Posts Tagged 'The Up Group'

The Up Group host networking events for leading digital Technology, Product and Marketing talent…

Here at Up, we’ve been busy hosting a series of roundtable breakfast events over the last few months for leading digital/online Marketing, Product and Technology Executives, and we’ve been delighted with the results. Lots of lively debate with some very interesting people!!

In June, we hosted Up’s Product Breakfast bringing together Product Management Executives from companies including:

Basekit, Betfair, Covestor, Flirtomatic, FON, Gekko, Guardian, Hotels.com, Imagini , Lastminute.com, Microsoft, Playfish, Skype, Talk Talk, Vodafone

In July, we hosted Up’s Technology Breakfast bringing together CTOs/VP Engineering Directors from companies including:

Blue Duck Education, Geo Sweep, Harper Collins, iTrigga, Marks & Spencer, Time Out, Vzaar, Wahanda, Wiggle

In September, we hosted Up’s Marketing Breakfast for leading CMOs and Marketing Directors from companies including:

Yahoo!, Quiet Riots, Mydeco.com, UKTV, Bet Now/Open Vantage, Betfair, My-Wardrobe, SecretSales.com, EMI, M and M Direct, Lovefilm

For full Event pictures and write-ups, please see:
http://www.theupgroup.co.uk/news_events.html

An exclusive with… Aidan Fitzpatrick, IT Director of Wiggle.co.uk

What is Wiggle? Can you explain a bit about your history?

Wiggle is a pure play cycling and tri sports e-Commerce site.

The business started as Butlers Cycles, a small independent bike shop in Portsmouth that had been trading since 1920. After early successes selling bike parts and other items online, Wiggle was launched in 1999. From there, it expanded to the current 45,000 square foot warehouse where at any time there can be more than 250,000 products in stock.

In 2010, we have won several awards including the title of Cross Border e-Retailer of the Year at the e-Commerce Awards for Excellence, Online Bike Retailer of the Year at the BikeBiz Awards, and the Sunday Times Fast Track 100. We have also been named Britain’s most visited cycle website by Experian Hitwise UK every year since 2006 and readers of Which? magazine recently voted us top sports and leisure site.

The business has experienced a lot of growth in the last year. Why is this and how has it been achieved?

Our success is driven by the fact that we have always believed the customer is central to everything we do. We are committed – as fellow active sports enthusiasts, Internet users and hardworking people – to ensuring our customers are always satisfied. The majority of people who work at Wiggle are keen cyclists and sports fans and this is reflected through our passionate service, attention to detail and extensive range of exclusive brands and products.

With brands such as dhb, Verenti and Focus Bikes we deal directly with the manufacturers, shaping and tweaking the features and specifications to ensure the product our customer buys is exactly what a true sports enthusiast would want.

We reward our most loyal customers with free gold and platinum discounts of up to 12%, and the last year has seen massive growth in sales to the UK and abroad.

How important is technology innovation to the business? Tell us about the Wiggle platform.

As we’re solely online, technology and the web are tied to everything we do, and apart from a few key partners the whole of Wiggle’s technology stack is home-built. We use agile and Kanban in our software development, and we’ve got buy-in on that right through the businesses. Not every development team is able to count on the Marketing Director attending the scrum meeting each morning! (One of our Tech Leads recently wrote about this on the Wiggle Blog.)

In the past we’ve had both developers and designers putting “what if” work together and had it go live: the Japanese version of our site was a good example of this. As well as encouraging experimentation in the teams we’re working with some very innovative technology. We have a major site update coming out soon, and you’ll see more interesting work from us in 2011.

Who are Wiggle’s competitors and how do you seek to differentiate from them?

We have a much greater reach than independent bike dealerships and high street stores. Our site has tens of thousands of products with a broader range of sizes and colour-ways, at a much better price, and we can get them to your front door next day. Bike stores just don’t have the stock. Bike buyers can specify the custom bike they want and have it built and shipped by our expert mechanics. Our quality of service, delivery options and international reach and pricing set us apart from other online players, and we have some fantastic exclusive brands.

