Young Innovators Success Stories: Kieran Witt, Kotini, South East
The young entrepreneur taking the hassle out of home buying
When Kieran Witt started searching for his first home with his partner, he was surprised at how difficult and time consuming the process was. It gave him the idea for a digital service that made it easier for couples to find a property together.
The business was still at the concept stage when Kieran won the Young Innovators Award. Within a few weeks of the programme, he had tested his concept with customers – something that proved to be an important moment.
“The business was originally called Deuce and helped couples organise their home buying journey. While initial customers thought Deuce was helpful, they were unwilling to pay for it,” he says.
“This realisation led to a pivot into what is now Kotini, a home buying support service. Customer testing remains a core part of Kotini’s product development.”
Kotini is now described as “a marketplace of home buying services. You can use Kotini to find, hire and manage your home buying team – all the way from deposit building to moving in” (Kotini.co.uk, 2022)
Beta testing with customers
During the Young Innovators programme, Kotini’s team grew to two and Kieran developed a new product that’s now live. He’s currently beta testing the new proposition with a handful of customers, and is preparing to raise capital through grants and SEIS investment.
Over the next 12 months, Kieran wants to build on Kotini’s progress and get both the marketing and technical elements into shape.
“The plan is to make Kotini the place homebuyers go to start and manage their home buying journey. I’m doubling down on the technical build as well as the marketing,” he says.
“I know we’re heading in the right direction as our earliest customers have given us great feedback: ‘[Kotini] have been lifesavers in providing support throughout our home buying journey. We came into this process with little to no knowledge of what it takes to get from finding the place we loved to contract exchange and completion at the end’.”
Confidence and resilience
The Award funding gave Kieran breathing space to consider leaving his full-time job to work on Kotini. After working through worst case scenarios with his Innovation Champion from Innovate UK EDGE, he took the plunge.
“I built up the confidence to quit my job and commit to Kotini full time. Since then, I’ve been building the resilience needed to push through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” he says.
“The financial support has been vital in getting Kotini to where it is today. It not only enabled me to pursue entrepreneurship full time, but it has given me the capital needed to build the beta version of Kotini and test it with customers.”
The programme’s broader support has been invaluable for Kieran too, especially as a sole founder. Having access to an innovation champion meant that someone could challenge his thinking and help him make better business decisions.
He also highlights meetups with other Young Innovators Award winners as being particularly useful as it gave him a new perspective on his business.
“Getting time to step out of the business and talk to other entrepreneurs gives you perspective on how you’re progressing. It’s very easy to get stuck in your own world and feel like you’re not making meaningful progress – though that isn’t always bad, as it drives me to do more,” Kieran explains.
“But it’s only when you talk to other entrepreneurs at similar stages that you realise you’ve made sizeable progress. You also have the opportunity to chat about how they’ve tackled similar business challenges.”
Create every opportunity
Kieran advises future Award applicants to leverage the network available through the programme.
“Make the most of the network, whether it’s support from past or present Award winners, your innovation champion or those running the programme. Everyone is there to help you and your business succeed, so try to create every opportunity for them to do just that.”
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Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.