainchild of Stephan Uhrenbacher, from Hamburg Germany. Since then over 3 million reviews have been written about pubs, restaurants, hotels and all manner of things across 15,000 cities worldwide.
Who owns Qype?
“As the founder Stephan owns part of the company, alongside the venture capital firms Advent Venture Partners, Partech International, and Wellington Partners.”
What is Qype?
“Qype is a people-powered reviews and recommendations site. Through Qype you can discover the best places around you, and share your favourite spots with your network.”
What’s different about Qype?
“All the content on Qype comes from our users. Through Qype you can get access to millions of reviews, tips, and recommendations, wherever you are. We can also deliver personalised recommendations to you based on the likes and dislikes of you and your network. The information you can take from Qype is becoming more and more targeted and personalised.”
What’s your role at Qype?
“I manage our community management team across Europe. So I’m a community manager manager, if you like.”
Community managers didn’t exist 10 years ago – what advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this area?
“Talk to other community managers. There are plenty of sites (like e-mint.org.uk), and events out there that give you the opportunity to people who are already doing it who are more than happy to give you advice. Also, the CM role changes from organisation to organisation, and industry to industry so there’s no hard and fast rules about ‘what it takes’, so go with what you know and pick your niche.”
Why did you do before joining Qype?
“I worked at Yahoo. I edited their UK news site, and also did some community management work on a few projects. Before that I founded and edited the blog Londonist.com.”
How did you build up your community on Qype?
“We’re lucky at Qype in that the site has a very real connection to ‘real life’. It’s about going out, discovering places, and sharing those places with your friends. We also work really closely with business owners to educate them about how Qype works (so we have two communities really: the reviewers and the business owners). This means we get to bring our users and and businesses together through fun, exclusive events, and that’s a great way to grown and develop a community, take those online connections offline, and give your community an incentive to get involved.”
Which other social network do you most admire?
“I’m a massive fan of what Flickr has done (I met Heather Champ a few times when I worked at Yahoo and she was, and still is, my community manager idol). I’m also a tiny bit addicted to ffffound.com.”
Is Facebook here for good, or will something else take its mantle?
“Nothing’s ever here for good. Yes Facebook have an extraordinary amount of users, but people used to say that about Yahoo and AOL. Those sites floundered because they tried to be all things to all people and created impenetrable walled gardens… sound familiar?”
How are smartphones, like the iPhone and Blackberry, affecting sites like Qype?
“Hugely. The percentage of reviews we receive from our mobile applications is growing faster then even we expected, and it’s changing the way people use Qype and the way people interact with their surroundings. Qype has always been about discovery of the world around you. Getting that ability on to a portable device which knows where you are at any given time (and who else is nearby) is a huge step.”
Your favourite venue on Qype?
“Hmm, tough one. It would probably have to be the coffee shop Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street. As well as being a fantastic place to have a coffee, Pete (the owner) really understands social media and how to respond and talk to customers via the web. A lot of independent business owners would do well to copy his example.”
“Is Instapaper a gadget? It’s awesome whatever it is.”
Your first computer?
“I has the Atari 2600 along with Pong. But my first programmable computer was the (huge!) BBC Acorn.”
About the Launchpad entrepreneur interview series
I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of cool people in the internet world over the past few years and I’ve always been interested in trying to work out what makes one venture successful and another not. So, as part of my Launchpad series, I’ll be interviewing entrepreneurs, start-ups and digital influencers to find out the secrets of their success – then interview them in a year to see how they’re getting on. And being a bit of a geek, there’ll be a few tech questions thrown in for good measure. If you have any suggestions of companies to feature in future interviews, please email me at phil [at] theredrocket.co.uk