Launching out of a coffee shop in the city of London in May 2012, MySlipcase has grown from strength to strength and now is headquartered at the Google Campus in Old Street; the breeding ground for the next generation of city-based tech companies. The online community for the (Re)Insurance world now boasts an individually verified global membership into the thousands that grows by the day, with seven company clients and counting, and an exciting year ahead with promotional trips planned to Monte Carlo, New York & Bermuda.
A moment I will never forget was when the first cheque hit the company bank account. It was such a significant sign of progress for the site and came well before we had planned. Someone was paying for a product we had produced from nothing.
The 1000th member was also a significant and exciting step for the site as was the introduction of each of our current seven company clients. These milestones felt fantastic when reached, a feeling that I am confident we will experience more and more as the site continues to progress. In terms of celebration – I usually have a few minutes of elation, but very quickly that milestone becomes a new benchmark and focus turns to hitting the next target.
When I first set up the site, it was difficult to receive funding that wasn’t going to halve my equity in the company. It was also difficult to explain the vision to prospective company clients when membership was low. It is a new product in the industry and there are only now similar platforms sprouting in other industries. Not having comparable success stories was a challenge and made the site a difficult sell. What I learnt from this was patience, as it wasn’t long after I was introduced to Alex Northcott, founder of the PR and Journalism site Gorkana.com, who became a director of MySlipcase. Similarly it was a waiting game with the organisations I was talking to, who wanted to see continuous growth over a set period of time (which fortunately they did!)
The initial risk was leaving a steady job at a large insurance broker and not having what I can only now really appreciate; a guaranteed monthly salary! At times during the first six months I had moments that got me down. A bit of negative feedback or setback on the site could put you in a rut for weeks and the growth of the site was initially not as rapid as I thought it might be. I realised though that not every site is a Facebook fairy-tale and that hard graft and perseverance is needed to get something like MySlipcase off the ground. I think this is even more the case in a traditional industry like the one the site provides for. The more users and company pages we have brought on board, the more of a resource the site has become and this is a continuous process.
A second big risk was migrating the whole platform on to the new version of MySlipcase. We made some significant changes: modernised the layout and design, enhanced the relevance of the site content and made it more user friendly. Although the new benefits were clear, there was a concern that because the new site was so different, it would drive away our current user base. In contrast, the new platform has not only increased the sign up rate, more importantly it has already nearly doubled the return rate of users to the site, increasing the hit rate and speaking volumes for the quality of the content the site now offers.
This is a difficult question to answer… I suppose on the work side, MySlipcase is my total focus and every waking hour is spent managing the site and building its profile in the industry. I make sure I enjoy the weekends with friends but as every small business owner will say, the business also becomes a significant part of your life. It is very difficult to put down and I often find, much to the enjoyment of my girlfriend, that I can’t stop and there is always just one more thing to do! It is very difficult to separate yourself from something you are so passionate about making a true success.
Primarily from my father. He has turned a start up business into a medium sized business over the last 4 years or so with his own venture in the executive search world. He has made a series of big decisions along the way and managed them in a way I strive to.
I am very fortunate also with the directors and strategic advisers I have on board; they individually have character traits that I aspire to have. From technical knowledge to gaining a strategic edge, there is still much to learn as I build my experience as a small business owner.