Made for success

As part of [email protected], we recently hosted Julien Callede, Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Made.com.

Founded in 2010, Made.com has grown from the brainchild of three friends to a household name.

Simultaneously operating in the spheres of furniture, design, logistics and e-commerce, Made.com’s ethos is to provide high-quality furniture at a low cost.

To begin with, our interviewer Axel Threlfall, Reuters Editor-at-large, asked Julien to explain the inspiration behind Made.com.

Julien recounted how he and his co-founders had seen a gap in the market. They saw how customers couldn’t afford unique items, talented designers weren’t being employed and manufacturers were being underused.

The team partnered with Brent Hoberman, one of the founders of Lastminute.com, and began to raise funds for their idea of an e-commerce company, selling well-designed, affordable furniture.

Julien explained how fundraising was fairly straightforward as they had a good business model, which had already been proven to work in other countries.

The company launched in 2010 and Julien himself boxed and labelled their first 30 sales.

Julien explained how the company then went from strength to strength and in 2011 launched a marketing campaign to spread brand awareness.

Partially as a result of the marketing campaign, their sales quadrupled in a matter of months. Unfortunately, Made.com’s logistics supplier and customer services department were not prepared at this point in time for such surge in business.

Julien stated that their main mistake during the journey of setting up Made.com was not planning sufficiently for a period of high growth.

The company set about hiring more people and looking for a better logistics supplier.

After ironing out the issues with customer service and logistics, Made.com looked at new innovative ideas to grow its customer base and improve its brand image.

Julien recounted how they had launched a physical showroom, which turned out to be the best decision they could have made at that time.

This strengthened the brand and brought in new types of customers., Made.com now has three showrooms in the UK, as well as ones in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. They also launched Unboxed, a platform for customers to feature photos of their beloved Made.com items in their own homes.

This idea proved to be great PR and was not costly at all. Made.com has also been successful in expanding overseas, in countries such as France, Italy and Germany.

Axel asked Julien how they set about growing their overseas presence, after initially just being based in the UK.

Julien explained how being French himself and the close proximity of France made the country the obvious choice for the first overseas destination.

After learning from the launch in France, the company made it their policy to find good marketing agencies in each new country, as well as creating teams to manage the business out there.

Lastly, Julien discussed how he became an entrepreneur, saying he never initially considered it, but it, “just happened.” He had signed up to business school and then helped someone launch a company, which inspired him to do the same.

He never saw himself working in furniture, sourcing or working with Chinese manufacturers, but is now doing all three activities and running a business with total sales of approximately £100m a year.

By Helen Watts, MBA-candidate, Cass Business School

Helping a social enterprise to embrace branding principles

Inspirational brand workshop in the park: Vincenzo Brugaletta with Fine Cell Work team at St Jameses’ Park in August 2016

Inspirational brand workshop in the park: Vincenzo Brugaletta with Fine Cell Work team at St Jameses’ Park in August 2016

Social enterprises cannot rely on customer goodwill alone. Effective branding is critical for success at the point of purchase, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar shop.

Fine Cell Work, a charity focused on building and growing the professional skills of the prisoners in the UK, recognise that and recently asked Marketors, one of the modern livery companies in the City of London, to support them with valuable advice on how to grow their commercial revenues. The work we did with them has general application for social enterprises.

In a recent study published in spring 2015(1), Microsoft identified that the span of human attention dropped from an average 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2015. The average shopping decision-making time of a consumer in a supermarket is 2.5 seconds(2) and only 50% of available products on the shelves will be noticed.

Whether you are a big commercial organisation like Unilever or a small and ethical social enterprise, the rules for successfully engaging a consumer in a retail environment are exactly the same. No consumer will be able to appreciate the amazing stories behind a social enterprise in just 2.5 seconds!

Branding in a retail environment or elsewhere starts with the definition of amazing brands: not just appealing graphics elements like a logo, but notably what the brand stands for.

A generic, ill-defined brand will most likely result in poor execution at the point of purchase. The definition of the brand is the result of a management process that brings together expert professionals and the organisation leadership. The resulting brand must be owned by the organisation – everyone must feel proud of their brand.

