Hi Ben, why don't you tell us a little bit about the team behind Pouch?
Sure! Our team is probably our best asset. The three of us cover a lot of ground due to the depth and breadth of our experience in different fields. There are 3 co-founders. Our CTO, Vikram Simha, oversees the technical direction, production and development of Pouch. He has 11 years experience as a full stack engineer and enterprise solutions architect with companies like Cisco, Bank of New York and Brilliant Basics. The guy can build just about anything.
Jonny Plein is our Finance and Operations Director, and he makes the wheels turn and manages a lot of the business logistics, investor introductions and legal documentation etc. He is a qualified Charted Accountant with 2 years experience in M&A and Corporate Finance at one of the 'Big 4' firms after studying Economics and Mandarin from the University of Nottingham (where he was also Head of Project Development at Enactus). Smart kid!
I am the Sales and Marketing Director. My role is focused primarily on user acquisition and in building and maintaining strong relationships with key industry stakeholders such as Affiliate Networks, Agencies, Retailers and various other third parties. Before co-founding Pouch, I was Head of the Nordic markets at the performance marketing and onsite optimisation firm SaleCycle. Before that, I was a Partnerships Manager and very early hire at Yieldify, which quickly grew to be one of the fastest growing technology companies in Europe.
We have also made 3 key hires. Josh Haokip looks after much of our digital marketing and partnerships with student groups/bodies (students are a key demographic). Chema Mora looks after a lot of our front-end development, and Timnit Mengesha works on the back-end and database maintenance.
There are so many discount sites out there, what makes Pouch different?
The main thing that makes us different is the fact that we are not a website. We are a browser extension. This means we are able to automatically find and display the best voucher codes as you shop online, on over 3000 UK stores, so you never need to visit a voucher code website again.
Google, in all it's infinite wisdom, still cannot determine the validity or redeem-ability of voucher codes on voucher code websites. Therefore, it's search rankings rewards the voucher code sites with the most 'meta data' which is why there are so many invalid, expired or irredeemable voucher codes on these voucher code websites. Because we are a browser extension, we are not incentivised to retain useless voucher codes, and can therefore offer a more seamless solution which saves far more time and money for users.
It is simply too hard and frustrating to find and redeem valid voucher codes when shopping online. Additionally, retailers spend millions of pounds driving users to their websites, and millions more optimising those sites for conversions, yet 75% of 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 as a result.
Tell us about the Google plugin and how it works.
Once downloaded to the user's browser from our website www.joinpouch.com, our icon sits in the right hand corner of the browser. We can then recognise the eCommerce website that the user is on, and Pouch then gently notifies them when we have working voucher codes for that site. The user then clicks on our icon and a drop down list of voucher codes (and descriptions) appears. Then, the user clicks on the deal and the code is automatically copied and then applied to the checkout page.
What are some of your top tips for generating business in a saturated sector?
I think the simplicity of our product, coupled with the fact that the problem we are solving is universally understood, allows us to communicate our value proposition easily and effectively which is a huge advantage, especially in such a crowded space. In addition, due to the relationships we have formed with the major UK Affiliate Networks, we were able to begin working with several thousands retailers very quickly, leaving us more time to focus on other important areas such as fundraising.
Everyone loves a bargain online and in store, what tips do you have for hitting the stores during the festive season?
The best discounts and deals can usually be found online rather than in-store (due to the higher margins and lower Cost of Sale in eCommerce as compared to Bricks and Mortar shop). Therefore, my obvious tip would be to download Pouch and get easy access to all the best discounts as you shop online. We are also sending out a weekly newsletter which includes information on the best deals both on and offline over the Christmas period and the January Sales season.
What challenges have you encountered and how have they strengthened the business?
I think the biggest challenge has been in honing the way we communicate Pouch, particularly to investors. We have created at least 20 different pitch decks, presentations and investor packs over the past 8 months, but of course we still haven't perfected our messaging. Also, alongside that is the challenge of deciding what feedback or suggestions to implement, and which to ignore. Everybody in the world has an opinion, especially in the London start-up community, and much of it is highly conflicting advice!
But by constantly reviewing our own value proposition, and by respecting the feedback we get, we are able to build a much strong product and brand and we are much more equipped to answer questions and handle objections.
Where do you see Pouch in the next couple of years?
At Pouch, we hope to have approximately 13-18 employees by this time next year and to be cash-flow positive. We will have launched our mobile proposition, and will be focused on consolidating our UK market position. By Year 2, we would like to have strong market penetration in key markets such as Germany, France and, of course, the US, and be a highly recognisable brand.
Our aim would be for Pouch to be used as a 'verb' in everyday vernacular much like how you 'Skype' somebody or 'Whatsapp' a friend. To hear somebody say "I Pouched it" would be nice. Further down line, we will be a large multi-faceted technology business with a total focus on innovation. VR, AR and AI are where I 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 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.
Business owners have been rated the happiest workers in the UK, agree or disagree?
Agreed. It isn't particularly difficult to motivate yourself when it's your own company and you love building cool products with your best friends. However, my increasingly diminishing personal bank account is also a good motivation to work harder! Start-ups come with their own ups and downs, but being a co-founder is certainly the best job I have ever had.
What advice would you give to anyone stuck in a 9-5 who wants to start their own business?
That is a hard question to answer as it strongly depends on the individual, their experience, the market they are looking to enter, their financial situation and, most importantly, the support system around them. I would say the first thing somebody should do is find at least one co-founder that has a totally different skill set that is necessary for the business to succeed. Start-ups can be very lonely and very few sole-Founder firms succeed.
Next, 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. Finally, 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 must ensure you give your business the perfect chance of success.
How do you relax and enjoy the success of the business?
I watch a lot of Netflix! I don’t really ‘enjoy the success of the business’ because we are too young and there is still far more that needs to be done. However, we do celebrate key milestones such as getting our investment, making our first £1 in revenue, getting onto the MassChallengeUK accelerator (and then the final top 20).