A survival guide for near-failure

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I invited today’s guest because he willing to talk about something that so few entrepreneurs want to talk about which is how freaking hard it is to start a company.

Rory O’Connor is the founder of Scurri which provides software that connects and optimizes the eCommerce ordering, shipping and delivery process.

I’m going to ask him how he built it up and how he survived after nearly running out of money so many times.

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Rory O'Connor

Rory O'Connor

Scurri

Rory O’Connor is the founder of Scurri which provides software that connects and optimizes the eCommerce ordering, shipping and delivery process.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I think what we don’t talk enough about as entrepreneurs is how freaking difficult it is. We talk about how great it is the worst, by the way, Rory Rory O’Connor is my guest here today.

Right? The worst is when entrepreneurs say you never have a boss, like if having a boss is so terrible, then what are you saying about your employees who work for you? Right.

Rory: Yeah.

I mean, this idea, you never have a boss, you always, there’s always somebody to report to you. You’ve got your stakeholders, uh, your employees, you’ve got your investors, you know, there’s always somebody that you’ve got to, that you’ve got to report to, uh, whoever, you know, you do have probably a lot more decisions, decisions that you can make.

So yeah, there is, there is an advantage to

Andrew: saying you get to have more say over your life and over your business and over your career. I accept that. And I think that we, one of the things that we don’t talk about is yes, we talk about the options. Yes. We talk about the upside. Yes. We talk about how we can be creative, but we don’t talk enough about, is something that you told our producer about, which is the big challenge of when you’re almost going to fail.

I mean, you Rory person who had great jobs, a great career, you decide you’re going to start a company. You see a problem. You jump in there. Meanwhile, you’ve got a family to take care of. And some of these stories that you told our producer are fricking heartbreaking. I don’t know why you didn’t say to yourself.

I am being too cruel to my family. I should just give this whole thing up. But thank God that you didn’t because as a result of it, you’ve built a phenomenal company that we’re here to talk about. And I want to learn how you built it up. I want to learn how you recovered from those dark days so that I, and other entrepreneurs in my audience who are building our companies can draw on your experiences to build ours.

All right. So let me introduce worry properly. Rory O’Connor is the founder of scurry. Here’s what they do. You know, when there’s an online store today and they have to ship to lots of different customers, and there are lots of different shippers that they could use and they have to figure out which one to use where Aurora is, software scurry will pick it for them, pick the right shipper.

And you know, you also have to print out labels so that you can handle the shipping properly with each shipper. Well, Roy’s company will do that too. And you know how their customers, these online stores want to know where their product is. Well, scurry does that too. And so much more. I invited him here to talk about how he built it up, where he got the idea, how he recovered from those difficult moments, and then that big transition that he made that changed everything, but destroyed a lot in a short term.

I want to find out about too. So. We’re going to find out all that. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first, you know, about if you’re hosting a website, whether it’s an online store or a blog or anything else, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. The second, you know, about lots of different software that you can use for email marketing, the one that will take care of you, even if you don’t want to pay anything is the one that you probably don’t know about.

And I wanna introduce you to send in blue and tell you to go get them for free@sendinblue.com slash Mixergy glory. I’ll talk about those later. First. I’m gonna ask you one of the hardest questions. is it fair to say that you’re doing millions a year in revenue

and,

Rory: in Euro.

Andrew: and, are you profitable?

Rory: we are profitable now. Yeah.

Andrew: All right. I’ve got some more details here in front of me, but I respect your need to be, uh, especially quiet about this. This thing started because you noticed the problem yourself.

Where did you see the shipping problem?

Rory: Yeah. I’m like the original problem that I saw was trying to get some good ship for me as a consumer. Uh, so I had been in the background working in logistics, uh, Uh, myself, uh, and I needed to guess a couple of, uh, along the rim for my car to be shipped from a person that was selling them on the classified site.

And they thought this would be really simple. I just, you know, kind of ring up a shipping company and, uh, you know, organize a shipment from one side of the country to the other and, um, found out that I had to have an account. Um, I had to have, You know I’ve set up an account and go to a lot of, kind of, uh, crazy details, really just to get a shipment.

And the prices then were crazy because I wasn’t doing a regular shipments. Um, so you know, the must be a better way than they,

Andrew: You know what I, I was ready to dismiss that and say, maybe it’s Ireland. It’s an issue there. Right? That’s what we’re talking about from one part of Ireland to another. But I realized that I at times have had to ship things out myself from the house and FedEx and ups. Remember requested, um, an account also.

And then it was kind of a hassle. What I ended up doing was first of all, at my office, there’s somebody who ships it out. But if it’s from my house, I go over to one of these ups stores or the FedEx stores and they do it. Do you not have that in, in Ireland? Did you not have it at the time?

Rory: No. And, uh, we didn’t, we didn’t have as much coverage, but also, uh, the varieties of parcels are a little bit easier, but when you’ve got something that’s like a set of a LA rims that needs to go on a pallet. So it’s less than load. It just got up. It just was a bit more complicated. So, um, yeah, it was the idea originally was a one-stop shop that could ship anything for a consumer. And um, yeah, came up, came up with that idea from my own problem.

