Shaking up London’s gay scene: The Omyx Club

Gay Londoners are bored of the current social scene, says Edward Johnson. Struck by the tedium of socialising in the capital, Johnson set up The Omyx Club, a members network for the city's discerning gay men. Here's his story.

Name: Edward Johnson
Location: London, UK
Date launched: 1st November 2016

What does your business do?

The Omyx Club offers discerning gay men a host of exciting monthly events in London, whilst providing a virtual space which offers services including socialising, dating, business networking, tailor-made travel and a concierge service. The business aims to reach an audience who are looking for something more sociable, accessible and friendly, responding to the research that there is a very saturated market of hook-up and quick dating but for those looking to meet new like-minded friends and find a more serious relationship there isn’t a real alternative.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

It was mainly through a desire for something like The Omyx Club myself, on a personal level. I’ve previously used a number of dating websites and also been to a number of social events aimed at gay men but they never struck me as being very effective and there was often a real disconnect between the online space and the events (which in today’s market is critical). I spoke to a number of friends and we put focus groups together too, to see how everyone else felt, and there was overwhelming support for a more sophisticated alternative to the current services and websites.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We did a lot of research, we spoke to a lot of potential consumers and as previously mentioned, we held a couple of focus group sessions too. The research, feedback and focus group responses were all extremely positive. Before we even launched we had more than 130 confirmed attendees for our first big social event – all gay men who are interested in seeing something like this succeed. I think the very fact that before we even launched we generated so much interest and so many discussions was, and indeed is, a very good sign for us.

How did you raise funding, and why?

I was fortunate enough to have met a successful dot-com entrepreneur socially about two years ago. I discussed the concept with him and almost immediately he was keen to invest. Together we refined the development of the business and he then helped to bring another investor on board. Before we launched we had a total of eight investors and put the company valuation at more than half a million pounds. To have a valuation like that as a pre-launch start-up is rather exciting. The real reason we raised the funds was that we needed to. I needed the support of an experienced events consultant who I work with every week. As a business, critically, we also needed to fund the development costs of the platform. Finally, the majority of our funding raised was required for marketing costs. To reach a critical mass audience in a short space of time is key to a social business like ours.

Describe your business model in brief.

We run a membership and subscription base model with The Omyx Club. The entry level is very accessible, and I think that’s key, we want to appeal to as much of our target market as possible. Membership is just £15 a month, and for that you have full access to the website and can attend a whole host of events including our free monthly social event in London. On top of our subscriptions we generate revenue through event ticket sales, our concierge service and working with our travel partners too. Longer-term there will be value and opportunities with data and sponsored content too.

What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a few big milestones already. Undoubtedly our first was when we received initial key investment to fund our development. That funding allowed us to spend six months working on the platform with our development team and to build up an events schedule with our events consultant.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

It may sound like a cliché but you really have to be totally passionate about what you’re doing. There have been some extremely stressful and exhausting moments so far and if I didn’t have the passion and belief in what I was doing then I would definitely have packed it all in. If you are passionate about what you are doing it becomes a lot more about the products and services that you offer your member. Of course, having a solid business model is key but having passion makes that all the easier to achieve.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I’ve got my sights set on running a dot-com company with a global reach. I’ve worked for a couple of really successful companies in the past, one of the biggest being Zoopla. I’d love to be running a business with that level of success. I think it’s so exciting and there are constantly opportunities for expansion. When you’re running a tech company there really are no limits to what you can end up doing because there are constantly new technologies that you can use to improve your offering.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…

Some days I dream of disappearing off to some remote island somewhere and taking up farming. That’s probably not what I’d really do but at times it does sound appealing. I’m passionate about technology though and consumer marketing, so I’d probably be working in the marketing department for a technology company.

What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?

Don’t start something unless you are going to give it 100%. I think this is so important in everything, relationships, businesses, fitness and so on and so forth. It just doesn’t make sense to do it if you aren’t going to give it your all.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.