Start-up Watch: UrbanPoint
UrbanPoint began as an MBA project between two students, Susanna Ingalls and Saif Qazi, who envisioned bringing brick-and-mortar businesses online to create new opportunities in the Gulf. Today, the company is a growing e-commerce platform that attracts Doha consumers to local service-oriented businesses through promotions.
Tell us a little bit about your company. What was the idea behind starting this?
UrbanPoint.com is a growing marketplace that connects consumers with quality businesses in Doha by promoting exquisite experiences, services and great value offers. It serves as a discovery platform that helps premium businesses connect with customers in their city.
The platform was launched shortly before Ramadan and, based on months of analytics, is evolving into exciting new partnerships and a new format.
What is the background of your team members? How did that help you better understand the needs of the market?
UrbanPoint has four co-founders with backgrounds in financial consulting, entrepreneurship, information technology, telecommunications and traditional lines of business including energy, and oil and gas. The diversity and international profiles of the co-founders have enabled the team to adapt quickly to the market and meet the needs of consumers. Soon, UrbanPoint will launch its new format to be ‘available on demand’ and help consumers while exploring Doha on-the-go.
What have been the main challenges in setting up this company?
The main challenge in setting up this company has been finding and hiring the right talent. Visa issues, the high cost of living and weather are among the barriers to, and deterrents for, recruiting talent, which is critical for growing from a start-up to a fully operational company.
What has the response been like so far from the market? What type of clientele do you cater to?
Thus far, the most popular items have been in the fitness, beauty and dining categories. We were surprised at the mobile traffic on our website, and we have used a lot of analytics from our beta launch to reshape our offering.
How do you compete with other portals or companies, which are already present in this space?
We have positioned ourselves in such a way to bring more value to merchants and consumers than do current players in the market. This requires some creative business modelling and strategic partnerships, and we are excited at how these are developing.
What is your marketing strategy to promote the company?
Since Doha is a great place for community building, UrbanPoint hosts events such as ‘Doha’s Best Cheesecake Competition’ and will host ‘Doha’s Best Gelato Competition’ in February.