I say journey, because I feel stories are partially planned. Mine was certainly not.
I set up a small company with a university colleague in 2011. We named it Tactivo, back when Groupon was getting started we jumped into the entrepreneurship game and rivaled them.
Yes, an ex-Accenture employee and a Cisco Systems engineer decided to take on the entire VC funded team over at Groupon.
Groupon, you don’t stand a chance.
Tactivo was a spin-off of Groupon, we were only going to do discounted products and not services, the plan was to launch the business together and then split up within Europe and run our businesses separately. (Lesson 1: SWOT)
I borrowed £15,000, quit my job, moved to London and I was on my way. Within 3 months, we blew £14,000 doing our best to gain customers but it just wasn’t working. (Lesson 2: CAC)
With our last £1,000 and with failure clouding my vision, my business partner had the idea of actually selling to Groupon. We had purchased products for Tactivo, they were good, we didn’t have enough exposure so hey, why not become a merchant for Groupon? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? (Lesson 3: Pivoting)
I was totally against it, but with £1,000 in the bank, I don’t really think we had much of a choice. (Lesson 4: KYC)
We opened another company, set up a quick Shopify store and approached KGBDeals back then (a smaller Groupon rival).
They bought in to our product idea and we had our first deal go live.
I was excited, if the deal sold 1,000 units we would generate close to £47,000. Thai beaches were all I was thinking about.
The results came in. (Drum roll please)
Total Tactivo profit: £48.08
Great. Clearly a flop.
We had two choices. Throw the towel in, or go for another round. We now had a good relationship with the sales agent over at KGBDeals, we found a local supplier selling memory foam mattresses back in 2011 when they were like the next big thing. Round 2.
We created yet another Shopify store that made us look like furniture sellers and we offered out our memory foam mattresses to KGBDeals – again, our contact said yes. And this time, we had no expectations.
77 units sold.
Total Tactivo profit: £1212.15
Hello there! We’re onto something!
With KGBDeals behind us, we went after Groupon and showed them our success. They agreed to take us on board with another product of ours.
14,000 units sold – £47,000 profit.
We then went after the USA – Living Social agreed.
52,000 units sold, close to £90,0000 profit.
Fast-forward 4 years into the future, £4M in revenue, 1,300 products in our portfolio, 26 members in our team, Google style offices, our own brand in Selfridges, Debenhams, Fenwicks – deals signed with Weightwatchers – you name it, we had a finger in it.
What’s my point? Why share the story?
Where did it all start? From a failed idea. From our little baby Tactivo. 🙂
Imagine we gave up after Tactivo? I’d have said “I never will do my own business again because it’s too hard”. I would have never had the chance to experience running an SME where every member had a part of me and my vision instilled in them.
It was like cherry picking your own family with solely people you trust who were the best at what they did.
I tell this story, skipping everything I did before then; including losing £45,000 on my life savings on building a unique gambling website, the day I quit Accenture and moved to India to study for my CFA, only to end up setting up a web development agency – uff, the list really goes on.
Over the years I’ve realised – Failure only really sets in when you stop, otherwise it makes a great story.