Ed Relf has scaled Laundrapp to 90 employees and raised over £11m investment in the last three years. Prior to this he founded a series of startups - both successful and unsuccessful - including Mindcandy.
We’ve selected the best quotes from the latest episode of Start / Scale / Disrupt, which cover marketing, MVPs and customers. You can listen to the whole thing below.
When we struck on Laundrapp it was a penny drop moment. This is an industry that’s never been touched by any kind of digital innovation. Every entrepreneur has dozens of ideas, I’ve had three or four this morning. It’s not just about the idea it’s about the execution and that’s where people fall over.
I took several garments into the same cleaner and on three occasions was given several different prices. That was bewildering. I later found out that my suit wasn’t being dry cleaned at that dry cleaner, it was being cleaned at a facility on the outside of London. That was when I realised there was an opportunity to disrupt this market.
I was involved in a number of businesses before. It offered a ton of learnings and some failures along the way. But as we all know, this is essentially about dusting yourself off, standing back up and going at it again. The more time you go through that process the better you become at being able to execute.
If you’re a startup CEO, you’re probably already starting from the point where you’re a little bit crazy, otherwise why would you put yourself through this? From my side of things, I’ve always had a strong work ethic and I do this because it’s a passion, not a job.
People talk about work-life balance and it’s one of my pet hates. I believe if you truly want to be a successful entrepreneur it’s about work-life integration. If I’m on vacation or it’s the weekend, of course I’m online. I’m not sat at a desk in the office, but I’m online and I’m working. If you do what is truly a passion you never work another day in your life. When I entered the world of entrepreneurship I found my passion.
You always start with a hypothesis, a plan. Pretty much the day you start you have to tear that up and start again. I’ve seen so many people fail because they don’t allow themselves to be flexible enough to pivot through to success.
It was never our intention to own and scale our own fleet, but that’s a decision we had to make in the early stages of our business. Our launch was so successful that our supply network was unable to cope with the demand. As a startup, you will scare people by the speed of your execution. We took that decision very, very quickly, although not lightly.
Roughly once a month, I do a driver day as part of the fleet. I’ll do eight-nine hours as a driver in uniform so customers as a whole don’t know it’s the CEO. It’s the best insights and initiatives have come about simply through that process. There’s nothing more powerful than being able to shake the hands of a customer at 11 o'clock on a Sunday evening and hear from the horse’s mouth about that person’s experience about how they heard about the business, how it could be improved.
One of the mistakes I see in early-stage businesses is the approach to creating a minimum viable product and creating a product that’s ready to scale. It’s simple, but most people get it wrong.
Most businesses use marketing-driven financial models. They tend to start with a marketing budget on the top line and then that budget translates into a cost per install or maybe a cost per registration. That funnel then goes from an install through to a first time order, to a repeat order, to churn. That tends to net out into a number of customers we have, times by their basket and that’s your revenue line. More often than not the financial model will start like that before you get into the below the line costs of running the business.
My approach to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is fairly simple, but it’s not for the feint of heart and it requires the CEO to stay firm. All you’re trying to do with an MVP is prove market fit. The best way to do that is to look at the metrics at the top of your model, starting with installs, registrations, people adding things to basket, first time orders, repeat orders etc. all you do is focus on the first metric first. If you have an app, your first metric will likely be install and on-boarding. Just focus on that until you hit the metric you know you need to achieve. If you need to have 90% on-board, don’t move on until you hit that. It’s pointless worrying about billing systems, loyalty programmes or anything until you get people through the initial stages of the funnel. Effectively you keep moving down the funnel until you’re hitting all of your key metrics.
You’re doing that all the while by dripping users into the funnel. You don’t want to start massive marketing campaigns while you’re still trying to optimise that funnel. Almost every day people ask about scaling marketing and how to get started. You start with an efficient product. If you haven’t done the process I just laid out its pointless spending money on marketing.
About Christopher Goodfellow
Journalist and editor with nine years' experience covering small businesses and entrepreneurship (ChrisGoodfellow.net). Follow his personal twitter account @CPGoodfellow and his events business @Box2Media. He has written for a wide range of publications in the UK, Ireland and Canada, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Vice magazine.