The Entrepreneur: Andries Smit, Upside

The next generation of cashback is here with Upside, the marketing platform that connects retail brands with consumers by offering personalised cashback.

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Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. We interview successful entrepreneurs from all over the UK, celebrating their achievements, hard work, and determination to get to where they are today. This article was authored by:

Founder: Andries Smit
Company: Upside
Website: upsidesaving.com

Upside's technology enables retailers to deliver personalised cashback offers to consumers where they already are: inside their banking apps, savings apps, even fan club apps. The consented comprehensive spending data from its users enables retailers to deliver relevant offers at scale, by understanding their full share of wallet with other competitive brands.

We speak to Andries Smit, founder and CEO of Upside, about business challenges, the ebb and flow of cashflow, and how running a business is a skill you learn over time.

The Business

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

We’re an embedded marketplace. More specifically, Upside is an API (application programming interface) that fintechs, insurtechs and telecoms businesses use within their existing systems, so they can then offer their users zero-click cashback.

Once a user is plugged into Upside, we ensure they never miss out on cashback again. No matter what bank or credit card they use.

andriesupside_successfulentrepreneur

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

We’ve received organic demand for our APIs from more than 60 large prospect clients, and it's growing double digits month on month. That’s great validation of our market.

How did you fund your business?

We bootstrapped at the start and then raised money from various angel investors. Our investors have been brilliant in helping and referring other investors. It’s important to have the right people in and around the business.

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

  • Sales: new leads, pipeline momentum and progress
  • Marketing: visits, interactions and sign-ups
  • Transactions: users and cashbacks

To what extent does your business trade internationally?

We currently operate in the UK only, but already have set plans for expansion into Europe in early 2022, and into the US by mid-2022.

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

Global domination. In the hands of more than 100 million users.

What software or technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Suite and Slack.


Growth Challenges

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in business?

Unsurprisingly, all businesses face this challenge: cashflow. The problem with business (in my opinion) is that your cash inflows and outflows never match.

There are always timing differences and you ebb and flow between feast and famine, especially in the early days of a business. Getting it right requires the best of your planning, resilience and creativity.

What was your biggest business mistake and what did you learn from it?

Partnering with the wrong people. Businesses don’t do business. People do business with people. I’m a naturally trusting person. I always give people the benefit of the doubt, but that could be dangerous.

I’ve learned to surround myself with amazing team members that give rounded views of who we should do business with.

What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you started on your business journey?

Business is like any skill. You have to learn it.

Upside is my fifth business and only now have I realised that everyone expects first time founders to get it right (including the founders themselves!). That’s absurd. No one expects a first-time skier to whizz down a black (expert) slope. Your first ski holiday is pretty awful and you come back with bumps and bruises at best…

Upside is my fifth business and only now have I realised that everyone expects first time founders to get it right (including the founders themselves!). That’s absurd.

How has the pandemic affected the market you operate in?

We’ve been fortunate enough to have been less affected by the pandemic. Of course, we’ve had to all work from home, and we only met twelve months after starting to work together, but that’s no different from everyone else.


Personal growth

Did you study business or learn on the job?

Both. I trained as a Chartered Accountant which gave me an excellent foundation in business. But as I’ve learned, game strategy and playing on the field are two very different things.

What would make you a better leader?

Knowing how to remain patient and empathetic whilst driving urgency and results; consistently.

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

Business: Slack.

Personal: Whatsapp.

A business book or podcast that you think is great:

Book: ‘Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results’ by James Clear.

Podcasts: I don’t do podcasts. I can read much faster than I can listen.

Finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting a business?

Don’t worry about the first one or the first few. Take the pressure off yourself and start in the little leagues and work your way up. Thinking you are going to walk out on the field playing in the premiership is a lie fed to you by the media. They will showcase stories about a handful of global outliers that created trillion-dollar companies when they were in their twenties.

Don’t worry about the first one or the first few. Take the pressure off yourself and start in the little leagues and work your way up. Thinking you are going to walk out on the field playing in the premiership is a lie fed to you by the media.
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Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, specialising in sustainable business and telephone systems. He also runs the successful entrepreneur's section of the website.

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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