Interviews

UENI: How Founder's Toothache Led To A Web Shake-Up

Entrepreneur Christine Telyan vowed to make all businesses visible online after struggling to find a local dentist. She now runs UENI, a “digital agency for the masses”.

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Entrepreneur Christine Telyan vowed to make all businesses visible online after struggling to find a local dentist. She now runs UENI, a “digital agency for the masses”.

Interviews

UENI: How Founder's Toothache Led To A Web Shake-Up

Entrepreneur Christine Telyan vowed to make all businesses visible online after struggling to find a local dentist. She now runs UENI, a “digital agency for the masses”.

Share this article

UENI: How Founder's Toothache Led To A Web Shake-Up

Business ideas are often a reaction to a personal problem. For Christine Telyan and Anh Pham Vu, their inspiration occurred while they were searching for a dentist online to cure Anh’s toothache.

“I thought it would be easy but actually it took quite a while and a number of calls to find and book an appointment,” recalls Telyan, now co-founder and CEO of Ueni.

The bad experience stayed in the minds of the couple and led them to realise that if dentists were hard to find, so were many other types of businesses.

“This was the founding moment and we began to look into it in more detail. We realised there were so many local micro businesses that weren’t being represented in online search results.”

UENI provides a free website and Google My Business listing to all small businesses that want one. UENI’s ‘freemium’ model now sees hundreds of businesses sign up per day.

The business also provides paid services such as a custom domain name, professional email address and listings on trusted, high traffic maps, directories, and social media sites.

The London-based company currently operates in the UK, France, Spain, the United States and India. Telyan says her work is helping small businesses climb up the Google rankings and means small businesses can compete with big brands.

“Our mission is to make all businesses visible online” she says. “Whenever we need to buy things, the first thing we do is search the internet. But by and large, search results turn up chains and franchises, and many small businesses are invisible online.”

The couple co-founded the business in December 2014 and in February 2015, Christine quit her job as an oil trader to focus on UENI full time. Later that year, her company gained its first investment of £1.5m from business angels. As of 2019 the company has raised a total of £15m in funding.

But developing a product and business model in such a broad and fragmented market has been challenging.

"When we started, there was a lot we didn't know. We had to find people with tech and coding skills to help us. We went to meet-ups and university fairs looking for talent. Our early hires could have gone elsewhere but wanted to work with us because they believed in our mission. They were also really helpful recruiting others to our cause.

"Another big challenge was finding the right market approach. We started out as a consumer search platform where people could find the cheapest, nearest or best rated service. We then moved over to be a business solution to get small businesses visible online. In the process, we also shifted from direct sales to strictly digital and our current, freemium model.”

At the time of writing UENI is signing up over 500 businesses every day and the rate of growth is accelerating.

“We are an agency for the masses. There is a tremendous unmet need, both here in the UK and globally. Our mission is to make all businesses visible online,” says Telyan.

"We want to level the playing for small businesses. For consumers, this means far greater choice when buying locally. For our customers, it means more trade and business growth. And for big businesses that have been taking their customers for granted, watch out."

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UENI: How Founder's Toothache Led To A Web Shake-Up

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