I always like seeing what some of the newer entrants to the market are doing. There’s a lot we’re looking to do, and disruptive start-ups with interesting technology should come and talk to us: perhaps we can help.

What are Wiggle’s biggest challenges and opportunities online right now?

From a technology perspective it’s all about growth. There are a number of metrics I keep an eye on to monitor how we’re doing, and the ones that have doubled in the last 12 months are the slower ones! A year ago a lot of our IT was quite ad hoc: now there’s a healthy amount of structure and repeatability in what we do. 75% of my team have been with the business fewer than 9 months, and there’s a balancing act between growing so quickly and delivering reliably at a breakneck pace. With so much change and so many things we want to do, a lot of careful coordination is required.

The international side of the business is sizeable and growing rapidly, which gives us some extra dynamics. With large customer bases in Australia and Japan, we really are a 24/7 operation, and our site has a high level of internationalisation with translation, payment and delivery options that few others in the UK are doing.

Google’s recent BCG report had the UK as the largest ecommerce market by capita in the world, and being at the forefront is an exciting challenge.

Can you tell us about your background? Why did you join Wiggle?

I have a technical background and have always kept my hand in over a number of CTO roles. I’m most excited by rapid growth businesses and Internet start-ups, so Wiggle fitted me well. I’d not cycled much since moving to London and had needed an excuse to get back into it! Wiggle had originally brought me in as an interim, but I loved the business and the challenges and just couldn’t leave.

Prior to Wiggle I spent some years raising investment, mentoring and doing early-stage technology with start-ups at a venture incubator, and earlier still was the CTO at Confetti. I spent some time in Norway building what was essentially a B2B version of Spotify several years before its time: at one point we had the largest SAN in the country.

Who ‘fits’ the Wiggle team…

Speaking for IT, we like fantastic, driven, coder superstars. It’s not easy when we’re growing so quickly, but we’re not trying to hire good people. Good isn’t good enough, as Jason Calacanis says. We are dealing with some very tricky and exciting challenges scaling up infrastructure, capacity, team, and international content.

We look for people who are very active with technology in and outside work: on github, releasing iPhone apps, presenting at hackathons, building webapps in Rails or Django in their spare time, talking about Agile, Kanban or Scrum and so on.

After we ran out of space in Portsmouth I took half of the team up to a serviced office opposite Waterloo Station, and next month we’ll be moving into a fantastic new-build Wiggle office, metres from the river between London Bridge and Waterloo. We’re going to create an excellent environment for talented engineers there.

We have a lot of greenfield work to do and there’s plenty of responsibility to be taken on by capable, can-do people. A lot of developers got a great career boost from lastminute.com during the dot-com boom, and I think we’re going to do something similar for our own team.

What do you see as the biggest technology challenges today for e-Commerce businesses?

There’s a lot going on at the moment, and I’m paying attention to some of the retail apps coming out on the iPad and how well they’re really working. Most e-tailers have a significant amount of traffic coming in from smart devices, and aren’t doing much to support it.

More broadly, I see a new wave of businesses working successfully with personalisation, group buying, marketplaces and comparison models. Web 2.0 came very quickly and has made our sites as important as ever in communicating with customers. Web 3.0 and the semantic web won’t arrive nearly so quickly, but it strikes me just how ill prepared a lot of UK e-Commerce sites are. Our data, how we expose it, and how we let users consume it is going to be very important.

LBS – Entrepreneurial Lecture Series, Alex Kelleher is the Founder and CEO of Cognitive Match

The London Business School has organised a great line up of speakers for their Entrepreneurial Leadership Series. With interest in entrepreneurs and start ups at an all time high, it was no surprise that the lecture room was packed out last week. There was a mix of fairly studious looking MBAs thinking about taking that leap and setting up on their own. This was combined with a smattering of suits from the banking and corporate world no doubt hoping that they would at some point do the same as well. Everybody convened to hear Alex Kelleher talk about his experiences as an Entrepreneur – the successes, the failures, the learnings and where his ideas for ventures come from…

To introduce the man himself, Alex Kelleher (www.alexkelleher.com) is the Founder and CEO of Cognitive Match, a real-time optimisation software business. The firm has recently been nominated in Techcrunch’s The Europa awards. Alex is a well-known figure in the tech industry having now had two successful exits – Vivid Edge, a UK web agency which sold to Framfab (now LBI) and Touch Clarity, a reporting / analytics provider which sold to Omniture (now Adobe).

