Meet: Oli Carew

Today's Renegade Master is Oli Carew, founder of an app called 'el Tab' that acts as a 'pop-up digital bar tab'. In this interview, Oli tells us how he came up with the idea for el Tab, how the business has gone so far, and his plans for future growth.

By Jamie Hutchinson

Wed July 24th 2024

Going Out in London Costs a Fortune. Right?

Oli Carew is the founder of an app called el Tab, which puts up to £1000 behind the bar, seven nights a week at venues across London. The app, which costs £12.99 a month, pings its users to reveal the location of the free bar tab. Users who make the bar before the tab runs out can order up to four drinks for free, each. We caught up with Oli to see how it's going...

Jamie: I love the concept of a 'digital bar tab' for your members - how did you think of the idea?

Oli: Good question! COVID hit the hospitality sector particularly hard. Last year there was widespread concern about whether pubs and bars would survive multiple lockdowns. I wanted to help the industry once things re-opened. I also knew that a significant number of Londoners found going out too expensive. So there were two different, but related problems to solve. And I love to solve problems. el Tab drives footfall for bars whilst giving adventurous Londoners complimentary drinks.

Jamie: When did you start the business?

Oli: I had the idea in Aug '20, and we launched Aug '21.

Jamie: What made you decide to start el Tab?

Oli: I was put on furlough in the middle of last year and felt it was time to take a little more control of my destiny. Fortunately around the same time I had an idea...

Jamie: What makes el Tab different?

Oli: el Tab is a truly unique product - a daily, digital bar tab. We give members up to 4 complimentary drinks at a different London bar every single night. Nothing similar exists, so I guess that's why we stand out :)

Jamie: What has been your biggest business challenge so far?

Oli: We've faced challenges on both sides of the marketplace: Acquiring new members can be difficult because the proposition seems too good to be true - there is sometimes a trust issue which we're working hard to resolve. On the bar side, some venues continue to operate table (QR code) service, which doesn't align with how the app operates.

Jamie: Which type of marketing delivers the biggest 'bang for your buck'?

Oli: Organic word of mouth. It's pretty much all we use (and it's fairly cheap!)

Jamie: Have any of your marketing efforts been a disaster?

Oli: Not yet. Our time will come...

Jamie: What's your proudest business achievement to date?

Oli: As I'm a solo founder and operator I'm proud of where I've got to overall with el Tab. Just 6 weeks in we have over 30 bars on the roster, +150 paying members and we're ready to launch in another couple of cities. Hopefully we keep moving in the right direction.

Jamie: If you could have your time again, what would you have done differently?

Oli: Not waited so long before starting my own business.

Jamie: What experience/expertise, if any, did you have before you started the business?

Oli: I worked at a London marketing agency for over 10 years and had another startup which I took a LOT of learnings from.

Jamie: What does future success look like to you?

Oli: Launching el Tab in 5 major UK cities within 18 months.

Why we love it:

Oli is nailing it on so many fronts. He's instinctively and flawlessly executed several of the Rules of a Marketing Renegade:

Rule #1: Pick Fights

Rule #3: Go Native

Rule #5: Pitch Small

Rule #6: Lead a Crusade

You can find out more about el Tab here:


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