Interviewing Bertie Stephens, founder of Flubit.com – demand a better offer

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Editor’s note: Flubit recently raised £16 million and has launched a contender in the marketplace space, exciting times! (1 April 2017)

What if I told you that there is a website which can create you the lowest price for any product on the web? Sounds like a great deal, right? That’s the idea behind flubit.com, a London-based startup co-founded by Bertie Stephens. We talked to the 26-years-old serial entrepreneur to find out more about his story.

Related: 12 step guide to getting your dream startup job

First of all Bertie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your entrepreneurial background?

Before Flubit, I set up a video production company with two colleagues that are still going strong today. Making videos and films gave me a good grounding for setting up Flubit.com. I had to learn fast and develop a cohesive team of people while trying to create a vision of what we need to deliver, while not knowing exactly what the final product will look like. If you’ve never run a business, putting together a short film is incredibly useful; it’ll give you an idea of what’s about to hit you!

In under 50 words, what does flubit.com do?

Flubit.com is a disruptive e-commerce platform that has the power to create better prices on the exact products you’re about to buy online from sites such as amazon.co.uk.

How did you come up with the idea?

We originally thought of the idea and subsequently wrote the initial plan, for whatever reason, left it there for around six months – this was before the ‘group buying’ frenzy had really caught on. It wasn’t until the daily deal sites were getting more and more traction that I decided to start developing the idea further, alongside my normal day job. Another six months after that, I met the first investor. 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, private offer on the product you want, when you’re ready to buy.

You raised a significant amount of money for flubit. What would you advise founders?

Raising finance is not easy, and there are no shortcuts. It takes up a huge amount of time and effort but is actually a very rewarding and worthwhile experience to go through. The more meetings you have, the slicker your pitch will become plus you’ll gain some valuable insight and advice along the way. We were fortunate that we had backers that believed in our model and we were also fortunate that we gained significant traction and growth early on and had some impressive metrics to show potential investors. You need to know your numbers and have a concrete business plan, but you also need to tell a story and have a compelling vision of the potential for your business.

What have been the biggest challenges for you? How did you manage those and what did you learn from it?

I guess you can say that when running a startup, each day is a challenge. However, our first platform attempt had many shortcomings (among other things, it wasn’t interesting to consumers, wasn’t seen as a viable channel by merchants, couldn’t be scaled). The key thing was to learn – not go back to the drawing board, but see what lessons we could take. They were: Internet shoppers are patient; they shop for themselves, not for the group; and merchants will offer lower prices to win even single sales. Those lessons have formed the basis of our new, effective platform.

Flubit is now the No 1 UK independent marketplace. Can you tell us a little bit about your secrets of success?

I wish there was a secret. Maybe the secret to learning is that there are no quick wins or shortcuts to success. Having a good business idea is one thing, but unless you know how to execute it, it’s worth nothing. Straight from the start, we’ve surrounded ourselves with a hardworking team we could trust and rely upon. Doing everything yourself is impossible, so this is absolutely crucial. Idea-wise. Trying to compete with a retail giant such as Amazon is next to impossible. Simple fact! Therefore, to become successful within this field, we came up with a very disruptive business idea where rather than doing the same we’re turning the e-commerce model on its head. Customers will browse the internet as per usual but once they found what they’re looking for, they’ll copy and paste the URL for that product into Flubit.com, and we’ll create a private, exclusive offer for that exact item but around 10% cheaper.

Where do you see your business in 12 months?

Expansion and growth are two things we’re always pushing for. Although we have already come a long way since our launch in 2012, there’s a lot of growth left to do for Flubit.com. We plan to use some of the new financings to continue to build out new technologies and improve our products and services for customers. We want to continue to onboard UK online retailers who can benefit from a new incremental sales channel, we’re developing innovative new ways for partners to and we have ambitions to take Flubit overseas.

Is there any interesting news from flubit you want to share with us?

We’ve recently launched our new Instant Offer feature which gives existing users the chance to get their offer back quicker than normal. Through this innovation, our users can now get offers back within 30 seconds rather than having to wait a few hours. The discount is a bit lower than going through our normal Demand process and waiting, but for those that need to purchase immediately, they can get money off something they were going to buy at full price anyway.

What is the very best advice you can give young entrepreneurs starting their own business?

If you believe you have a great business idea, have done your research and have a credible business plan, go for it. But make sure you have people you can turn to for solid advice and ensure you are working with people who share your vision and you can trust implicitly. It could be one of the best moves you ever make and even if it fails you’ll probably regret not doing it more than giving it a go and not succeeding. Oh, and get thick skinned quick.

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