For any aspiring entrepreneur, there is always incredible value in listening and understanding how people have built successful businesses. It was great to hear some of Alex’s thoughts ranging from the idea and initial concept to take to market (ideally something you care about), how to set up, dealing with venture capital firms and also the subtleties between the UK and US on the start up scene. Most valuable I think for anybody in the audience was his view on concept vs. execution – it is not necessarily the idea itself that makes a business successful but rather better execution than anybody else doing something similar. One of the main barriers to somebody setting up which we often hear is the fear of not having a great and truly innovative idea for a business. Whilst many in fact don’t, it was good to hear that the idea is not the be all and end all!

A few points from Alex to note:
• Hard work!
• Speak to VCs all the time – you never really stop fundraising.
• It is vitally important to have that experience of setting up – finding an office, finance, legal – dealing with all the stuff you never thought was important gives you a real appreciation of how a business runs day to day.
• Hire the right team and incentivise them in the right way.
• Protect your equity (at all cost)
• Sell for cash

Whilst in general these talks are informative and fairly thought provoking, it does make me think about the following:
1) What makes a successful entrepreneur and how does Alex embody this?
2) Do people who go on to be successful entrepreneurs actually find the advice of those who have already ‘done it’ useful?
To start with the first, Alex is a good example of somebody who really seems to have grown with the tech industry. Two exits before the age of 40 and creating $75m worth of business is very good going! What seemed to come was a certain sense of at times muddling through in the early days, not knowing where exactly things were going and the fact that plans never always quite go to plan… His talk included anecdotes about tripping over wires and HP’s website going down at Vivid Edge – there was a sense of craziness. He has become successful partly through having a great idea at a good time, hard work, dedication and a sprinkling of maverick.

Answering the second is more difficult. I do sometimes wonder how many entrepreneurs actually take advice on board. Please do give us your comments on this! Whether this is somebody telling you to re-think your product, your potential shortcomings – everybody always has an opinion they are happy to share! To build a successful business from scratch I think you have to be pretty bullish. If at times this is ignoring ‘helpful’ comments then I imagine it can be easy to gloss over people’s input and advice. Whilst Alex had some very good points to note, I do think that he could have expanded more on the challenges of setting up and also discussed with the audience (who broadly speaking I imagine came from more corporate backgrounds) the realities of running a small business. These evenings are great to hear from somebody who has had success but it’s always a shame to feel that you are really scratching the surface.

Many thanks to Alex for a great talk and do check out the next speakers who are yet to come.

Post by Claire Hogg, Consultant, The Up Group

“Social Collective”: A Forward-Thinking Social Media Conference – London, 30th September 2010

On the 30th September the Up group visited the Museum of London for the morning part of the Social Collective, a “forward-thinking social media conference”.

The aim for the event was to offer far more than just another introduction to social media: to move beyond the typical rallying cries from similar events of “Join Twitter and set up a Facebook page for your business”. Social Collective aimed to really explore how we communicate within different platforms, and how we should measure and integrate social media into our business strategies, customer service and marketing campaigns.

As life at the Up Group seems to get busier each day, we couldn’t stay for the afternoon’s open debate, nor Chris Hall’s keynote on Social Clarity or Didier Mormesse’s discussion of a CNN global research study on “shared news”. However, the most enjoyable talks from the morning certainly went some way to fulfilling the organisers’ primary objective of going beyond “just the theory” of social media.

