Leaving a secure and well paid job to start an online greetings card business was a risky prospect for the founder of Moonpig.com. He invested £750,000 saved from his time at Glencore and then invested several years trying to get the business off the ground. He took an estimated £100 million when the business was sold in 2011, by which time Moonpig.com was sending out 12 million cards a year and employing 100 staff.
Where did the name “Moonpig.com” come from and why was it chosen as the name for the site?
I needed a two syllable, phonetic domain name which was unique on Google and vaguely comic. I knew that word of mouth would be critical to the growth of the business and we needed a name people could easily pass on. I spent four days trying to find n available domain name and then I entered my old nickname from school and it was free. The rest is history.
What was the original idea behind the website and how much did that change during the first five years?
We set out to make it possible to order a single personalised greeting card. That is still the core business today.
How did you go about setting up the website, there must have been some considerable development needed to get the technical aspects of the site working, what were your priorities?
Initially I outsourced the development, however the first website crashed badly and so I hired an in house IT team. Since then we have always developed internally. Initially we focussed on the core function of personalising the text. Later we introduced photographs. In 2000 not everyone had a digital camera.
You had considerable business experience leading up to starting the Moonpig.com venture but relatively little experience of web development, to what extent did that hinder you when you first approached the project?
I found it difficult to manage the web agency because I had no idea how long certain functions would take to programme. I think I probably overpaid for the first website and then it broke down. I solved this by bringing the IT function in house.
You used £750,000 saved from working at Glencore to start the business, how did you acquire the remaining £2 million needed to get the business going?
I raised the rest from 18 angel investors in four rounds of investment over three years.It was hard work.
What do you think are the primary reasons for Moonpig’s success?
It is a great product and we delivery it well.
Getting a new brand to become well-known is a difficult business, how did you approach marketing the company?
Until we discovered TV we couldn’t find a cost effective way of getting the name out there. We relied on producing such a great product that our customers did most of our marketing for us in the first five years.
What have you been doing since Moonpig?
I spent a year running a children’s charity. Now I am heavily involved with three charities and I have a number of angel investments which require my involvement. I am also using the time to travel.
What advice would you have for someone who is interested in starting their own business?
Make sure you have enough money to see the idea through. Most business fail because they run out of money, not because of the idea or management.