Ian’s innovation journey into creating the online life-planning platform, Keylu, came to pass after the sudden deaths of both his mother and sister, within a two-year period.
“Having to deal with their estates, was the catalyst for creating Keylu. The majority of us fail to keep on top of our life admin, which creates a huge issue for our loved ones, should the worst happen.
As a father and husband myself, I want to ensure that all my important information is kept up to date, making my life easier on a day-to-day basis, and ensuring I’ve done all I can to make life easier for my loved ones in the future”, he says.
Having originally launched the platform in 2019 as Once I’ve Gone, the business has continued to evolve from end-of-life planning and moved on to become the one-stop platform for all of life’s admin.
The business rebranded in 2021 to become Keylu and was recently selected to join the Lloyds Banking Group’s innovation lab programme, to discuss how the platform can be offered to their clients.
We caught up with Ian to find out more about what drives his innovation and to see what we could learn from his start-up experience.
Q1) The sudden passing of your mum and sister was the catalyst for creating Keylu. But do you think starting a business has always been within you or has it solely been driven by your experience?
I come from a very entrepreneurial family with both my father and sister running their own businesses. Losing my mum and sister was the catalyst for me to create Keylu, to ensure that no one else had to go through the same experience. As there was no existing solution in the marketplace, I simply had to create one.
Q2) You describe yourself as a “non-tech CEO”, what did you do before Keylu and what do you think are the essential skills needed to innovate, launch and run a start-up?
Before I created Keylu, my background was very much in sales and business development. Between the company founders, myself as CEO, Sarah (COO) and Shaun (CTO), we had the necessary skills needed to launch Keylu. To launch a startup, I would say that you need a very clear vision, 100% belief in your mission and a willingness to get stuck into things that might currently sit outside of your own knowledge base and comfort zone.
Q3) Establishing a business is hard graft and 60% of small businesses fail in the first three years. You’ve broken through that barrier and are heading into your fourth year now; can you talk about some of your highs and lows since starting the business?
The past three years have been some of the most enjoyable of my working life, but certainly not without multiple stressful moments and setbacks. When we first sat down to plan the business roadmap, we had dreams about where would be in years one, two and three…only to be suddenly hit with a global pandemic that changed everything. We are constantly amazed by some of the companies who have approached us to discuss offering Keylu to their staff and clients. When things are challenging, the team often reflect on the benefit of our platform and the positive difference we know it makes. The feedback we have received to date is a constant source of inspiration, knowing that our company is changing people’s lives for the better.
Q4) Has your Keylu journey panned out how you expected, or have you had any surprises along the way?
The journey to date has been a rollercoaster ride with some surprises along the way. Over the last three years, we have learnt a huge amount. As with the majority of businesses, we were not expecting to face a global pandemic, that overnight changed the way in which people and companies interacted with one another.
Q5) How, if at all, did the Covid-19 pandemic impact Keylu?
We had just built our B2B platform to be used by the legal and financial sectors during face-to-face meetings with their clients. When covid hit, we had to develop additional new partner tooling that allowed our partners to offer Keylu to their clients remotely. The pandemic made people far more aware of their own mortality, highlighting the need to get their own affairs in order.
Q6) What challenges have you experienced when looking to grow outside of Cornwall and how have you overcome them?
Most of the companies that we are working with are based outside of Cornwall, which before covid meant that we were constantly travelling around the country for meetings. During the lockdown period, meetings were held virtually, which meant that it no longer mattered where the company was based and it was far easier to get the key decision-makers on a call. I have definitely seen a positive change in attitude since the lockdown and it no longer feels that being based outside of London is a barrier for start-ups.
Q7) Hindsight is a beautiful thing, is there anything you would have done differently? Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about pursuing a new business idea?
There are definitely things that we would have done differently with the knowledge we now have. My advice would be to get a good understanding of the time, effort and commitment required to launch and successfully run a business. It’s also important to be aware that launching a business will undoubtedly have an impact on your personal and social life, so obtaining the buy-in and support of your family members is crucial. Sadly, with 60% of small businesses failing in the first year, it’s really important to learn from and listen to your target audience, pivoting when necessary. If possible, try find a mentor who has experience in launching and scaling a start-up. Business support programmes, such as ATI, are also helpful in terms of connection, research support and grant funding.
Q8) Your experience of loss was the catalyst for Keylu, but what keeps you steadfast on your mission?
In the UK, there are over 1500 deaths per day. This means that there are over 1500 families, that will be struggling to deal with the loss of a loved one followed by the challenges of finding the important documentation needed to deal with their estate. Our mission is to help people to manage their affairs on a day-to-day basis, making their lives easier now, whilst ensuring that they have done all they can for their loved ones in the future.
Q9) You wear many hats as a business owner. How do you switch off, prevent burnout, and refresh?
It’s often incredibly hard as a founder to switch off. You have to discipline yourself to take time out and spend quality time with friends and family, enjoying the things that make you happy. The team also encourage one another to down tools and take the time needed to relax and recuperate. It is often following this downtime that we are at our most creative. You will often find us walking our dogs around the coast of Cornwall or paddle boarding.
Q10) What are your proudest moments or achievements since embarking upon your Keylu journey?
I’m really proud of the team that we have at Keylu. With a small team, we have achieved far more in a short space of time than we could have possibly imagined. We are now working in partnership with some incredible companies in the UK who like us are mission-led, always looking to benefit their employees and clients. In 2022 we were selected to join the Lloyds Banking Group, innovation lab programme where we worked with some of their senior team to discuss how the Keylu platform could be offered to their clients.
Q11) Let’s look to the future. Can you tell us about your goals for Keylu as we move into 2023?
We have some huge growth opportunities for 2023 both in the UK and internationally. We will be introducing some significant updates to the website and mobile apps over the next 12 months, to make managing your life far easier. 2023 is going to be an exciting year for Keylu and our partners.
To find out more about Keylu, or sign up for your ‘free forever account’, visit their website here: https://keylu.com/