Fine Cell Work teaches prisoners needlework, a skill they can use to find work in future. The company’s key product line is high-quality hand-made cushions, but they are expanding their assortment to include many other soft-furnishing items. Unlike many other charities, Fine Cell Work sells products through a number of market channels: events, online, retail etc. They also commission projects from their clients, e.g.: quilts etc The management of Fine Cell Work have a clear objective to double the enterprise’s commercial revenues by 2020, while maintaining the current funding levels.

It became clear to us that Fine Cell Work could improve their go-to-market strategy by shifting their brand so it worked equally well both for charitable and commercial audiences.

The new brand architecture addresses the duality of being a charity and a commercial enterprise while focusing on the key differentiators that make Fine Cell Work unique in the market. Key elements of the new branding:

Brand purpose: “Make a house your home through the best socially-conscious British style”

Brand personality attributes:

Inspired:

  • All our products are insired by the desire for high quality and timeless style at home.We aim to inspire our customers to personalise their home and work space.
  • We are inspired by the opportunity to improve the lives of the prisoners, the dedication of our volunteers, the commitment of our staff and the generosity of our trustees and founders.

Caring:  

  • We care about the quality of our products. Each product is the result of precise craftsmanship, liberty from production anxiety, love for hand stitching.
  • We care about our community of stitchers. We firmly believe that by teaching hand-stitching skills they will improve their chances in life and contribute positively to the society.

Surprisingly British:

  • Our design and designers are the best of timeless British style, but not afraid to explore innovation. All our products are made in prisons in Britain.
  • We and our customers give back by allowing individuals who have been less fortunate to be part of a more inclusive British society.

Expert:

  • Hand-stitching is craftsmanship and art. We take great care to ensure you enjoy the best products for your home and workplace. 
  • Our teachers and production experts are second to no-oneand thrive by passing their skills and passion to the prisoners. 

I believe that, no matter what kind of organisation you are, it all starts with a strong and purposeful brand based on credible and sustainable differentiation with the customers and the other stakeholders at the core of the value proposition.

I strongly believe the building of a brand requires a collaborative process and full engagement with the organisation: they will own the brand and nurture it in the future.

A well-defined brand is also the necessary precondition to develop a message that resonates with consumers and that can be consistently executed through multiple touchpoints over time.

By Vincenzo Brugaletta, MBA

This article first appeared in Marketor Issue 74 Winter 2016, the magazine of the Worshipful Company of Marketors

Sources:

(1): https://retailminded.com/consumer-attention-is-dwindling-how-retailers-can-fight-back/

(2): G2 Shopper Marketing Survey; POP Advertising Institute

Christmas Angels meet star entrepreneurs

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The Angels – Dr Ricardo Schäfer, Leo Castellanos and Max Kelly watch the pitch by Amit Pate from Snaptivity.

Christmas Angels meet star entrepreneurs

From fashion platforms to antibacterial wipes, the start-ups pitching at this year’s Christmas Angels event spanned many different industries and boasted a wide range of backgrounds.

This is the fourth year that Cass Entrepreneurs Network has organised a Christmas pitching competition for entrepreneurs – most of whom are Cass or City students or alumni.

Our Angels are far nicer than the dragons and suchlike that can be found in other places and so this is a supportive environment in which entrepreneurs develop their pitching technique and promote their venture. Nonetheless the Angels all work in private equity and have real money to invest in start-ups showing real promise.

Seven start-ups delivered five minute pitches to our Angels, Max Kelly from Techstars, Leo Castellanos from SAATCHiNVEST and Dr Ricardo Schäfer from Cherry Ventures.

As well as delivering presentations, some start-ups brought examples of their product and in one case, even gave the investors a hot meal! Although the standard was set exceedingly high by all the pitches, there could only be one winner and this was named at the end by the investors after some deliberation. Before revealing the winner, let’s meet the start-ups and hear a little about their products.

First up was SPIXII, an insurance chatbot aiming to make the insurance industry more efficient by promoting digital engagement with customers. Over the last 11 months, SPIXII has gained 25 clients in the UK and France, as well as leads in Italy and Germany, and has been described as, “stunning”.

