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Startacus Talks With Flubit CEO Bertie Stephens
by Startacus Admin
Ever wanted to buy something online, and realised that the asking price is, well, frankly just too high? We've all been there! But it seems that some people have crafted an elegant solution; Flubit! The CEO Bertie Stephens, agreed to talk to Startacus about their platform.
First off Bertie, can you tell us where the idea for Flubit came from, was there a sudden spark of inspiration or was it an idea that grew over time?
I originally thought of the idea in February 2010 and subsequently wrote the initial business plan but for whatever reason left it there; this was before the ‘group buying’ frenzy had really caught on.
It wasn't until October that same year, as the daily deal sites were getting more and more traction, that I decided to start developing the idea further, along the side of my normal day job. The following Spring (early 2011) I met our first investor.
I was an enthusiastic early adopter of the first wave of flash sale and group buying sites. However, like many, I got fed up with being spammed and pushed to buy products I didn’t want. 70% off is a great discount, but it’s just noise unless it’s on something you want. It made me determined to build a service that did the opposite: create a better offer on the product you want, when you’re ready to buy.
Initially, I tried different angles to allow people to buy more efficiently and what these attempts taught us was that people liked being in control, were patient, made purchase decisions on their own – not in groups - and that merchants were willing to offer discounts in order to win sales as long as it was in private. From those findings we developed the concept for Flubit.com, and then set out building the technology.
Obviously you guys have grown the team considerably over the past couple of years. Such amazing progress must pose many challenges, what would your advice be to a founder hoping for similar rapid growth?
I don't think there’s such a thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to going from startup to grown up. However, I do believe there are a number of things that are worth bearing in mind when taking that next important step.
As Flubit has grown, we have faced and overcome challenges that might have interrupted our journey. As we reached specific staffing levels, we had to change to way we managed the organisation to keep it functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible.
My three top tips for this are:
• Make sure you hire people that clearly share the companies core values and will be a good fit with the rest of the team
• Regularly share company progress and successes, no matter how small. It helps to keep everyone motivated and focused on the common goal.
• Set clear short and medium terms goals for the business and ensure every department and individual has set targets and objectives which will help deliver the company vision
In the early days you managed to raise a significant amount of money to help get the business off the ground. What 3 key pieces of advice would you give to a founder who is new to the task of raising capital?
Cash is King:
Whether you've been in business one week or for years and years, having a healthy cash flow and funds to invest is crucial. You should also look to start raising money early, way before you actually need it. Being in a healthy cash position when speaking to investor and raising your next investment round gives you better foundation for talks and negotiations, which can be lengthy!
Know That Introductions Matter:
Put yourself out there and ask people you know if they know of any investors who might like what you’re doing, and you’d be surprised how many are willing to introduce you. Warm intros are the key to getting a meeting.
Realise the Difficulty of the Process:
Pitching to investors is tough and takes a lot of time and effort. Getting the meetings is one thing but then there are numerous meetings, telephone calls and email exchanges before a deal can be done..Of course you must have a detailed business plan in place and know your numbers inside out, Plusyou need a compelling story behind your business and a clear vision for where you want to take it. Also, knowing how to deal with rejection is a must if you want to get through the process unscathed!
Understandably, some of the folks reading this will think ‘Great idea, but is something like this really necessary, given the saturation of the online retail space?’- Why do you think that Flubit stands out from other businesses in this industry, and how are you ensuring that the business has longevity?
Flubit is unique in the ecommerce space and is disrupting the major marketplaces.
We’ve turned online shopping on it’s head and unlike every other ecommerce site we don’t list products. Instead customers come to us when they’ve found a product they want to buy and want a better price. We don’t push products or spam our users with daily emails. Our users come to us when they ready to buy to they make average savings of 10%.
Our unique demand-led buying model gives consumers better prices on products they actually want and UK online retailers a real alternative to the existing major marketplaces. Through Flubit.com and our partners, we’ve created a lucrative new saleschannel giving access to millions of customers, where merchants don’t have to pay excessive commissions and sacrifice their margins. To put it simply it’s a win, win, win and who doesn't like the sound of that?
In every success story there is at least one big mistake. What was your biggest mistake, how did you overcome it, and what important lessons did you learn from it?
The first ever BETA version of Flubit was a co-buying proposition. After some initial testing we spent a few months building out the technology ready for launch.As we geared up to go live we weren’t convinced it was a concept that was going to get the necessary traction and after some user testing we were even less sure.
We therefore made a decision to delay any launch and essentially adapt the concept to what is the Flubit.com we know today. It was the best move we could have made and taught us not to be afraid to change tack or delay a launch if you’re not 100% happy.
That’s the benefit of being a start up. You can be flexible and agile and learn as you go. Plus and most importantly you change course quickly if things aren’t working out.
You’ve said before that you believe one of the greatest strengths of the business is the team that you now have in place. What qualities do you think are necessary in a great team and how can founders help to nurture this?
Building teams is easy to talk about and extremely difficult to accomplish.We’re very lucky and fortunate to have such a great team but it must be said that building a solid team doesn't happen over night.
Talking from experience, there are a few key principles to bear in mind when expanding and taking on more staff:
• Recruit not just based on expertise and experience but also on passion and enthusiasm • Ensure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and how they fit in to delivering the business goals • Regular and ongoing two way communication is key and encourage collaboration at all times • Ensure everyone has the training and tools to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible • Have regular demo days, socials and team days out to ensure everyone gets to know each other and form strong bonds
If money allows, to have a benefits system in place is something that tend to work really well as it makes people work hard and staying loyal to the business. At Flubit, each month, every single employee can expense an activity of their choice as a treat. It may go towards paying for driving lessons, a trip to the theatre or an educationalcourse. Why are we doing this? Our staff work extremely hard and this is a way to say thank you and to give something back; turns out, a nice little gesture goes a long way.
Any recent happenings at Flubit you’d like to share with us all?
We’ve recently launched a new service called ‘Steal a Deal’ which displays products that our users have recently demanded and the savings we have been able to deliver. Any user of Flubit can check out hundreds of these offers, browse by gender, product category and buying occasion and even buy if it takes their fancy. It’s a great service at this time of year for people need some inspiration for gifts to buy their family and friends.
Cheers for the answers Bertie and we look forward to hearing more about Flubits success over the coming months!