The social shopping site you need to know about
What it does: Shopa is a social shopping site that connects retailers with customers through personal recommendations
Founded: November 2012, London
Founder: Peter Janes, serial entrepreneur, previous founder of The Post Network, sold in 2011
Size of team: Team of 30 in London
Your name and role: Peter Janes, founder and CEO
You’ve just raised $11m in Series A funding from Octopus Investments and Notion Capital. What was the key to achieving that?
We have several patents that allowed us to create a unique proposition for retailers and customers within the ecommerce space. We have also set up the Shopa platform to be scalable all over the world.
Raising such a big round was primarily down to the technology, the great team we have and the size of the opportunity that Shopa has in front of it.
What advice would you give other fast-growth tech businesses looking to raise that kind of capital?
You need to justify what you will do with that sum of money. If you are trying to hit a home-run with your business, you will need that type of capital to achieve it.
Investors also want a big win and they would rather back one business with ambition and the right team than several that have a small ceiling for large returns.
How did you find the funding round?
This was my fifth round of funding as an entrepreneur and every time I learn more and more about investors, their needs and how to present the company in the right light.
This Series A round was probably four months in the making. Looking back on my diary, it took about 60 face-to-face meetings in three continents to pull it off.
What will the $11m go towards?
International expansion. Being based in the UK, although the ecommerce industry is fairly advanced here, the market size is pretty small in comparison to the US, India and China for example.
It takes a lot of development resource to build and scale a platform. An awful lot of effort has also gone into setting up subsidiaries of Shopa in these regions.
We want a global business that the UK tech industry can be proud of.
How quickly has your business grown?
We have gone from a team of two to a team of 30 in less than two years.
We have also raised $12.4m in funding in that time.
What’s been key to that?
A very ambitious and experienced team mixed with an ecommerce industry that is exploding. We tick a lot of boxes.
How have you attracted great talent?
We have very solid tech, a great team, great culture and what we are attempting to do is very challenging. It’s that blend that has attracted the best talent.
What metrics do you look at every day?
I am addicted to customer behaviour and how customers are interacting with each other and with the brands that are available on the site.
If we can enhance features every day that encourage people to share more often with more people, we are on the right track for a really big win with Shopa.
What do you consider your greatest success in business?
Shopa being awarded Start-up of the Year in 2013 by IBM was a huge achievement for us. From a huge list of very strong businesses we were selected as the one with the most potential and likelihood of success.
And your biggest mistake?
Hiring too many very senior people too quickly. It created tension when the business was growing fast and moved in new directions.
What’s the most important management lesson you’ve learnt?
Be really honest with yourself and be clear on your personal strengths. You need to surround yourself with people that complement your own skillset and allow you to focus on what you are good at.
In the early days you have to do everything but the startups that survive are the ones where the founders surrounded themselves with people who were much better than them in certain areas.
Focus on your skills and find others to fill in the blanks.
What’s the most valuable insight you’ve gained into your industry?
That the ecommerce landscape is changing so fast. It’s such a dynamic industry and we need to innovate every day in order to stay ahead and attract customers again and again.
Customers have so much choice when it comes to online shopping that only the best will survive.
What do you think are the most significant developments or changes on the horizon for your industry?
Decentralised currency such as bitcoin will change online payments forever. The ability to transact with an ecommerce store without the need for a bank to be a middleman will really change the power that the customer has.
Retailers need to watch this space very carefully.
What makes a great leader?
Leading from the front. Being prepared to do what others won’t in order to win. This attitude ripples down through your team and if you have a group of people all with the mind-set of never giving in and trying to be the best everyday then you are doing your job as a leader.