Next we heard from Twipes, who make antibacterial wipes that disperse in water within three hours. This is a huge improvement on other flushable wipes that can take nearly a year to disperse. The Twipes team even brought an example of their product dispersing in water to demonstrate its potential to the investors.

Synasource/ Gameplai is a start-up combining machine learning and gaming. We learnt how sports enthusiasts can run artificial intelligence predictions for sporting events by using the company’s tech, all developed in-house.

Fashion platform Modafirma’s pitch came next and was presented by founder Angela Ene. Modafirma is a marketplace that allows independent fashion designers to sell their clothes to customers across the world, and reduces the need for middlemen. The platform also helps to foster communication between designers and their audience.

Next up was Snaptivity, a fan engagement company. It captures photos of fans cheering and waving flags at sporting events and then delivers those photos to the fan’s smartphone. So far the company has found that every third photo delivered to a fan is shared on social media and the app provides an extra digital screen for a stadium’s sponsors too.

The penultimate pitch came from Filisia, a start-up that creates incredibly engaging games and exercises for people with special needs, such as autism. Its main offering is a game called Cosmo and this allows schools and therapists to see a student’s progress through data insights.

Lastly, we heard from Localboxx founder Susan Ellicott, who opened her pitch by carrying a microwave on stage, plugging it in and then heating up one of her healthy ready meals for the investors. Localboxx provides a healthy ‘home cooked’ meal-in-a-box for hungry, tired commuters, ready in just three minutes. The boxes are made using only local, seasonable, British produce. Customers can order online and then pick up a box at a designated tube stop.

After all seven pitches had been delivered, there was a brief Q&A session between the start-ups and the sizeable audience who had filled the Cass Auditorium for the extremely entertaining event.

Despite being asked to nominate one company as the winner, the investors chose to nominate two companies instead. Twipes was named as the runner-up company due to the product’s innovative design and practical purpose. And the overall winner was… Snaptivity! The judges were impressed by how easily the company could install and uninstall its cameras, and how convenient this was for stadiums to implement.

Thank you to everyone who took part or attended this year’s Christmas Angels event! You can see photos from the event here.

By Helen Watts, MBA-candidate, Cass Business School

Angels Den founder Bill Morrow swears by these tips for entrepreneurs

CEN Blog Post by Helen Watts

Full seminar room at Cass with Bill Morrow

As someone who sees over 100 business plans every day, Bill Morrow, co-founder and CEO of Angels Den, knows a thing or two about start-ups. His company connects 18,000 business angels with fledgling start-ups and has grown to become Europe and Asia’s biggest angel network, with hundreds of new angels applying to join each month. Cass Entrepreneurs Network recently had the privilege of hosting Bill when he came to give a talk about raising money and we’ve written down some of his most valuable tips:

It’s not just about the money

To begin with, Bill pointed out that raising money is relatively straight-forward for many start-ups and there are multiple ways to do this. However, this comes with a caution: “every business plan comes to us asking for the wrong thing… money. What [entrepreneurs] really need is mentorship, business experience and they really, really need contacts”. He pointed out that while a good idea is important, a real business also needs “systems, controls and processes” if it is going to succeed.

Explain the business plan as clearly as possible

The most difficult question every entrepreneur will face is “tell me about your business” and Bill points out that if you do not explain this in a way that a normal human being can understand, your business will fail. What’s more, entrepreneurs need to be someone that an angel investor will want to hang out with; angel investors will invest in someone they like and can imagine spending time with.

Entrepreneurs need humility and passion

Bill emphasised the importance of humility, on both the start-up side and the angel investor side. In his words, “you have to understand what you don’t know” and be open to advice from others. Entrepreneurs also need passion, as starting a business is “really, really hard” and this inner drive will help you to overcome the inevitable obstacles. In Bill’s words, “you have to be able to deliver what you do with passion.”

Helen Watts is a Full-time MBA student at Cass, who helps write content for CEN.

 

Full attention from the audience

CEN’s first event of the term: Startup Speed Networking

The first event of the year for Cass Entrepreneurs Network took place on November 26th and was a success. As a network, we are committed to providing opportunities for members to get exposure to the job market. The specific aim of this event was to connect our members with startups looking for new employees.