Brad Little did one of the 2 morning keynotes, his subject being “Measurement and Insight: the Rights and Wrongs”. Brad heads up NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey which helps businesses to harness the full potential of social media intelligence and so drive growth and performance. Brad represented a refreshing mix of charisma and passion for his subject matter (which many speakers at events like this demonstrate), with the professionalism and credibility that one would expect to see representing either McKinsey or Nielsen. Through that combination Brad had the audience’s undivided attention, which he retained throughout by basing his observations and suggestions on hard data and meaningful research. For example, a recent online survey demonstrated that 68% of consumers consider “environmentally friendly” to be the most important requirement when purchasing a new product or service, however unprompted user feedback ranks it as last.

Brad focused his talk on the need, when first involving a business in social media, to know why you’re doing that: what the objectives really are. Is it more exposure? More direct sales? More “word of mouth” referrals? A better customer service experience? Improved public sentiment for your brand?

With that question as a starting point, Brad suggested that businesses will be far better placed both to organize their time and resources around making Social Media work for them, and to measure the results that they obtain.

But as refreshing as it was to hear a professional, polished and thorough consideration of best social media practices, it was difficult not to feel as though a lot of what Brad was saying was slightly old news. While any type of collaboration between Nielsen and McKinsey is exciting – and will doubtlessly lead to extremely interesting research and many useful case studies over the coming months and years – it seemed a little as though NM’s professional, analytical and considered approach might be just a little behind the curve, as opposed to predicting where the curve’s going next. In the fast-moving world of Social Media, it is “what’s happening next” or “how do i get results now” that people need and want to know about, not “give me more facts about how many people sign up to Twitter each day”. It is perhaps this fact, ironically, that means Brad – who promoted his personal Twitter handle on every page of his powerpoint – is following 412 people on Twitter, and yet is still only being followed by 477 people.

It’s not confidence-inspiring to have a gym instructor who is in worse shape than you. In a similar vein it should be important for all social media advisers, consultants and experts to demonstrate an ability to establish a genuine social media presence, and a noteable following for themselves and / or their own company, as it is this element of social media that businesses struggle with – not the question of how popular Twitter is, how impactful a successful viral marketing campaign can be, or how to set up a Facebook page.

The other Keynote from the morning session came from Paul Harrison of Carve Consulting, who spoke about “Social Opportunities for brands in 2011”. Carve is a digital consulting practice that has developed corporate social networking strategies, social media marketing and social recruiting programmes for a range of private, public and not-for-profit organisations.

Paul was a hugely engaging and entertaining speaker, who appeared to love both his subject matter and being on stage. His talk was broken into 11 predictions for 2011:

1. People Prefer to Listen to People, not Algorithms.
2. Everyone is a Critic (Paul referred to popular startup Glassdoor.com, in which company salaries, reviews, and interviews are posted anonymously by employees).
3. Listening Grows Up (by which he meant that businesses would focus more on actionable listening, not just “listening” to customers’ conversations because it was suggested to them that they should do that at the last social media event they went to..)
4. You Cannot Fake It (meaning that you need to be fully engaged and committed to your Social media strategy, you need to start now, and you should never forget that your Digital DNA will go with you…)
5. The Rise and Rise of the Social Star (businesses will increasingly hire chief networking / listening / social officers to build their brands. He recommended a book called Empowered by Josh Bernoff to help you in hiring passionate and engaged employees that want to talk about what you do).
6. Get Processes and Policies in place (to allow everyone in the organisation to contribute to the social media goals)
7. Corporate Websites are going the way of the Fax (brands won’t focus on their own site, but rather they’ll build on top of existing social platforms as that’s where everyone is. He used the highly functional example of the Easyjet Facebook page, on which you can book a flight directly).
8. Ideation / Crowdsourcing
9. Facebook Places (which he suggested will really take off).
10. Race to Create the World’s Dumbest App Continues (he suggested not participating in this, and warned CEOs from creating an App for their business “because they think they ought have one”: unless there’s a real need for it, he suggested not bothering).
11. Remember the 80/20 Rule (focus your social media strategy on the few things your business does which lead to the best results).

