The Entrepreneur: Chris Morton, Lyst

Having just closed a staggering $14m Series B funding round, the founder of the ‘universal shopping cart’ site speaks with Growing Business about his plans for global expansion...

Founder: Chris Morton
Company: Lyst
Website: www.lyst.com
Description in one line: Lyst aggregates the world’s fashion to provide shoppers with a personalised way to discover and shop the fashion they love.
Background: Investor at Benchmark Capital and Balderton Capital, focused on consumer internet.
Turnover: £40m sales run rate
12 month target: £100m in annual sales

Within three bullet points, describe your business model

  • First we bring the world’s fashion to one place, by partnering with leading brands, boutiques and department stores.
  • Then we create inspiring and useful personal shopping experiences for every customer – based on their style.
  • We take a percentage commission on the sales that flow through our platform.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

It probably doesn’t get much better than co-founding a business that is used and loved by millions of people every month.

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

Sales and returning visitors – Lyst is a brand that we want people to fall in love with, that they can’t resist, so monitoring our returning visitors is just as important as sales.

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

Although we are a British company (our HQ is in London), our largest market – now 60% of all sales – has always been the US. Internationalisation has been a focus for us since the beginning as fashion is global – this year we’ll extend further into Europe and Asia.

Describe your growth funding path:

December 2010, Seed round of $1.5m

June 2012, Series A funding of $5m

January 2014, Series B funding of $14m

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Launching fashion’s first universal check out last year has revolutionised our business. Enabling shoppers to purchase from multiple brands and retailers in one step on Lyst means a higher conversion rate and an exponential rise in sales.

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

Closing in on £1bn sales annually for our partners.

Growth challenges

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

Never compromising on hiring the best team possible meant there were some hard choices to make.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Quitting my job to start the business without having found my co-founder. I got lucky when I convinced Seb (Sebastjan Trepca, co-founder and CTO) to join shortly after, otherwise I might still be looking!

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

A lot of things have hampered growth, but red tape hasn’t really be one…. yet!

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

Compromising on team. It sadly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as subsequently you will only be able to continue attracting mediocre people. The best people typically only want to work with the best people.

How will your market look in three years?

We will see the binding of the digital and the analogue worlds to allow shoppers to consume across both channels – resulting in a lot more innovation around the consumer experience.

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

Surround yourself with the best talent possible – don’t fall into the temptation of settling when it comes to your team.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My bed. Most expensive thing I own and worth every penny.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job 100%.

What would make you a better leader?

More experience – I’ve learnt so much over the last four years, so I’m looking forward to many more lessons in the next four.

Business book:

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. Not technically a ‘business book’ but, perhaps more importantly, a book that – by making us think about the motivations behind the decisions we make – helps us understand the world we live in better.

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