The evening was kicked off with opening speech by our student president, Vit Soural, and HiredGrad’s CEO and Co-Founder Andrea Bonaceto. They were followed up by the representatives of the startups who came. UENI spoke about the importance of catering to a specific niche and the riveting background of their company. We were also pleased to be hosting LMarks for the evening who spoke about what they do in regards to connecting startups with big corporations and the effect of their previous collaborations. ITScard also joined us with a fascinating story on the history of their startup and their stories of international entrepreneurship. We would like to thank the participating companies for joining us last night with their unique stories.

The presentations were followed by networking among all the participants while everyone who came took turns speaking to the participating startups for a brief minute or two in a separate room.

We have been told the connections made seemed promising and we will report back on the outcome of the event at a later date. Last year, the speed networking event resulted in two people accepting full-time positions with the participating companies. We are confident we will yield similar results this year as everyone who was there were carefully selected from 250 applicants.

Thank you again, to everyone who came to last night’s event. If you couldn’t make it, make sure you follow us on our social media platforms to keep up with upcoming events and opportunities (@CENLDN on Twitter; CENlife on Facebook; Cass Entrepreneurs Network on LinkedIn).

Sarah Van Lam

Opening speech by Andrea Bonaceto - CEO of HiredGrad

Opening speech by Andrea Bonaceto – CEO of HiredGrad

CEN launches Accelerate podcast

Photo credit: Abacus -https://www.flickr.com/photos/abacus/

Photo credit: Abacus -https://www.flickr.com/photos/abacus/

We’ve launched the first series of our new podcast!

CEN Accelerate is a podcast for our members wanting practical tips about starting a business. Episode 1 is available to download now from Soundcloud or Podomatic.

It was produced for CEN by Kim Schönrock and Nehal El Sherif who are graduates from the City University journalism school. They have done a great job interviewing experts from around London for the four episode series.

In episode 1 Kim and Nehal find out about the options to fund a venture.

Many start-ups begin self-funded, and some continue that way. Jackie Fast, who is interviewed, has built her successful business, Slingshot Sponsorship, entirely using profits generated from sales.

However, many very early stage startups needing funds first turn to friends and family to help get the venture off the ground. Some ventures will also qualify for grants. Kim and Nehal also hear about how Angel investors can help.

Venture capitalist (and CEN member), Leo Castellanos explains how SAATCHiNVEST and other venture capitalists can help more established businesses who have a good team and something to show.

Another option is joining an accelerator to build your business quicker. Experienced entrepreneur Riaz Kanani, who is the the Chair of CEN, provides advice on how to choose the right accelerator programme and what that might mean for your start-up.

During the Accelerate podcast we’ll also be telling you about the great support for entrepreneurs at Cass Business School and City University. In episode 1 Kim and Nehal interview Helen Reynolds who runs the £10 million Cass Entrepreneurship Fund.

We hope you enjoy episode 1 of the podcast. Do sign up for updates and share the links on social media. Episode 2, about the advisers who can help your venture grow, will be available next month!

Meet the entrepreneurs: Aljoša Marković, UniStudyNotes

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1) Tell us about UniStudyNotes – give us your elevator pitch

UniStudyNotes is an online marketplace for study material, including summaries of textbooks, lectures and readings, where excellent note takers upload their high-quality revision material and fellow students can buy such. Unistudynotes makes money by taking 20% fee of every purchase. After a successful proof of concept at the London School of Economics (LSE), where we made £700 in revenue within three weeks, we are now expanding to City University London and King’s College London.

 

2) What made you want to become entrepreneurs?

Both co-founders are currently undergraduate Management students at LSE. We were both note-takers and in need of good notes. We faced the pain that sharing and selling notes offline was a highly inefficient process.

With UniStudyNotes we want to solve a major problem for university students by bringing the essence of the sharing economy to university education – a platform for peer-to-peer tutoring by facilitating the exchange of high quality study notes.

3) What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since starting this venture? What advice would you pass on to CEN members? 

Perseverance is key. Being a young start-up we already had to prove it twice.

