The businesses brings voucher codes to a huge potential audience of online bargain hunters.
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People rarely shop online these days without checking whether they can save money through a voucher code. But the process of finding a good one can be tedious and annoying. Pouch aims to change all that by doing it automatically.
Tell us about your business
Pouch is a free browser extension that saves you time and money. Pouch automatically finds and displays the best voucher codes as you shop online, on over 3,000 UK stores. Once you download Pouch you never need to visit an annoying voucher code website again.
Where did the idea spring from?
As a consumer, it is too hard and frustrating to find and redeem valid voucher codes when shopping online. The whole experience is very clunky and fractured.
We knew there was demand because millions of UK customers redeem voucher codes every single day when shopping on their desktops.
Everybody has been in this situation before: you are about to buy something online and are asked "Do you have a voucher code?", so you leave the checkout page to search for a voucher code. You then end up clicking on loads of rubbish voucher code websites, return to the website, and the code doesn't work.
This is also a big problem for retailers who spend millions of pounds driving users to their websites, and millions more optimizing those sites for conversions, yet 75 per cent of their users abandon the checkout page. One of the most common causes of this is due to users leaving to search for voucher codes.
Thanks to Pouch, retailers no longer need to rescind control of their user journey; the user stays on the website and enjoys a seamless experience, while retailers see a direct increase in sales.
Bring us up to date with the growth story
The company was co-founded by three Directors; Ben Corrigan, Vikram Simha and Jonny Plein. We began building the product in February 2016, and launched in September 2016 after being invited on the prestigious MassChallenge accelerator programme.
After closing our first investment of £220,00, we have grown from strength to strength. We work with over 3000 UK retailers, we have over 12,000 users, and we employ a couple of programmers and are currently hiring for several tech positions.
We also outsource some of our digital marketing to agencies. Turnover is nascent as product has been a core focus and more important metric than revenue to date, however we forecast a 7 figure turnover by the end of 2017, with several hundred thousand users.
The Pouch team reached the final of the Mass Challenge start-up competition
How competitive is your market?
The traditional voucher code industry is very saturated, competitive and fragmented, but there is nobody in the UK doing what Pouch does as a browser extension.
It is a very big market, but the performance marketing industry is highly dependant on relationships, which makes it difficult for totally new entrants. Pouch has been fortunate in this way because I come from a performance marketing background.
We estimate that our total market opportunity is around £480m based on the size of the UK Ecommerce industry on desktop, the general prevalence of voucher codes, and forecasted growth.
Over the next few years, we expect to be a large multi-faceted technology business with a total focus on innovation.
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence are where we expect to see most of the rapid advancements taking place in technology over the next 5 years, so I expect Pouch will be working heavily on these platforms, and probably moving away from Desktop as a channel altogether.
We are already a very data-driven company, so it would be exciting to really help drive the new wave of machine learning in the retail/commerce sector.
What have been the major bumps in the road and how have you overcome them?
We almost lost our seed investment before finalising the deal which was a major bump in the road for us in terms of confidence and team morale. There were many reasons why the deal almost fell through, but we kept on fighting and worked extremely hard to save it.
Other bumps include just appreciating how absurdly long some seemingly simple tasks take to get completed. A website designer may quote a job as '4 weeks' and it ends up taking 8 weeks... this can throw a whole host of other projects into disarray, but the only way to overcome these bumps is to remain calm and positive.
How have you got word out about the business?
Our marketing strategy has been quite iterative as we are trying to find our best performing channels and audiences. We did a great campaign in partnership with Student Money Saver that involved a competition for £400 worth of Amazon vouchers.
That lead to a significant amount of downloads before the crucial Christmas period. We have also been quite bullish on Facebook and social influencers.
Finally, journalists seem to really like us. Without a single penny spent on PR, we have featured in Metro, Daily Mirror, Forbes, Startups.co.uk, The Telegraph and a bunch of other smaller publications.
Pouch alerts shoppers when discounts are available
What's the trickiest aspect of running a business for you?
One of the hardest things is having very little disposable income, and so I am constantly reminding myself that I am playing the long game! There is also a small amount of 'hate' and deafening indifference from some people, but that is easy to ignore.
The benefits of running your own company far far outweigh the negatives. It is an amazing privilege to be able to come into work each day and build cool products with your best friends. Unlike a traditional job, the role of a co-founder is extremely varied and (in my opinion) fun.
Whether it involves scoping out a road map, speaking to retailers, meeting with agencies, talking to journalists, board meetings with investors, hiring, billing, and everything in between.
What would you change about the environment for doing business in London?
We have actually found it almost frictionless to launch and run our business in London so far. We have found HMRC very easy to deal with, and government investment incentives such as SEIS and EIS have been a total game-changer for improving access to early stage capital in the UK technology sector.
However, despite London's inarguable position as the European start-up capital, we still have a very long way to go to rival silicon valley. We need more liquidity in the ecosystem, and government has an important part to play in encouraging that.
It is also far too expensive for early-stage entrepreneurs to live in London, so perhaps initiatives such as rental assistance would be interesting to explore in order to encourage entrepreneurialism and make starting a business more meritocratic.
What is your biggest mistake?
Our biggest mistake has been making too many assumptions about our users and our market without really listening and talking to them first. We have been reluctant to launch certain features because of how we assumed a user might respond, rather than launching and then finding out empirically for ourselves.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured that point of difference?
I think our biggest differentiator is the simplicity of our product from a user perspective. Pouch is downloaded for free in 2 clicks, and then sits in the browser and gently gives you voucher codes for the sites that you visit. It is unobtrusive, really useful and simple.
We have nurtured this point of difference by remaining a friendly tool that is totally focused on the user first and foremost. No gimmics, no distractions.
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How do you keep employees happy?
We have recruited through a combination of recruitment consultants, job platforms, and our own personal networks. At this stage in the business, we try to inspire our staff by giving them a lot of autonomy over interesting and complex problems which, when solved, can be incredibly rewarding.
We will be opening up an employee equity pool following our next round of investment that should finalise by Q2 2017.
Our CTO Vikram Simha has over 12 years experience as a technical architect and full-stack developer at companies such as Bank of New York, Cisco and Brilliant Basics. Our tech team are improving dramatically under his leadership, which I hope is another reason for them to stay!
Do you feel supported by government?
Whilst there is a lot more that can be done, I truly believe that the UK is one of the very best places in the world to start a business. The government has played a key role, whether through tax incentives such as SEIS and EIS, fixed rate start-up loans, co-investment funds, funding competitions, relatively low corporate tax rates, and amazing bodies such as Tech City UK and Innovate UK. I would rate government support at 9/10.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
1) Get at least one co-founder. I personally wouldn't dream of starting a business without a co-founder. Find somebody with a totally different set of skills that are necessary for the business to succeed. Having at least one co-founder will give you a massive advantage and improve morale. Studies also suggest it makes a company more investible and more likely to succeed.
2) Come up with a proper plan and speak to as many people as possible about your idea (potential users, clients, investors etc) in order to validate it and to determine whether there is a genuine market need for your product. Also, ensure you have the resources to cover your rent, food and travel expenses.
Only then you should quit your job and focus 100% on your company. Whilst speed is important, there is no point rushing. You should ensure you give your business the perfect chance of success
3) Try to get on an accelerator, and go to as many tech meet-ups as possible. Building a network is really useful down the line, and you can learn a great deal.