The Entrepreneur: Runar Reistrup, Depop

The CEO of the popular social shopping app talks building a "multi billion" company and why he recommends reading The Emperor's New Clothes

CEO: Runar Reistrup
Company: Depop
Website: www.depop.com
Description in one line: A mobile app where people buy and sell fashion and lifestyle items in a fun and easy way
Previous companies: Product director at ZYB (sold to Vodafone Group) and global head of products at Vodafone Group

Business growth

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Depop is a new way to buy and sell. Anyone can list items for sale and anyone can buy among the millions of items for sale from over a million unique sellers.
  • We facilitate the discovery of great sellers and great items and make sure the transaction between buyer and seller is safe and easy.
  • It’s free for sellers to list items for sale. We make money from a 10% commission after every successful sale.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Growing Depop by word of mouth to millions of users in the UK, US and across Europe.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Depop gets better the more people use it for buying and selling, so I watch our new registered users and our daily active users very closely. As buying and selling is what everyone on Depop is ultimately there for, I also watch the number of items bought and sold.

Beyond the numbers I love checking out new sellers and everyday I message a few of the new users to welcome them and help them get started.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

Depop is used all over the world. Most of our current users are based in UK, US and Italy.

Describe your growth funding path:

Depop was funded and incubated out of H-Farm, an accelerator in Italy which must be the most beautiful place on the planet to start your business. Balderton Capital and Holtzbrinck Ventures led our Series A round and since then we have been joined by Creandum as investors.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The iPhone completely changed the world. I was building mobile apps in the pre-iPhone era and it was clear that mobile was going nowhere because the platforms out there were outdated.

Without the iPhone as the game changer we might all still be using computers for most things, including for buying and selling.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Depop will be the prevalent way for people around the globe to buy, sell and connect around their interests and tastes. In three years we will be a multi billion business with users in most corners of the globe.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Growing a business without relying on a big marketing budget is hard. I have done it a couple of times now because I don’t believe in growth led purely by marketing or sales in a world where the quality of the experience is everything the user really cares about.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Too many to single one out. I view making mistakes as a natural consequence of making things happen. I make a lot of things happen so I make mistakes quite frequently.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

I don’t like complaining about external factors. Red Tape or not, just get on with the journey and make things happen within the constraints that exist. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Forgetting that everything starts with a customer’s needs. First, test if there is a need for what you are making. If no one loves what you are making, no amount of marketing or sales will save you.

How will your market look in three years?

The era of PCs and laptops will seem far beyond us and the era of mobile will be starting to fade as our usage of digital media will flow naturally among a plethora of connected devices.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Find the right balance between letting go and staying in control. Let go too early and everything breaks, let go too late and everything breaks. Finding the balance is a lifelong learning process – start your process early.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Time. I have too little of it so, when I do have time with my family, I enjoy it above any other luxury.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Whatever works for you. Some combination of both seems to work best for most people – just as long as you never stop learning. The school of life never ends, but some people make the mistake of thinking that their formal education should end the day they graduate. That can be severely limiting.

What would make you a better leader?

A coach. I have one and I am very grateful for his help.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

That it’s all about the people.

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Business: Dropbox is by now effectively the platform on which I store my digital life. Personal: Citymapper helps me immensely in the daily travels in London and New York.

Business book:

High Output Management by the late Andy Grove for its prescriptive and no-nonsense guide to management and The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen to remind leaders their own vanity can often become their biggest enemy.

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