Pop star turned tech founder confident after Dragons' Den defeat
Phil Neale is no stranger to public criticism, having reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent with his brothers and father in singing group The Neales.
Neale, who allegedly brought Simon Cowell to tears during his family's performance, is now an entrepreneur having founded an app designed to help people switch off in the digital age.
On Sunday he returned to our screens in front of a different set of TV judges: the Dragons' Den investors.
“I love talking about the business, but you're by yourself and you don't know how it's going to go,” Neale recounted to BusinessCloud after the episode was aired.
“With Britain's Got Talent, I was very uncomfortable singing because I'd never done it before, but I had my two brothers and dad either side of me.
“Because you’re by yourself, Dragons' Den was more nerve-wracking. If the judges on Britain's Got Talent tell me that I can’t sing that’s fine, I already know that. I knew that going in!"
While the five Dragons declined to invest in the app, citing a lack of proof in the business model, most were positive about Neale and his entrepreneurship.
Investor Peter Jones, who asked Neale to sing during his pitch, said: “The very thing that you need to find out is whether someone’s willing to pay for what you’ve got.”
Neale’s Birmingham-based business is Snoozle, an app designed to allow people to ‘switch off’ from their device without the need to turn off their phone completely.
“Our aim is to help people switch off with their world, not from it,” said Neale.
When the app is on, it turns the screen black and mutes all notifications other than phone calls, allowing people to get to sleep without a phone in their hand. It also records this downtime to gamify users’ device-free time.
In the morning, the app plays an audio snippet recorded either by a friend or a content creator. These audio snippets, or ‘micro podcasts’, as Neale calls them, he sees as the future of the business.
“Telling people to have a bedtime and to stay off their phone is easy, but it doesn’t work,” he explained.
“Social media can be a force for good, but it’s gone too far.”
Neale believes that a small piece of content in the morning, delivered as a wake-up call, will ease the urge to pick up their phone before they are out of bed.
“With Snoozle you choose the content that you want and when it’s delivered to you, rather than that incessant need throughout the day,” he said.
Its users listen to their morning audio snippet or ‘mirco-podcast’ for 2 minutes and 19 seconds.
This, said Neale, puts the Snoozle platform in a good place to redefine the ‘micro-podcast’ medium.
“Its territory that’s up for grabs and we're brilliantly poised to hopefully do that,” he said.
“We want this to feel as if it's content. It could be learning a new word every day in French, it could be thoughts on the England versus Kosovo football match.”
Neale sees singers, comedians, public speakers and brands creating audio snippets to encourage users to start using Snoozle.
“A purist could say that any sleep app, or any app that is based around sleep routine is a bad thing, because technology should be boycotted from the bedroom,” he said.
“If the worst happens and somebody is breaking in, or if there's an emergency with me, I can't reach my phone, and I'm cut off from the world.”
Neale sees Snoozle as the perfect compromise, and a source of revenue for those content creators.
He said the firm’s goal for the next year is to grow its user base.
“We can give celebrities and brands their own morning radio show to wake up their fans every single day of the year, and that would only have to be two hours’ worth of content,” he said.
“It's about getting really good creators on board so that they can delight their audience.”
Before Dragons' Den aired, Neale said that unlike the criticism he received during his pop career in The Neales, Snoozle is a venture he truly believes in.
“If the Dragons tell me my business is a load of rubbish, I don’t believe that in my heart,” he said.