What was particularly interesting about Paul’s talk was that during it, everyone was taken in by his energy, humour and passion for the subject. His list of 11 predictions for 2011, however, seemed at the time to be more of a reflection of current trends and ideas (only slightly more evolved).

On reflection, it would have been easy for Paul to guess – along with the rest of us – what the buzzword equivalents for “Group-buying” and “Location” might be in 2011. Instead he offered a pragmatic and broad assessment of current themes in social media, and how they will most likely evolve over the coming year, which was genuinely useful and interesting.

In conclusion, although the morning talks at the Social Collective did explore how businesses might achieve quantifiable success through effective social media strategies, it did feel as though much of what was said had probably been heard many times before. A lot of businesses want to use Social Media to build their brand, to get more sales, to have more people “like” what they do. But more often than not, if a product or a service is genuinely great then businesses don’t need a strategy – word about what they do just spreads like wildfire. But often if it’s not that great, then it won’t spread, and hearing about new social media strategies, trends or websites will be fairly unlikely to change that.

Post by Neil Frame, Associate, The Up Group

An exclusive with… Simon Veingard, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Covestor

Covestor.jpg

 

 

 

 

What is Covestor?  Can you explain to us the business model?

Covestor provides the world’s largest online investment management platform. We pioneered social investing which allows you to follow the real trades of any great investor. Our site allows you to see how proven investors manage their own money in their own accounts. Then, with a Covestor Mirroring Account, set up your brokerage account to automatically mirror each strategy selected, trade for trade. Investors can subscribe to a growing set of highly respected professional money managers as well as non-professionals with proven track records – with all securities purchased in the client’s name and held in custody at an independent broker-dealer. Covestor, an SEC registered Investment Advisor, charges clients a simple management fee for each subscription and shares these fees with the managers.

Covestor has some very interesting investors in the UK and US, can you tell us a bit about them and how their involvement benefits the business?

 

We are very fortunate to be funded by Amadeus Capital Partners (London), Spark Capital (Boston) and Union Square Ventures (New York), all leading firms with great track records.  Their involvement has been enormously beneficial, for example in finessing our strategy by applying the wisdom gained building highly scalable consumer internet businesses.

 

How developed is the market you are operating in? What does the competition look like and how do you plan to differentiate?

 

The recent financial crisis highlighted that consumers’ trust in financial institutions continues to ebb away.  Our competitors are these institutional behemoths and include firms such as Fidelity, Vanguard and Oppenheimer. With a lack of transparency and poor performing products with hidden fees, these institutions have failed thus far to embrace the web to innovate their product offerings and re-engage retail investors.

 

At Covestor, trust, transparency and openness are at the heart of our proposition.  Clients can mirror experienced investors, see exactly what they’re holding and how it’s performing, 24/7. And all without any hidden fees.

 

Can you tell us about how you founded and built the business? What have been the biggest challenges?

 

At the outset we had a clear vision of the business we wanted to build.  The complex nature of what we were taking on, in a regulated industry, meant it was necessary to plan for, and evolve through, a series of stages to create the investment management platform we have today.

 

Along the way our challenges have been numerous so here are just three.  First, we’ve had to prove that smart investors are willing to share their real investment activity in public view. Second, we had to figure out how to structure our business keeping it within a regulatory framework that was set up decades before the rise of the web.  And third, we’ve had to be creative in recruiting our world-class team, given that we can’t quite compete with the excessive salaries and bonus schemes offered by traditional investment houses.

 

Where would you like to see the business in the next five years?

 

To become the de-facto platform for investors to manage their assets.

What was your experience of founding a business like this during a recession? How did it help and hinder you?

 

In many ways, building Covestor during the recession has proved advantageous.  We’ve been able to uncover some remarkable investment talent – investors who have thrived during turbulent markets – and provide access to this group of high performers to our clients.

 

What do you think are the main ingredients of building the best team?

Leadership, empowerment, team spirit and when hiring, not accepting second best.

 

Outside of your market, what is ‘hot’ in the online world right now?

