Flubit: Bertie Stephens

Demand-driven marketplace

Name: Bertie Stephens
Age: 26
Company: Flubit
Staff numbers: 35
Company description: Demand-driven marketplace
Tell us what your business does:

Flubit is a demand-driven marketplace: customers tell us the product they want and the website offering the best price they could find. We create a better offer for them on that exact product.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was an enthusiastic early adopter of the first wave of flash sale sites and group buying sites and all the rest. 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.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Initially, I tried to make a group buying platform – people nominated the products they wanted, and we grouped them up and took the groups to merchants for a discount. What that attempt taught me was that people liked being in control, were patient, made purchase decisions on their own – not group – terms, and that merchants were willing to offer discounts in order to win sales even when the ‘group’ only had one member. From those findings we found the market, and customers who wanted to buy from us.

What were you doing before starting up?

Before I started Flubit, I was running a successful video production company I started after spending three years as Neville Longbottom’s double on the Harry Potter films. But most of the time I spent wondering how to do things a little differently – that pondering turned into something a lot bigger: the successful platform we have today.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Not consciously at all, but for some reason I’ve always found myself being my own boss, whether as a freelancer or a business owner. I enjoy the freedom to do things differently.

How did you raise the money?

The seed round was destiny. I shared an orange juice with a stranger on the set of an advert for Coke. We got to talking about the Flubit concept. He asked me how much money I’d need to make it go, and I said £5,000 to do a test. He said £50,000 seemed too small, but that he could certainly provide it. Language barriers are sometimes good things.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Our first platform attempt had many shortcomings (among other things, it wasn’t interesting to consumers, wasn’t seen as a viable channel by merchants, couldn’t be scaled…). The key thing was to learn – not go back to the drawing board, but see what lessons we could take. They were: internet shoppers are patient; they shop for themselves, not for the group; and merchants will offer lower prices to win even single sales. Those lessons have formed the basis of our new, effective platform.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We are a demand-driven marketplace: customers tell us the product they want and the website with the best price they could find. We create a better offer for them on that exact product. The offers are fulfilled by our integrated merchants, and we make money by taking a micro-commission on every sale.

What was your first big breakthrough?

A half pint of orange juice.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

I’m still a budding entrepreneur, and advising yourself is a dangerous game. But the one thing I’ve learned is that trying to do the ridiculous isn’t impossible – it’s just incredibly hard.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

Creating better offers for people on the products they want, at the moment they are ready to buy.

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