An Interview with Founder Richard Johnson of MyStreet

Robert Johnson Founder of MyStreet

Meet Robert of MyStreet

Technology entrepreneur, Richard Johnson, was inspired to launch the MyStreet app during the pandemic to help small independent retailers stay connected to shoppers against the challenging backdrop of constantly changing lockdowns. Through his expertise in innovative technology coupled with his (and his wife’s) personal passion for shopping, the MyStreet app was borne to enable shoppers to support their local independent stores and discover new ones. 

MyStreet uses best-in-class AI and Computer Vision (CV) to enable customers to discover and support new shops and communicate directly with independent retailers as if in a face-to-face situation. The app is providing a lifeline for many small independents through a year of ongoing lockdowns

As well as MyStreet, Richard is a seasoned entrepreneur and is also co-founder of 360 Publishing which works with publishers, adtech and martech companies to build traction, increase conversations and generate new revenue. 

1.Can you explain to us how the idea for your business came to you and how the whole process kicked off?

I love where I live – in Reigate, Surrey. The town centre has a wonderful collection of independent boutique which I love exploring with my family. We love a shopping trip, but mostly we love discovering the little gems you can only find in your local shops. It’s a great feeling knowing you’re supporting local businesses while buying unique products that have their own story to tell – whether that’s a staple winter jacket or a wall print for the lounge created by a local designer. 

When the first lockdown began last year and the shops were closed, my wife and I turned to online shopping and continually came across fake online reviews and contradictory information about products. It was so hard to know whether we were going to get a decent product through the post. It left us feeling and wished we had a way of contacting the stores directly; someone who knew the products, how durable they were and how they might fit. 

This is where the idea of MyStreet soon turned into a reality – a unique e-commerce app which allows independent retailers to sell their products online to a larger pool of customers. The strength of independent retail is the shop owner and the team, current eCommerce takes this knowledge and presents them on the website and robs the shop of giving the consumer the unique knowledge and service. Mystreet was built to bring back the Uniqueness of shopping for every consumer and put conversation back at the heart of commerce. 

We launched the app to help small businesses adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and support their online sales strategy at a time when the high street faces unprecedented challenges. MyStreet enables independent stores to create their own virtual shopfront and carefully matches the preferences of shoppers across the UK to retailers who stock similar products and services, helping business owners reach like-minded consumers beyond their usual catchment area. For shoppers, we wanted them to be able to discover some of the best independent retailers across the UK and build their own personalised virtual high street featuring their favourite stores. 

2.What were the biggest challenges you faced when bringing the idea to market?

The technology behind the MyStreet app is unique – in fact it’s the first purpose-built platform in the UK to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Computer Vision technology to connect shoppers with independent stores based on their interests and behaviours. It also creates a digital high street for shoppers, so the tech behind the scenes is extensive and has challenged our team of experts to design it in the most unique yet user friendly way. 

3.Where do you think good ideas come from and what inspires you?

Problems and a desire to solve them, many people see a problem and it stops them or they stop and have a moan. For me great ideas are real world problems and taking a different view on how to solve them. 

My inspiration are children, especially my own. When a child has a problem, they will happily design a spaceship, a mega tank or some other outlandish design to solve the problem. Whilst most are impractical the ideas they use is without prejudice, learnt confinements or a necessity to conform. I find this inspiring, if we all thought differently, without restrictions, how many other great ideas could we have?

4.What are your company’s values and why are these things important to the business?

We believe if you connect a like-minded consumer with a store and create a quick and seamless ways for them to communicate, relationships will be formed, and transactions will happen. When relationships are formed you will get repeat commerce and individuals will understand what they are buying, buy more and return less. We will always listen to feedback from consumers, retailers and internal stake holders and feedback will always be considered, discussed in a collaborative environment.

5.What is next for your brand?

We’re right at the beginning of our journey. We’re currently in the process of launching the app to independent retailers across the UK. We’ve already got an amazing collection of stores, from womens and menswear to pet accessories and homeware and are growing the list daily to support independent retailers in digitalising their bricks and mortar stores or complementing their existing online channels. We’re inviting more retailers to join our app and have a great team ready to guide them through our app and explain how it can further support their product sales.

The next stage is to launch to consumers which will be rolled out in two stages, with more exciting features due to be added in the summer. In time, MyStreet’s AI will understand a user’s mood when they shop and how this relates to their transaction and purchase behaviour of different types and categories of products, allowing us to tailor what each app user sees based on their interests and tastes. 

6.What one piece of advice would you have for someone just starting out on their business journey or currently going through a setback?

Take time to understand why you are doing something. Simon Sinek, an amazing orator and author, wrote a book called ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’, which I highly recommend reading if you are embarking on a new business journey. If you know why you are doing something, it makes the bumps in the road and the challenges easier to overcome. 

7.What resources and tools do you use to remain productive or up-to-date on industry trends etc?

I regularly make time to read trade media, LinkedIn and other resources to stay up to date on industry trends. This used to be on the train but now I diarise a time to read these resources, otherwise there will always be an excuse to not read what’s going on in your industry! My other big resource is people. I actively seek mentors and I will always make sure I make time to have a conversation with experts.

More info on MyStreet

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