Start-Ups.Co really enjoyed interviewing the brilliant entrepreneur; Mr. ‘Jochem Vroom'; Founder of the Netherlands start-up “Flipit”.
Below, is the full interview that we have conducted :
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Flipit is a global couponing environment which was launched in Australia in October 2013. It provides consumers with a shopping experience that is personalized to them. A 20 year old woman has completely different interests to a 35 year old man. If our users are shopping online they should be presented with deals that are the most relevant to their interests. Using different variables including age, behavior and personal preferences, Flipit helps its visitors to find the best deals.
Currently Flipit is live in 18 different countries and it has been running successfully from the beginning without the need for any external funds whatsoever.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Flipit was officially founded in June 2013, after over 4 years of experience in the couponing business in the Netherlands. My business partner Jelle van der Bij and I decided we wanted to do things completely differently and branch out into other countries and regions, including Australia. We decided to start Flipit because we wanted more focus on visitors and advertisers so that we could build long term relationships that are focused on quality.
Last year we hired approximately 30 new people to work on the website and we are still looking for more natives to start in new countries. Because of this rapid expansion we have just moved to a bigger office.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
Our core business is affiliate marketing. When one of our visitors uses one of our coupon codes and places an order, we will get a small commission from the advertiser. So, the consumer gets the discount, the advertiser gets extra sales and we get a commission. We think this is a win-win situation.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Jelle and I became friends a long time ago during high school. We kept in touch throughout the years and decided to start our own company in 2008. Together we set out the strategy for the company. I focus on the innovation, and Jelle focuses more on administration and finance.
All new personnel are hired throughout our company website and our own social networks. Currently we have 40 employees, and we are looking to hire many more in the coming months.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
We know exactly what our Australian visitors are looking for because of over 4 years of experience with two of the biggest couponing portals in The Netherlands, and what we have learnt in Australia since we launched. This means we can create added value for our affiliates and advertisers, because we know their audiences and the best ways to reach them.
We are really focused on long-term relationships with brands and affiliate networks which means we are able to offer our visitors exclusive coupons that will only be found on Flipit which creates a big group of loyal visitors and sets us apart from our competition.
Alongside the exclusive content, we are continually experimenting and evolving with Flipit. Now we are a couponing platform but our long-term goal is to have the best moneysaving experience possible.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
We have thousands of visitors every day and we are heading towards 500K a month, which is incredible in a timespan of only ¾ of a year. We are expanding at a rapid pace and we have already launched in 18 countries, and are planning more over the next few months, so we are currently hiring more people, and each month we will continue to grow.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
Our main competitors in Australia are Retailmenot, Ozbargain, Tjoos.com, and Ozsavings. The main advantage that we have over our competition is that we are an independent company and don’t have to worry about reporting to anyone. If we see an opportunity in a new innovation, a new way of working, or even a new country we can move fast and implement it directly. We are also at an advantage because we are active in several different countries already and have a good understanding of these markets because we hire natives from each country.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
The main obstacle for us is finding native and multilingual employees. Of course, this is a lot easier for English-speaking countries like Australia, but for some of our other countries it is more complicated. To create great content it’s important to speak and write a language flawlessly. One of the ways we have found to overcome this is to look for expats and exchange students who are looking for jobs.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
I always get asked how it is possible for a company to make money from a coupon code website, and many people don’t really understand what affiliate marketing is until they work for a company that uses it. Basically, we get a small commission from an advertiser when one of our website visitors uses a coupon code from our site.
The other thing that outsiders don’t understand is how it is possible for a website and company to grow so quickly but with the right people and the right mindset you can do anything.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Because we are driven to. We have a team of young, eager and ambitious people that work hard and have a clear strategy for the future. We look at the best ways for us to work, we are always looking for opportunities to take advantage of, and we attract the right people for the job.
