The Entrepreneur: Adam Pikett, SportPursuit.com

The founders of the private shopping club for sports enthusiasts on their funding journey, bottlenecks, and must-read books

Founders: Adam Pikett, Victoria Walton, Rhys Jones, Luke Pikett
Company: SportPursuit
Website: www.sportpursuit.com
Description in one line: The UK’s largest online private shopping club for sports enthusiasts
Previous companies: Associate partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants
Turnover: Private, but growing at over 300% per annum
12 month target: Hit two million members

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • SportPursuit.com runs seven day pop-up shops promoting hundreds of great brands every month to our base of 1,000,000 sports men and women
  • Every sale is at “why not” prices that cannot be beaten anywhere
  • SportPursuit is growing the sports market by helping customers justify buying more sports kit and encouraging them to trade up, trial and discover new brands and products

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Signing up our one millionth member was a pretty epic moment.

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

Unlike most retailers we do not have a static product catalogue so we are constantly balancing both supply and demand. For us, the simplest bellwether for this is last 24-hour revenue and its rate of change. This tells us everything we need to know at a glance about how effectively we are managing to get the products our customers want to see on the site and encouraging them to take a look.

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

While our site is currently optimised for our UK members, we do see a lot of interest internationally. We think this offers us a massive opportunity across Europe and further afield to capitalise on the strong brand relationships we have built over the past three years.

Describe your growth funding path:

  • April 2011: Self-funded
  • March 2012: Series A £1.4m, DFJ Esprit and Angels
  • October 2013: Series B £5m, DFJ Esprit, SVB and Angels

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?        

The bespoke technology we have developed to tag, track and personalise the user experience is at the heart of everything we do ensuring the customers get the best, most relevant experience we can deliver.

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

By 2016 we want to be one of the leading online sports retailers in Europe.

Growth challenges

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

Walk away from a great job in the City and take zero salary for 12 months on the off chance we might be able to get SportPursuit off the ground. Luckily, we did and it is one of the best decisions we have made – you learn so much more founding a business than you can ever on someone else’s watch.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Trying to launch a tech business without a CTO! We had a great founding team, but none of us could code. The weekend after our launch we were flyering the International Triathlon Union Champion Series at Hyde Park to recruit members and happened to hand a flyer to our now CTO, who is a fanatical cyclist. A few weeks later he got in touch and after six months of courting we managed to persuade him to join us.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

So far we have been pretty lucky and managed to avoid too much serious Red Tape.

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

Not letting go! As your business grows you have to have a team around you that you really trust so you can let go of parts of the business. If you can’t get to that point your business will be constrained by you being the bottleneck for all decisions.

How will your market look in three years?

As markets mature they generally consolidate, making life easier for the consumer – we believe with the development of new devices and the investment required in technology to support these we will see rapid online consolidation.

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

Surround yourself with people who are better than you are. If you can do that your chance of succeeding and enjoying the journey has just gone through the roof!

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Bentley. Not the car, we can’t afford one of those. Bentley is our office Labradoodle. He’s an integral part of SportPursuit and comes to work with us every day, unfortunately he thinks he is a lapdog which can be a little inconvenient in Board Meetings!

Executive education or learn it on the job?

There is no substitute for just getting out there and doing it. Business is common sense; the hard part isn’t knowing what you should be doing, it’s actually executing it – and unfortunately the secret to that is all about practice.

What would make you a better leader?

Practice.

Business book:

I’m a big fan of Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton and John Huey and The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. It is great to read about how they were able to overcome “the way things are done” to evolve an industry.

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