Sean Mallon is managing director and founder of bizdaq, an online platform which provides business owners with all the tools required to sell their business without the costs or commitment required by traditional selling agents.
Having tried university and employment, Sean realised it didn’t quite give him the buzz he was looking for. At the age of 21, with a couple of years’ experience behind him, Sean took the plunge and chose to go it alone.
Like many business owners, in the early years, Sean undertook the role of marketer, recruiter, accountant and salesman. This gave him an unrivalled insight into the industry and the way it could be improved. Armed with the foresight from previous businesses and a love of technology, Sean began developing his idea for bizdaq.
For Sean, it was about offering a new model for an otherwise outdated industry. Here’s what he has to say about his experience starting his own venture.
We noticed an opportunity to transform an outmoded industry
The industry had been plagued with stories from disgruntled small business owners and as such the reputation of the industry is demanding a change. Many business owners don’t want to pay high up-front fees, be tied into long contracts or pay 15% commission fees on the sale of their business. It’s about a choice when you come to exit your business. Additionally people are increasingly becoming more comfortable with self-service platforms in more aspects of their life with the likes of eBay, Gumtree and eMoov.
Over the years we recognised a trend in that, whenever we occasionally lost a mandate to sell a business, it was becoming less and less to a direct competitor and more so that business owners were trying to sell themselves online to avoid fees and contracts. The issue these business owners faced was a lack of knowledge of the process, and a lack of support when they hit any stumbling blocks.
Put simply, business owners were already doing it themselves and many more wanted to, so we spent two years building an online platform that filled this significant gap.
It’s a disruptive model in a stagnant industry that needs to wake up
I wanted to make a difference by providing a way for business owners to retain as much of their hard-earned capital on sales as possible. It was a challenge at first. Working in the business brokerage market, we knew that longer term we’d be taking customers not only from our competitors but our existing business too. Despite the concerns, we knew we had a viable option that was in huge demand – an easier, less committal and more cost-effective option to sell a business.
This is the first and only online platform in the world that allows a business owner to value, promote and sell their business from start to finish online. The software we’ve built guides buyers and sellers through every step, including arranging viewings, due diligence and even formal sale documents once a deal is negotiated using our application.
We raised £1m in our first round of funding
We launched our beta version in November 2014 to a host of clients we allowed to use the service for free. We learnt more in the following four weeks than we had in two years building bizdaq! The learnings from the beta launch allowed us to tighten up many of the user journeys before our full launch.
After some final intense development work, we raised £1m in our first round of funding. This subsequently enabled us to soft launch in mid-February 2015, obliterating our Q1 target. Our soft launch was heavily based around PR, as we wanted to build credibility for the idea that using an online platform is more than possible to sell a business.
We intend to empower, rather than sell
Our marketing strategy is twofold. We know exactly where our customers are and we know the challenges they face, as our founding team have all been in their position. We intend to talk to and empower where possible, rather than ’sell’. We want business owners to make sensible and informed decisions when it comes to selling up.
Our strategy will be a mixture of online and offline, which is unique for a software as a service (SaaS) platform. We’ve built bizdaq in such a way that it’s as easy to use as a basic social media platform.
Going forward, we intend to establish ourselves as the most credible place to buy or sell a business in the UK. This of course is a big task, however we have a clear path as to how this will happen. We’ve already had requests to enter the US market, but for the time being our absolute focus is on the UK for the next 12 months.
Forging the right team takes dedication
Following our launch we were approached by US-based venture capitalist firms who backed some of the biggest start-ups in the world, which was flattering. However, by far and away our biggest success was seeing the first customer sell their business using bizdaq – that was an incredible feeling.
Having said that, challenges have come in many forms. From the actual build and project management to ensuring, we’re getting the traction we need to stay on target. However, I’d say that building an incredible team of people around me was the most difficult. I wasn’t just interested in their ’talent’, they needed to have the same passion for small businesses as I do and I wanted them to prove it! This meant that many fell at the first hurdle. Like anything, if you look hard enough you can find what you need and I now have a fantastic team to take bizdaq forward.
Invest your time in something you’re passionate about
Don’t just start a business, start a business in something you’re passionate about. I’ve found that the passion increases your drive and tenacity, which are two of the key ingredients you’ll need.
When you first start out, have some short-term goals you can celebrate when you achieve them. It’s a long journey to success and it’s important you pat yourself on the back when you reach a milestone.
Find out more about Hiscox customer Sean and his company bizdaq by visiting: www.bizdaq.co.uk/
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