Interview with Tom Sellors the founder of Ascollate
While living in London I shared a home with an incredibly interesting young man called Tom Sellors. An Oxford economics and management graduate, Tom had bucked the white collar trend and instead was running a tutoring agency while also working on a technology start up. God himself could not have chosen a more interesting person to live with! While traveling in Colombia I met up with Tom and his wife who are spending 6 months travelling through South America while working on their start up Ascollate (www.ascollate.com)!
Ascollate is a new site for polling and debate. We only count the votes of signed-up users, so we can analyse and share a detailed demographic breakdown of the vote!
How did you first come up with the idea and has it changed since?
I enjoy debate and am a big believer that you learn more by listening than by talking! There are very many outlets online that let someone share information, yet very few good sites that listen and try to make sense of what’s being said. I wanted to understand the general consensus on issues that are important to the general public, and to have these issues framed by the people themselves, rather than by pollsters.
My lightbulb moment came when a friend asked me if I thought I understood my wife (then girlfriend) better than she understood me. I remember thinking, if this question could be put to 1000’s of people, all over the world, and the views of men and women compared and contrasted, how interesting would that be?!
The idea has passed through many iterations. Today, the unique part of the service is the quality of the poll data. Ascollate requires users to register and provide some background information on themselves, this provides deeper and more credible insights when aggregating information.
Ascollate is an interesting name, is that what you’ve always called the project?
No, I originally bought the domain bounzza.com, but it felt a bit too popish. Ascollate came from ‘Ask’ and ‘Collate’, that’s what the site is all about and a quick poll of early users told me it sounded more professional.
You like to travel in style, how do you afford this while bootstrapping a startup?
It’s all thanks to Skype! I am still working as we travel, overseeing my tutoring agency and doing some freelance work of my own. I much prefer to keep the focus that work brings and like you say, it’s great to see the world!
What's Your Team like?
As yet I am the only permanent team member. I have ongoing work with 3 different developers (in India, Scotland and the US) and am starting to build a marketing team with a woman from the Philippines. There are some fantastic freelancer marketplaces and I regularly hire people and agencies from oDesk, People Per Hour and Guru.
Do you see Ascollate as providing any form of social utility?
I believe the Arab Spring would not have happened without Twitter. People needed an online platform to share their discontent. With enough users Ascollate will become a reliable source of public opinion and could have enormous political influence. Before that, I see it as an interesting way to add context to your own views and learn more about contentious issues.
Does Ascollate currently make money and if so how?
Currently not, though I am beginning to test a few different approaches. When the site scales I am planning to develop a paid platform that will let customers view much more refined information. For example, what do Scottish entrepreneurs in their 20’s do on holiday?!
What has been your favorite question asked on Ascollate so far?
That’s easy: ‘Should Creationism be taught in schools’, it offers complete vindication of the site. This is a question in a LinkedIn group with almost 16k comments. By demanding people to vote, we can portray the consensus view in a fraction of a second, in the way that a typical forum never could.
So what is the answer?
Right now the vote is close between ‘Yes – as a former belief’ and ‘Yes – as an alternative’. Men are more likely to vote for ‘an alternative’ while women are more likely to vote for ‘former belief’. I’ll let you decide if there’s anything in that!
If you would like to get in contact with Tom to ask him more about Ascollate or his tutoring business please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.