#Business Spotlight on Gabriel Isserlis of Tutti – THE place for Creative Spaces
We met Gabriel back in February when he came for dinner with Nick Halstead and we’ve since had dinner together almost every month! We loved the idea behind his business – Tutti – and simply had to learn more…
Tell us about your business in one sentence.
Airbnb for creative spaces – helping artists find inspiring spaces for their projects.
What were you doing before you launched your business? How did you start?
I started work on an idea that would evolve into Tutti, immediately after graduating university. I attended Rochester Institute of Technology (rit.edu) and studied Film & Animation, and Web & Mobile Application Development.
The idea comes from a combination of experiences. First, my studies inspired the film & tech aspects. Equally important, I come from a musical background: 7 living family members, a few relatives no longer with us, and (it wouldn’t be a stretch to say) 100s of friends, are professional musicians, mostly in the classical world. I have also worked professionally as a photographer, stage manager, and theatre technician. I have this unique set of experiences in the arts that, combined with my understanding of technology, has spawned a vast collection of ideas in the creative tech sector. This initial product of Tutti is just the beginning.
I tried starting this company pretty much from the month I graduated my university in 2016, but I had a lot of false starts, and experienced a lot of flailing: trying little things and not having much stick. Things didn’t really get going until I attended and graduated Founder Institute (fi.co) in 2018. Even after that, many many leads have been chased and lead to dead ends. We launched this version of Tutti on October 31st 2018. Having a public beta is one thing – actually populating it with users is an entirely different beast that has been our focus since that date.
How did you meet your business partners/team?
I’m very proud of the Tutti Team (we love alliterations here). I was very fortunate to find everyone, and it was mostly luck – simply pulling on every string and seeing where each one leads. Chuck was the web developer on a startup we both worked on in 2015 (I was the UX/UI designer) and he’s been on this trip with me since we left that. Everyone else from the current team has joined this year. Jessica was introduced by a mutual friend after a post on facebook. Arif was introduced via Jessica.
Before I had a product, I spent a fair amount of time on the TechLondon slack (very useful if you’re just starting out). After mentioning what I was working on a large number of times, I lucked out. Someone mentioned that they knew a supportive entrepreneur who would love the idea. This entrepreneur turned out to be Nick Mills, the founder of TicketText & 2 Northdown, the latter of which became the first location available on Tutti. Not only did he offer me my first office (upstairs from 2ND), and Tutti’s first location, the wonderful comedy club in King’s Cross (that has fantastic comedians on stage every night of the week). He also introduced me to the man who would become my CTO: Donnie.
Earlier this year, as it had been a while since I was actively supported by an organisation who had far more experience and knowledge than me, I applied to something called the Rattle Collective. It’s a community of musicians and music tech founders that want to shake up the industry, based out of Tobacco Dock. A month into my membership, I mentioned to them I was looking for someone to join my team. Within a day they had suggested someone, and within a week I had a meeting scheduled with her. In the end she wasn’t able to make it work, but she suggested I talk to her boyfriend. That’s how I met James.
And last, but certainly of all not least, Hannah was working one of her many jobs and I believe she simply liked or replied to one of Tutti’s tweets. Her goal with that particular job looked fascinating, and complimentary to Tutti, so I messaged her on Twitter and asked for coffee.
All very different ways to find people, but they all fit into the string analogy – you really have to be open to exploring any and every avenue, and sometimes you’ll strike gold, as I did with every member of my team.
Can you convince us to use your service in under 50 words?
Are you ever uninspired by your surroundings? Do you want to try working in a place entirely new and different? Try a space for a few hours on Tutti.
What’s your biggest hindsight moment?
Finding the software on which we would build our MVP. As I mentioned before, we launched on October 31st 2018. I heard about the platform, Sharetribe, on October 30th 2018. I was thoroughly frustrated that I hadn’t heard about it sooner – it took about 6 hours to set the site up (complete with payment integration with Stripe), and that setup, plus a few filters, and new ways to pay & log in has been powering our service ever since. It has answered so many questions we had no way to test and has proven our service is something people are willing to pay for. I asked so many questions when trying to set Tutti up, but clearly never the right one – never the one that would lead me to Sharetribe.
I often tell people not to get stuck on the ‘what if?’ questions of the past, but it’s hard not to wonder how Tutti would have progressed if we’d found that service 6 months to a year, perhaps even 2 years earlier. The answer is: we’ll never know.
What will 2020 bring for you and your business?
