Q & A with BeatThatQuote.com’s John Paleomylites
Startups has a catch-up session with the BeatThatQuote.com founder.
John Paleomylites started price comparison site Beatthatquote.com in 2005, five years after he sold his first business for £40m. Since then, BTQ has won the Startups Awards and Young Company of the Year at the 2006 Growing Business Awards, as well as being dubbed the fastest-growing site on the web. Startups first interviewed him in 2006 – but we caught up again to find out what it’s like at the helm of the nation’s number one start-up.
Hi John – congratulations on winning. How does it feel?
Can I be a complete arrogant tosser? It was half expected. No – only joking – it’s great, absolutely fantastic news. It reassures our staff that the work they’re doing has paid off.
When we spoke to you in 2006, things were going very well – how has the last year and a bit been?
Very good – can’t complain at all. We’ve been named as the fastest-growing website in the UK, according to the Nielsen ranking. So that’s a nice accolade for us.
Last time you said you were thinking about floating on AIM. Has that happened?
No, it hasn’t. And it’s unlikely to. We think there’s still so much more growth in the business that there’s no point doing an IPO. It would be leaving too much money on the table.
Have you got any other kind of exit strategy?
Well, we know roughly – it’s either going to be an initial public offering (IPO – a sale of stock by the company to the public) or it’s going to be a trade sale, but there’s no immediate plans for either. You’ve got to remember we’re only just three years old. I’m still quite enjoying it, and it’s looking good so far.
Do you think the recession has affected the growth of the company?
For us, it’s actually improved. This is probably because we’ve broadened our marketing channels significantly – we’re putting more marketing resources into safer insurance products to counter-act the risk on credit products like mortgages. So in terms of overall market share, the market has gone down but our market share has gone up.
You’re quite vocal about the fact that you started BTQ to compete with MoneySupermarket.com. Would you say BTQ was an original business model?
Oh, no! The business model was entirely, entirely copied. Shamelessly copied. What we looked to do is to improve on it, so we looked to see what they did, saw where we could improve on that process, and then employed it – with much more effective technology. There are, and there have been, so many companies that have tried to enter the price comparison space. Not many of them have made it work. We think we are one of the very few that have made it work and we’ve done it really effectively, with not a great deal of money.
Do you think your success is proof that you don’t always need an original idea to do well?
Absolutely. In fact, I’d go one step further than that and say it’s a lot easier to make money from an unoriginal idea than it is an original idea.
If you look at it in the way a venture capital company would, an original model is a market risk. If the market has accepted the product that you’re trying to sell or the service you’re trying to sell, there’s no market risk.
With a new idea, you don’t know whether you can develop the technology to meet the business requirements because it’s the first time that business requirement has been influenced, so there’s a technology risk there. You don’t necessarily know whether you can get skilled staff to move from something they haven’t done before to something entirely new, so there’s a management risk there.
With my last company, everything was new. Every time you sold something to a client you had to explain to that client what it is that you do – there was a six-month sales cycle before they even understood what it was that you were selling. This time, all that work has been done and everyone understands what it is that we do. This time is a hundred times easier.