 

Location based services (LBS).  Foursquare and Gowalla have blazed the trail in this space with the early adopter community and Facebook Places will take the concept of checking in mainstream.  But we’re only at the beginning of the innovation and adoption to be seen in this area and I’m interested to see how both the privacy issues and business models play out as LBS go mainstream.

 

An exclusive with… Doug Monro, Chief Operating Officer of Zoopla.co.uk

What is Zoopla.co.uk ?
Zoopla.co.uk is the UK’s most comprehensive property website, focused on empowering consumers with the resources they need to make better-informed property decisions. We help our users make sense of the residential property market by combining property listings with market value data, local information and community tools.
Zoopla.co.uk was founded on the principles of transparency and efficiency and everything we do aims to make the market more effective for both property consumers and professionals alike. Our mission is to provide the most useful online property experience by:
  • displaying property listings along with value and price trend information
  • providing rich property data and local market information in one place
  • enabling users to search for property in a variety of customised ways
  • allowing users to engage with professionals via our tools like AskMe!
  • building relationships between home owners and local estate agents
What is the business model?
By providing the resources to help consumers make better-informed property decisions, Zoopla.co.uk has become the most efficient platform for estate agents to obtain enquiries for the properties on their books, to build their inventory by obtaining targeted vendor leads and to develop their reputation and build relationships with the community of online property owners who are the vendors of tomorrow.
We offer estate agents a choice of payment methods – they can pay a monthly subscription for unlimited leads or on a pay-per-lead basis – and we’re unique amongst major property sites in offering this ‘performance marketing’ option. We also make money from additional services like auctions (where we take a small share of the buyer’s premium), mortgage leads and data services.
Zoopla.co.uk has some fantastic investors, advisors and management team members, tell us about them…
Zoopla.co.uk is backed by a number of well-respected angel investors and leading venture capital firms Atlas Venture and Octopus Ventures To date we have raised £5.4 million in funding.
The executive team is made up of Alex Chesterman, Founder, CEO & Chairman, Simon Kain, Co-founder and CTO, and myself. Alex is a successful serial entrepreneur, who most recently founded ScreenSelect which became Lovefilm – he’s innovative, commercial, and a great dealmaker – I learn a lot from working with him. Simon, formerly of Amazon and Lovefilm, is quite simply one of the best tekkies in the land. We also have three NED’s and an advisory board. It’s great to have the support of people like Fred Destin, William Reeve, Robin Klein and Simon Murdoch amongst others – every board meeting is an education, and the experience and connections they bring are incredibly helpful in building the business.
You can see a full list of names and bios here.
The online property space is very competitive and dominated by one large player, Rightmove… how do you differentiate yourself and compete?
First-generation property portals like Rightmove have yet to fully harness the power of the web by providing consumers with the tools to help them make better-informed decisions. Property search is about much more than simply showing you a list of properties. Zoopla.co.uk brings together richer, more intelligent content about properties and their local areas to create a more useful and inspiring property research experience.
As well as free instant property value estimates, which is probably what we were best known for when we started, our unique community features like AskMe!™ and TemptMe!™ differentiate us from competition and allow users to gain an insight into the market and discover information they won’t find anywhere else. Our rapid growth has been fuelled by the differentiated services we offer, and we continue to lead the sector in innovation with new services like property auctions.
The product is important – but it is also about being smart about marketing. We don’t outspend Rightmove on TV ads, but we do punch above our weight in areas like PR, online marketing, partnerships, CRM and word of mouth.
Why did you acquire PropertyFinder last year? The two businesses had different business models and pricing strategies didn’t they? How have you addressed this?
The PropertyFinder Group (Propertyfinder.com, UKPropertyShop.co.uk and Hotproperty.co.uk) was a well respected business, which had strong traffic, solid revenues, a great reputation with agents and a good team – all of which complemented our strategy in this market. PropertyFinder’s biggest weakness was a lack of local in-house technology expertise. Combining the innovative services of Zoopla.co.uk with the long-standing industry position of PropertyFinder was the perfect fit.
