SaveMoneyCutCarbon: Mark Sait
The founder of the energy saving tool for the hotel industry on the joys of running a start-up
Tell us what your business doesSaveMoneyCutCarbon.com has a simple goal – to help hoteliers save money by cutting energy and water costs. For the first time, we have brought together a suite of energy and water-savings solutions that can be retro-fitted to any hotel room in less than 60 minutes, reducing waste but without restricting use for the guest.
What were you doing before starting up? In 1999, I identified an opportunity for providing broadband services for business travellers in major hotel brands around the world and set up iBAHN Europe, a business that he grew from a start-up to $100m in a short space of time. Since iBAHN, I’ve held CEO and COO roles for various internet and mobile businesses, with the responsibility for operations in UK, USA, Japan and China.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? I have been lucky to have experience working for large companies and being a start-up entrepreneur. A start-up is full of excitement and every job falls to you, the challenge is huge, especially if your business is trying to carve out something new and has to educate customers who at first do not even know they want or need your offering. The feeling of growing something from an idea and seeing customers and staff grow with you is hugely rewarding.
What planning did you do before you started up?We had considerable experience in running a start-up and we knew the hotel sector, but even with this, before we invested too much of our own money we took a range of possible products and solutions and we went out and gained agreement to install and test in live hotels. This gave us a great insight into what products worked and what did not, as well as the sales process, what hotels were looking for etc. This drove our decision on the name, the route to market, messaging etc
How did you raise the money? At present we have funded the business from our own money, and early sales. That said, we already have a number of private investors that have seen our website and roadmap / plan and have expressed their interest in investing. We are buiding the business in very controlled steps and we will invite a small group of external investor who can add money and additional value when the time is right for all stakeholders.
How did you find suppliers? In many cases, we started with lots of research and using Google. We then opened conversations with a shortlist of suppliers, taking their products and testing them in live hotels etc. We have also taken information from hoteliers who have found good products or solutions that have or have not worked well. We aim to be a best-in-breed aggregator of the best products, so our relationship with manufacturers and suppliers is important and we continuely give feedback to improve products. Some of our products are high tech other very low tech.
How have you promoted your business? We are very focused on our online presence and use of social media to reach our audience. The website has been built in a way that makes it easy to navigate, to be educational and to allow different ways for our hotel clients to buy from us. It uses video heavily to educate and inform. This is supported by ongoing blog, twitter and search engine optimisation activity
What about staff? Only three at present and they are not burdensome if you pick staff that love being part of a start-up.
What has your growth been like? It is very early days (we launched last month) so whilst we have a reasonable turnover, we are not profitable. We are on track with regards to our business plan.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?Running a start-up is hard work and is all-consuming. Weekends are no longer work-free days, and I also work very early in the morning and late at night. So free time is limited, but I love to spend time with my children so that is still very important to me.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?My impatience! I want everything to be perfect from day one, and to be exceeding our expectations in all areas. I know this is unrealistic, but I get frustrated when things take longer than I want them to.
What was your first big breakthrough?Being asked to present our trial research at the EHTEC event in Amsterdam. This was when we realised the full potential of the market and our opportunity.
What would you do differently? So far, no major mistakes have been made. I need to learn not to be too open with others about my business ideas, as there have been some occasions where I feel my ideas have been adopted as their own, which is frustrating.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?I would love to see the Save Money Cut Carbon brand as market leader across multiple markets, in the UK and beyond.