Define start-up? A 27 year old co-founder; a 25 year old COO; a pool table; a table tennis tournament; kayaking. International travel. Presentations at dawn? There is no template, but it’s tempting to think that Flubit, the demand driven marketplace which guarantees to create a better offer for any goods bought online via a network of more than 1,000 suppliers, is what a “trendy” Dave Cameron meant when he pitched us Tech City back in 2010; and Flubit stepped up and helped to make it happen, in the process raising over £9 million of seed & Series A and B funding. So what does success looks like? It looks like hard work and togetherness, but it’s kind of fun, too. In a nutshell, work hard, play hard, take equity; get involved! The HT took a closer look at what a start-up looks like from the inside; by observing some of the basic tenets of “Flubilosophy”.
Be ambitious, and don’t be afraid of change
First up, everybody has a role, everybody has a place. Steph Fiala came on board as an unpaid intern in September 2011 and has risen to the position of Chief Operating Officer, via Customer Experience Manager, and Head of Product. During her time at Flubit she has helped to shape Company culture, bringing a sense of fun to proceedings, keeping things competitive, and holding things together as co-founders Bertie Stephens & Adel Louertatani travel the world, looking to partner internationally to grow the business, and position it as a real threat to some of the big global players such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and others.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: “when I became COO, we had 2 months of cash left, something had to change and it had to change quickly”, says Steph; it was, to a certain extent, out with the old and in with the new. “It was a change that needed to happen, and since that time we have grown from 36 to 70 staff. That’s strong growth even for a start-up.”
Promote from within, make sure everyone is sharing in the Company’s success!
“At Flubit we believe strongly in promoting from within; it’s very hard to know exactly how a Company works from the outside, especially a disruptive start-up; it’s important that staff fit in. Joining Flubit as an apprentice, for example, to come on board that early gives you a great chance to grow into the culture and as you gain more knowledge, well it should become harder to leave and we will, of course, be trying our best to keep you on. We believe, in fact I insisted on it when I became COO, that all staff should be given stock options. Why wouldn’t you? It’s not so much of a big deal over here in London as it is in the US but its gaining traction. It’s an incentiviser and gets everybody pulling in the same direction, makes us all a little bit closer.”
Work hard, play hard!
There’s no doubt staff work hard at Flubit. It starts at the top: “the start-up game is anything but a stroll in the park”, say founder Bertie Stephens. Starting the business with Adel (Louertatani, co-founder) was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made but it’s been incredibly hard work. One of the most important bits of advice I can give is to surround yourself with great people you can trust; building a successful business is all about teamwork, as however many hours you work you can’t do it all. Anybody who comes on board needs to understand how dedicated the staff are, and how focused.”
“That said, if you are in the right frame of mind the work is great fun! I’d compare it to putting on a play where the results are real and tangible. The reason Steph will take my calls from abroad at 4am is because we trust one another and therefore she knows that there must be a good reason why I’m contacting her, and if it makes the difference between improving as a business or standing still, then she will do whatever it takes. For my part, I’ll update the whole staff at least once a week, from wherever I happen to be, to make sure everyone’s in the loop. Deciding to work at Flubit is not just a career decision, it’s about the kind of lifestyle you want to have, too.”
Planning is always subject to change
“We do make plans”, says Steph, “but Bertie and Adel have a certain kind of vision, and part of that is about being adaptable. This industry can change incredibly quickly; we have to stay ahead of the game. Some of the stunts we have managed to pull with our fabulous technical team have been amazing; we have turned around projects in days, and ended up delivering a live demo to a potential investor or partner just a few days after they have suggested a new feature that they would like to see. That takes balls, I must say! And it takes trust. I’m so happy to be able to say: “I TRUST MY TEAM!”
“One of our biggest moments has been partnering with Barclays to help provide their 35 million credit card customers with exclusive online deals. We signed with them June last year. 8 Barclay’s representatives came and spent almost a week with us, it was high pressure, but we behaved ourselves as a company and made a fantastic impression on them, as we tend to do with all of our clients.”
Never shirk a challenge!
Flubit are constantly in talks with new clients, or having conversations with potential partners, or speaking with investors. “From what we have seen nobody in the UK has grown as quickly or to the extent that we have, we give something completely different to the market and our customers love what we do for them.”
“When we look at the challenges we face, you have Alibaba moving into the space in the UK, we have always competed with the major global players so we have no problem with competition. We’re only small, but we have the right spirit.” Founder Bertie recently gave an interview in which he was asked, “Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?” “Creating better offers for people on the products they want, at the moment they are ready to buy”, was his reply. It’s hard to argue with that attitude, and good to know that, from their offices in Wapping, by the Thames, Flubit are creating a culture to rival the Google’s and Amazon’s of this world.