Our acquisitions, including Guardian Media Group’s Thinkproperty.com which we acquired in July ’09, have helped us deliver on our strategy and accelerated the scale of the consumer audience, property inventory and the exposure we can give agents on Zoopla.co.uk.
On pricing, we now offer a unique choice of pricing structures, giving agents the flexibility to choose between paying a fixed monthly fee for ‘unlimited’ leads or paying on a ‘pay-per-lead’ basis. We are happy to let agents choose the model that best suits their business. Our aim is to become the most efficient marketing partner for UK estate agents by providing them the widest possible exposure and best value online marketing services.
What do you think will happen in the online property market over the next twelve to twenty-four months?
2009 was a year in which the portal landscape changed and consolidated quite dramatically, largely driven by us, and agents have started to concentrate their marketing spend on the market leaders.
From our perspective in 2010, we will continue to work towards our aim of making the market more effective for property consumers and professionals, by continuing to create a differentiated experience and launching new and exciting features that will benefit both.
What impact has the credit crunch had on Zoopla.co.uk? Do you think we have seen the worst of it now?
Zoopla.co.uk was started at the beginning of the housing slump and during this time we raised £5.4m in funding and completed our acquisitions. Raising a VC round of £3.75M at the end of 2008 was a fascinating experience – we proved that it is possible to raise money in almost any market with the right concept, team, traction and supportive existing investors.
Often the best time to start a business can be in the middle of a market meltdown. This was certainly the case for Zoopla.co.uk which has thrived as a result of the downturn rather than in spite of it. We have proven that incredible businesses are built in hard times.
We have just come out of recession, but we are by no means in the clear. Signs of growth are appearing but this will be a slow recovery.
When did you join Zoopla and why?
I joined Zoopla in May 2008, 4 months or so after the site first launched. I had talked to a lot of startups in London, and this was the one I most believed in – plus it had a great, proven founding team and blue chip investor profile which for me was a must. A lot of people I knew thought I was crazy to join a property startup during a downturn, but there are advantages of recessions: they accelerate change in industries and force people to re-evaluate where their spend is most effective, which worked in our favour – as did the constant media buzz around property prices.
How did you find yourself in this role? Tell us about your background…
Immediately before Zoopla, I was Managing Director of Gumtree.com, the UK’s largest classifieds website, which I had helped eBay buy and then spent 3 years building up through a period of extraordinary growth. I’d really enjoyed the small company feel of Gumtree, and after 5 years in total within eBay, I wanted to flee the nest and help build something new from the ground up.
Before eBay, I worked for Bain & Company, Unilever and also did a couple of early-web entrepreneurial stints. I have an MBA from Kellogg, an English degree from Cambridge and am a qualified accountant. My career so far has been a journey from large companies to small and from finance/strategy to general management – chasing the stuff I find fun and rewarding.
What do you think are the main ingredients of building the best team?
Shared vision and belief in where you are going, and the team spirit that goes with that. Keeping hiring standards high – don’t settle for second best, especially in key roles, even if you are desperate for extra hands it is infinitely worth it in the long run. Don’t take too long to cut and run if things aren’t going to work out. Help your people grow and blossom, try to get out of their way and let them make decisions – hard sometimes when you’re running at a hundred miles an hour but it has to happen as a company grows. A culture of ownership and responsibility.
What is ‘hot’ in the online world right now?
I’m far too busy focussing on Zoopla to know the answer to that but here’s what I hear in the pub … Groupon clones seem to be springing up all over the place. Local continues to be interesting on both the web and mobile, from Foursquare to Qype – in general, smartphones seem to be driving a whole new set of interesting consumer technology apps and solutions. Dating seems to be due a second wave – watch out for Jane Thompson’s hellopulse. I also like Peopleperhour.com, a the UK-based freelancers marketplace that just raised a round of funding from – great place for small companies to find cheap temporary resources [I’m an angel investor in PPH – shameless plug].

‘UPDATE – Doug is now Co-Founder of Adzuna adzuna.co.uk a search engine for jobs and classified ads.’


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