2020 is the make or break year. We’ll either have a fantastic year, raise our first funding round, launch a brand new website, create the first version of our app, hire our first full-time employees, and lay the groundworks for many future plans I’ll keep close to the chest for now. Or none of that will happen and we’ll have to close up shop. However, I have no intention of it being the latter – I will do everything in my power to make sure it is the former.
Can you give us one piece of advice for someone starting out in your sector?
This advice isn’t just relevant for people in the creative tech sector but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve struggled with: Learn how to say “no.” When you’re an entrepreneur people pull you in so many different ways. Everyone has a different amazing idea of how you should run your business. Some of these ideas are from extremely smart people – people you look up to, people you want to have invested in you, people you are related to. But if they distract you from your path you must learn to say no.
As I am a firm believer in giving examples, rather than the hundreds of “business advisors” out there who give some vague advice that can just as easily be misunderstood, as it can be applied as advised, here is an example from Tutti:
Earlier this year, we had a crossroad appear to us. We had a site up and running. Our users were mostly in London, but we also had some across the world: NYC, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Dorset, and Bristol. I asked about 50 people I trust whether I should focus on London, or let the business spread organically. Annoyingly, the answer came back a dead even 50/50 split. I took their reasons into account, listened to my inner gut feeling, and settled on focusing Tutti to one geographical area.
Since then I have had people offer spaces across 3 continents, offer to start franchises of the business in different cities, offer me multiple venues and artists as a jumpstart in some cities. It has been the hardest thing to say no to them, but looking back on every single one it has been the right decision – no matter how much people would have said they’d be independent (running a franchise) or helping boost Tutti, the focus would be distracted and I’d be pulled multiple directions. At this early stage, focus really is and has been key and I believe we’re better off for it.
You’ve been to a few TableCrowd dinners so far. Can you tell us about your experiences?
There are so many things I can’t stand in the startup world. Vague, un-applicable advice, founders being clueless about the tech they proudly say they’re using or going to use (*cough* blockchain), catchphrases that people latch on to, and one where you find all of the above: massive, overpriced networking events. There are so many things that I’m considering writing a blog, but I don’t want it to be too negative, so I think I’ll throw in some of the good things too. And one of the fantastic things that I love, that is an enjoyable break away from all of these things, is Tablecrowd.
Considering the target audience of this article, I’m assuming most people know what Tablecrowd is, but in case you don’t, each week Tablecrowd hosts useful intimate networking events. I’ve been to a few – largest one was 19 guests I think, and the smallest was 4. There is 1 host, who runs the event, 1 speaker, around whom the event is focused, and a limited number of guests. If you are a member of Tablecrowd, you’re invited to all the dinners they’ve arranged with fascinating speakers focused around one topic. At the moment all topics are tech startup related (I believe), but the format could be applied to so many different industries.
It’s great because you know everyone chose the dinner because of the topic, so everyone knows, is fascinated by, or wants to learn more about that topic. So everyone has something in common and there’s very little ice-breaking needed. The host also helps with that, by having everyone introduce themselves. My favourite dinner by far was also the smallest one – the speaker was Nic Yeeles, CEO of Peg. He was knowledgeable, honest, and friendly. Every guest got to ask endless questions and I think we all felt sufficiently more knowledgeable by the end of it. Fantastic experience and certainly hoping for more like that, although a max of 20 people always keeps things pretty intimate and fascinating.
What’s your favourite business in your sector?
There are so many, and I learn about new ones every few weeks, but one that I currently have my eye on in the music tech sector is Rotor (https://rotorvideos.com). They provide an extremely smart music video creation tool. You can upload a song, select some visuals, and have a professional-looking music video created in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days – a great way to get your music out there as YouTube visitors are still the #1 consumers of music.
Rotor also speeds up the creation of lyric videos massively (the videos that pop up lyrics of a song in time with them being said in the music). All you have to do is plug in the song and a text file of the lyrics, and a video can be created for you in minutes – very impressive technology.
Last but not least – what’s your favourite London restaurant?
That’s a tricky one – there are some incredible cuisines across London – Malaysian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Japanese, Italian, Indian. One place that my girlfriend and I particularly enjoy is Holy Cow. Not only do we love Indian food, but I’m extremely appreciative of a business that is able to work a joke or hidden meaning into its name.
Connect with Gabriel through TableCrowd!
Or join him at these upcoming dinners:
Dine with Founder at Startup Core Strengths, ex 500 Startups & PayPal – developing a customer acquisition strategy that works