  • When trying to secure initial suppliers at LSE before the upcoming exams, we faced a very low response rate after an initial marketing strategy of sending out 3,000 emails manually. However, we persevered and five days later made £700 in the following three weeks.
  • In spite of being taken offline at the LSE, we persevere, have trust in and develop our revenue model further and are now excited to expand to two universities over the next month.

My advice is start your own project and don’t be intimidated by that steep learning curve – enjoy it! Never forget, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or redesign education, you can just make it a bit more efficient and easier to use. And remember that as a startup founder, you are statistically bound to fail – it is the learning experience that matters.

4) We understand you’d like to recruit from City/ Cass – what are you looking for? 

We are looking for paid growth ambassadors who would establish an initial supply of City University documents on our platform.

We’re looking for someone who:

  • has a big network of social connections at City University and Cass;
  • is persuasive enough to easily win people over for our mission;
  • possesses the creativity for offline marketing at the university; and
  • has a driven entrepreneurial spirit.

If you are interested and want to find out more about the opportunity, please send the following to [email protected]:

  • Your Faculty/Department;
  • A two-sentence explanation of why we should take you; and
  • a CV (optional).

5) What other plans do you have for the venture in 2016? 

Grow to be the leading online marketplace for study material in London – expand to 10 universities until the end of the year. In the long run, we want to establish the leading online marketplace for revision material in the UK.

 

Get the entrepreneurial Spark on Feb 28!

We’re really excited that CEN is one of the partners for the annual Sparks conference at LSE is coming up at the end of this month.

Sparks is the UK’s largest student-run entrepreneurship conference in the UK. Since 2010 over 50 global business leaders, founders and CEOs have spoken at the event.

More than 450 entrepreneurial students are expected to be there from universities around the world. Going is a great way to gain insight, network and maybe even meet the person with whom you’ll found the UK’s next unicorn venture.

There is a great line up of keynote speakers this year including:

  • Vince Cable MP -Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2010- 2015;
  • Russell Hall, co-founder of Hailo;
  • Lord Karan Bilmoria, founder & Chairman, Cobra Beer;
  • Rachel Elnaugh, founder of Red Letter Days and former Dragon’s Den investor;
  • Alan Giles, non-Executive Director of the Competition & Markets Authority, Rentokil Initial Plc and the Perpetual Income and Growth Investment Trust;
  • Karen Hanton, founder of TopTable;
  • Judy Naake, founder, St Tropez;
  • Zia Yusuf, CEO and co-founder of Velocity; and
  • Andrew Heath, co-founder and Managing Director of Alphasights.

There will also be panel discussions on how to get VC funding for your startup and how to be an entrepreneur in a corporate position.

If all that isn’t tempting enough, you can also join workshops led by prominent entrepreneurs including Yasmina Siadatan, who won the fifth series of The Apprentice and former Google and Twitter executive, Chris Chabot.

Tickets cost just £25 for students and £30 for professionals. The event will be held at LSE’s campus, next to Holborn tube station, all day on Sunday 28 February.

For more information visit:sparkslse.com

To book a ticket visit: http://try.tilt.com/lse-sparks

See you there!

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A Visit from the Funding Angels

‘Twas the fortnight before Christmas, and for the third year running,

Nine start-ups were pitching, to get some Pre-Christmas funding;

Entrepreneurs all around were anxiously buzzing,

Waiting for a Christmas fairy to spread Christmas loving;

They got instead Angels, from Seedcamp, SaatchInvest and Cass Entrepreneurs Fund,

Our panel of investors was truly sharp tongued;

 

The first to the stage was Vaibhav Negi with an app called TrainingTiger,

Whose passion for fitness was truly to admire;

The app was a platform for people to book personal trainers,

For cheap personal training he was truly a campaigner;

 

Second came Narinder Pangli from GiraVista, with the 360 degree camera for action,

The market for which is gaining considerable traction;

A new way to experience everything around,

And a self-edit app to whittle it all down;

 

After came Nicholas Oliver of C8 Management who gave a truly passionate pitch,

The concept of which was actually quite rich;

It empowered people to sell their details to companies,

In return for a reward or some extra monies;

 

Fourth was Ruwan Welaratna from Evo, his product was an intelligent video baby monitor,

The old age market he was also out to conquer;