There is no question if we will succeed, because we are already growing each month. Because of this we consider it a success already.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
Our ambition is to be the number one couponing portal in the world. This is just the beginning. We are planning to evolve our website and take it to a new level. Where we end up depends completely on feedback of our visitors and these are the guidelines for the development and improvement of the website. We are also looking at new opportunities for Flipit to expand into other countries.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
Because we own two of the biggest coupon code websites in The Netherlands, our experience here meant we were much more receptive to opportunities when they cropped up. We wanted to do something a little bit different – by staying in the same field, but expanding and building upon our experience and our dream of taking it to a global level, gave us the perfect opportunity. This is how the idea for Flipit was born.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Since the launch of Flipit, we have learnt a lot, but our main takeaway from this journey is not to think too long about an idea, and just do it instead. Many people have great ideas and then don’t act on them, and we don’t want to be this kind of people. Instead, we would rather try and fail than never try at all.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
In six months from now our goal is to bepresent in thirty different countries. I think that our biggest problem will be finding enough multilingual people to manage our websites and create a constant flow of content and couponcodes. Currently we have more than fifteen open vacancies, so there is a lot of work to do.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Not only consumers can use coupons with their online purchase and save, but with the saving guides they can also learn how to save money in the supermarket, how to get a cheap plane ticket or how to save money on water. We make sure we have the best tips and tricks so that everyone can save some extra cash. We also sometimes get exclusive codes from some of the shops, which you can’t find on other sites. They get the best value with us.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
The first stage is to be visible in the different search engines in both the organic and paid results so people can find us relatively easy. When this is accomplished we set up different partnerships so our best codes are visible on different places on the web.
Then the ball starts rolling and word of mouth becomes a big driving force. Everyone likes to tell their friends they got an awesome deal!
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
We have a wide range of visitors on our website because everyone who has the internet and the inclination to shop online can use our coupons. Our target customers are internet users who are looking for a good deal on their shopping – their age, sex or location doesn’t matter, though having said that many internet shoppers are male.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Everyone likes to get an extra discount on something they are planning to buy such as fashion or electronics, so in most cases this is a good enough of a reason to try Flipit. New customers are checking our website every day and are coming to us directly, through newsfeeds, social and other partnerships.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We get a lot of feedback from our visitors and we try to involve them in the development process so the best user experience is created. So far we have increased our usability and added the possibility to create a personalized discount list when you become a savings VIP.
This way we stay connected with the users and get regularly positive reactions.
20. How are you going to scale?
We are currently hiring more people and we are planning to launch Flipit in new countries such as Norway and japan. We just moved two weeks ago in to a new office (an awesome old church in the center of Amsterdam) so we have enough space for an enjoyable work environment and room to grow with our company.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
The possibility to go mobile on smartphones and tablets. When someone is shopping or in the store they like to check out if there are any coupons available or compare prices for their favorite online store.
All I can say is that it’s coming soon, a full responsive website for all possible devices.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Flipit is currently live in 18 countries; Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, India, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, United States.
When we find the right people we start up in a new country right away. We also want more people working on the countries we already have, including Australia, so we can become even bigger.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Our goal is set to 1 million unique visitors a day worldwide whom we can provide with the best discount experience. In a lot of countries online shopping and the use of coupons doesn’t come naturally, unlike Australia which seems to have cottoned on very quickly. This is a big opportunity to get the mass acquainted with this shopping experience. For Australia, we want to be number one. We are working on getting the best content for our visitors and being better than our competition.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are constantly looking for native speakers in several languages. Our vacancies can be found on our company website http://www.imbull.com/jobs/ Current positions include country managers for different websites such as Norway and japan, and editors for the current websites that we already operate.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Our company is self-sustainable from the start and every penny we make gets is put back knowledge, personnel and development in the company, however we are always excited to meet new people and discover new opportunities so feel free to get in touch with us. We are always available for a cup of coffee!
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Don’t wait too long for the perfect idea. Dare to start, set measurable goals and change during the way when necessary.