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A watercooler moment with... Bertie Stephens

Written by Ryan McChrystal on Friday, 21 November 2014. Posted in Snapshots, Interviews

A watercooler moment with Bertie Stephens, co-founder and CEO of Flubit, the customer-driven online marketplace

A watercooler moment with... Bertie Stephens

In a nutshell, what does Flubit do?

An innovative and disruptive new way to buy and sell, Flubit is a platform aiming to change the face of buying online. It empowers the consumer to bring down prices and provide online shoppers with a platform enabling them to seek out the best possible price on an item they wish to purchase. Instead of listing products for users to browse, the user simply drops in the URL of the Amazon item they wish to buy, and receives a unique, private offer, on average 10% lower. For merchants, there are no set up costs or monthly fees. By alleviating the usual marketplace fee, the merchant can provide a more competitive price, giving customers a better offer and a unique shopping experience. Merchants enjoy a boost in sales via an additional route to market at no extra cost, and protected margins.

Where did the idea for Flubit 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.

When did you start up?

September 2012.

How has it gone so far?

It’s been a fun journey but, as with most start-ups, it is always a challenge. We are very pleased with what we have achieved since our launch. From a fledgling group of four people based in a small bedroom a couple of years ago, the company now has 35 employees with new offices in Wapping. However, none of this may have happened if it wasn't for a misunderstanding. When the idea first came up, I was able to meet with a potential investor and pitch his idea to him, asking for an investment of £5k to get things off the ground. However the investor misheard me, offering me £50k instead. We then went on to raise another £500k and from there Flubit has grown quickly, with the most recent valuation indicating the company is worth £50m.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Our first platform attempt had many shortcomings; among other things, it wasn't interesting to consumers. The key thing was to not go back to the drawing board and see what lessons we could take. We learnt that internet shoppers are patient, they shop for themselves, not for the group. We also saw that merchants will offer lower prices to win even single sales. These lessons have formed the basis of our new, effective platform.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?

First and foremost, all our offers are unique and created in private. The beauty of Flubit is you cannot browse or search for products so it never spams its users with irrelevant products or offers. The service is instead all about users coming to the site in their own good time, demanding exactly what they want cheaper, whenever they want it. We then create them an offer that is exclusive; we email them with a unique better offer for the product they want to buy. With this open and transparent approach, we are unique in the world of e-commerce. This is leading to a high percentage of our shoppers coming back to buy from us multiple times.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?

That would have to be leaving my previous job and a secure monthly income to set up Flubit. Thankfully it has worked out.   

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?

It’s very difficult to answer in the tech space, although we will definitely be growing. We have a long term as well as a short-term plan as well as lots of other exciting features that we plan to implement. One of the things we are always trying to achieve is to create better offers for people on the products they want at the moment they are ready to buy.

If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I’m still a budding entrepreneur and advising yourself is a dangerous game. It’s great when you have a big idea but don’t underestimate the time and resources you will need to move that from a concept to reality. Trying to do the ridiculous isn't impossible, it’s just incredibly hard. 

About the Author

Ryan McChrystal

Ryan McChrystal

In a previous life McChrystal wrote about asset management in the Middle East. A history and politics graduate from the north of Ireland, he now focuses his efforts a little closer to home. 

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