The app that connects to the camera has a link for new born advice,

For when you need sleep support from someone who is nice;

 

Fifth to present were Paulo Ursino and Rav Roberts from ConneXM,

An internet of things company, whose pitch was quite complicated,

Thanks to the hero from the audience who easily translated;

 

The next was Shahzad Younas of Muzmatch and what a humorous pitch he gave,

The concept of matchmaking for the Muslim community was quite brave;

A platform for people looking to get married,

With unique features such as allowing a guardian making it quite varied;

He won the hearts and raised laughter from the crowd,

He truly did himself and his company proud;

 

If you’re looking for bargains then look no further,

The next pitch came from Suzanne Noble of Frugl, who displayed great fervour;

A bargain hunting marketplace for food, drinks, classes and events,

With the spending season coming, perfect for all you ladies and gents;

 

A last minute addition to the line-up was Upma Arora from Dhaba Lane,

A “great tasting curry!” the investor from Seedcamp did proclaim;

Healthy, tasty food this independent Indian kitchen serves,

An authentic treat that we all deserve;

 

The final pitch of the night was Dean Prosenica from Archtor,

Keyboard lag and forgetting key bindings are no longer reasons to cry for;

A customisable gaming keyboard that lights up and will change,

So you no longer have to worry about remembering spells if you’re an RPG mage;

It aims to cut down the learning time for new games,

An interesting way to reduce the ‘noob’ shame;

 

As the judges deliberated who won the best pitch,

The audience and start-ups mingled (had a few drinks),

Everyone asking what everyone else thinks;

Unfortunately there could only be one winner,

As the judges came out, the tension began to simmer;

The decision was made, the winner was Muzmatch!

Congratulations Shahzad it was a pleasure to watch.

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For photos of the event click here

 

Meet the entrepreneurs: Artem Prytykin, Bookmarked

Artem Sykes

Artem is a second year Business Studies degree student at Cass Business School. He is also the founder of an app called Bookmarked. We spoke to him to find out more.

What is Bookmarked? Give us your elevator pitch

Bookmarked allows students to buy and sell books to each other with no fees and no charges.

The aim of Bookmarked is to connect all the UK universities and give students high quality learning resources which boost their performance.

What inspired you to create this app?

One day when walking home I had the idea for an app that would allow students to buy and sell their books to other students for a reasonable price.

I researched companies that allow students to sell their books back to them, but found they often offered really low prices which wasn’t worth the hassle selling it back to the company. So I came up with Bookmarked.

What have you achieved so far? What is your aim for the next year?

The app is in its early stages, but the biggest achievement is creating a fully functioning iOS and Android app.

I also managed to get the School of Oriental and African Studies to use my app.

My aim is to gain over 200,000 users across the UK, and to create a virtual book exchange between all the universities, allowing students from all over Britain to sell and buy books from each other. I am currently approaching more universities to endorse my app and have had a few positive responses.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I created the iOS app first and realised that a lot of people use Android. So, I also created one for Android. However, this was one of the biggest challenges I faced. When the Android app was created, there were problems with the chat functionality and I had to make a decision on whether to roll it out with the glitch as it was the season for selling books, or to fix the glitches in the chat and lose the prime window in which the app would be used. In the end I deleted the chat and had it reprogrammed it from the beginning so that now it works perfectly.

Is there anything you’ve done that you wish you could turn back time and try again?

I think that every entrepreneur has something that he would do differently. I would say no, because time cannot be turned back, and entrepreneurship is the process of trial and error until you reach the success you strive for.

What funding have you had so far? How did you secure it?

I am proud to say that every pound that I have invested so far came from myself. I have earned the money from my previous ventures, which in turn was invested into the app. It Is very important for me to be self-funded and to understand how much can I achieve without any financial help from other people.

Do you think London has a good entrepreneurial culture?

I think London is a very good place to start your firm. It is very crowded with different events, talks and other things that connects people together, so you can see what people of your age are doing. It really helps me because it shows that there are people who are the same age as you, who are doing great things and you aren’t. That’s what really gives you a start-up kick.

How do our readers find out more?

If you would like to download the app or for further information go to:

http://www.thebookmarkedapp.com