The Entrepreneur: Oded Ran, TouchNote
The CEO of the £5m online postcard company touches on the rise of ‘phygital’, why TV ad campaigns often fail, and his essential KPIs
CEO: Oded Ran
Description in one line: TouchNote is a photo-card sending app – the most thoughtful way to keep in touch
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- TouchNote is the world's most popular photo card-sending app, with over nine million cards sent to date.
- We marry the best of the new world – digital, fast, super easy – with the old world (physical, meaningful, tangible), to become the easiest way of doing something thoughtful.
- We're relentless about providing the best customer service. That's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a product that costs as little as a couple of pounds.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Achieving six years of solid growth at TouchNote, including winning the ninth fastest growing tech company in Deloitte's Fast 50.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
- The number of new customers
- Percentage of returning customers
- Number of cards sent
- Messages from customers and reviews
- The recruitment pipeline
- Breakdown by product and geography
- Conversion rate
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Most of our sales are international and we anticipate that the US will be our largest market by the end of 2018.
Describe your growth funding path:
We raised several rounds of investment from our current investors, along with long-term loans to fund our working capital.
We're now profitable and cash flow positive, which should help us find the right investors as this rapid rate of growth continues.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
The penetration of smartphones and, specifically, smartphones becoming the de facto camera for two billion people, along with the growth of mobile commerce.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
We aim for every person in the UK to have either received, sent or seen a TouchNote card, and a large chunk of the US population too.
It's all about growth, growth, growth!
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Launching our first TV advertising campaigns in the UK and in the US. I now know why so many businesses try TV and fail miserably.
With business operations starting in North America later this year – and a new office in Los Angeles – we'll be working with some amazing talent out there to produce some spectacular campaigns for TouchNote.
What was your biggest business mistake?
We should have spent 100 times more on Facebook advertising in the early days when we were one of the only brands doing it.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
It's difficult coordinating the myriad of tax jurisdictions in Europe and across 50 states in the US.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Doing too many things without getting one thing right.
How will your market look in three years?
‘Phygital', the seamless connection between our physical and digital experiences, is only going to become bigger.
The more people that use apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat for transient, fleeting communications, the more they'll feel the need for a more meaningful, tangible way to communicate and enjoy their memories.
The global greeting cards and photo personalisation market is worth $25bn globally so there's a huge opportunity. In a world where digital messages and photos disappear or are quickly forgotten, TouchNote is giving people a more thoughtful yet easy way to keep in touch.
The phygital revolution is really gathering pace. Vinyl is having a resurgence and printed book sales are holding their own despite the rise of the e-reader. People are again seeing the value in quality, tangible products and we're playing our part in fulfilling that need.
The couple of holidays I take each year to spend time with my wife and our two magnificent children.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Both. If you feel that you're not learning, switch jobs.
What would make you a better leader?
Using my ears more and my mouth less.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
How long it would take to get here and how, with every hurdle the business crosses, the next hurdle is only higher and scarier to overcome.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
My favourite business app is Microsoft Outlook. It’s the best mail and calendar app for iPhone.
Dropbox would be my number one personal app.
There are so many to choose from. Hacking Growth by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis is the latest.
Also, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a must-read.