Andrew: And this was you saying start a business. You then went to enterprise Ireland, which helped you think about this what’s enterprise Ireland.

Rory: It’s an agency in Ireland.

that helps entrepreneurs actually build businesses And businesses that are built to export eat our products or services.

Andrew: And that’s where you connect. They actually introduce you to Eric Reese, the creative, the lean startup. Yes.

Rory: did. They had a fantastic program, which was kind of like an accelerator program and they introduced us to Eric Reese and yeah, I got to go, I got to meet Eric. Who’s actually some talk to me about, you know, how I should change my approach to software development from, uh, which was waterfall at the time to lean.

Andrew: Far you’d gone before Eric said, try this other way so that we can see the before and after.

Rory: Yeah, we were ready to, we were almost ready to ship the product. Um, we had to put in a payment engine was the last bit, and Eric actually said to me, Do you know, boss, um, why don’t you just ship your product and try and get some customers on the website now? And if you get a customer, let’s collect a check, nevermind.

Putting on the payment danger. Cause I bet you you’ll have a lot more problems with people coming on and just bouncing off your website before you actually get to collect any money.

Andrew: He said accept checks just to see if

Rory: Well, he knew he knew that I wasn’t going to get, I was going to have so many problems that I probably wouldn’t have got somebody true to the, uh, to, to the, to the landing page and to payment page.

Andrew: Meanwhile, how far along had you gotten before you talked to him?

Rory: Uh, so we had kind of built everything, um, except for the payment engine, we were just plugging the payment engine in at that stage. Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. And then you to your credit? I think a lot of people would have said I’m just so close. Eric might be right if we started in the beginning, but we’re a little bit further along than he anticipates. Let’s forget it. You actually said I’m going to take his point to heart and you did start selling.

Rory: We actually put up a, um, we put up a, a, uh, a Google ad word accounts there on the end and launched the site, chose some customers to the, uh, to, to our landing page. And guess what? The old BEM stuff. And nobody went, went further because the messaging was pretty crap and we had lots of things to learn.

Andrew: uh, what’s one of those things that you needed to learn in retrospect

Rory: Yeah. I mean, uh, you know, getting your value proposition, right. And, uh, you know, we were spending a lot of time considering the whole process rather than just taking initiative and taking step by step and seeing how people went through the flow. And, um, yeah, it was, it was, it was quite a lesson.

Andrew: who are you targeting?

Rory: We were targeting, uh, consumers, uh, who were on, uh, sites like eBay.

And, um, they were, they were the main target. So we were able to get those onto the site, but then, you know, things like, uh, Them having confidence in us, um, you know, shipping their goods around the place, uh, giving us money, et cetera, because you know, you think our consumers are buying up somebody second hand.

Uh, so there’s a lot of things that we had to kind of work out in our messaging, um, proof points, uh, lots of stuff

Andrew: I don’t understand why Rory. Um, and I think, I wonder if it’s, because I’m not following the early days. It seems to me, like, all you’re doing is all you were doing back then is connecting somebody who was using a service like Craigslist. Right. Um, With a shipper. Why does anyone need to trust you? All you’re doing is collecting payments for the ship and then routing them to the right shipping company.

Right. Or were you taking

Rory: Yeah, But I mean, they were looking at the brand scurry and it wasn’t ups and they’d never heard of us. Um,

Andrew: you connecting them with ups or DHL or anyone else?

Rory: We were connecting them with them. But at the first stage, the first stage where they landed on the page, it was us who was our branding. And this is all the stuff that we learned, uh, as, as we’re going. So yeah, it, it was a, you know, it was very much a learning process.

Andrew: So consumers, even though they see that you will connect them with these bigger brands, they still don’t trust you. And it’s not enough to have those brands logos on your site to build trust. Okay. What did you do to get over?

Rory: We did to get over?

that. It was again, usual stuff about if you don’t put, putting up, uh, you know, Examples of people who had used their service testimonials. Um, you know, we were being kind of, I think probably too clever with the, um, you know, kind of, uh, shark farm, you know, very clean, kind of a website.

And we found that it kind of more longer form, but you know, plenty of descriptions, plenty of examples. And even sometimes the photography stock that we use, we found that, you know, stuff that we caught, it looked really well. Um, probably didn’t work so well, more kind of natural photographs and stock images kind of tended to work better when Eric helped us with, you know, the kind of experimentation we started to experiment with lots of different, um, processes.

And you know, what I found is I became quite agnostic about web design. It was more about, you know, what a block worked, what actually would be put to work in terms of dissect rather than what I preferred by looking at her, you know,

Andrew: Yeah, you started experimenting more and more to get people on the site in the early days. Part of what you did was you just reached out to friends and friends of friends, right? What was it? Yeah.

Rory: Yeah.

I mean, that’s what that was to get the initial jobs, to get the initial kind of, uh, the, uh, the initial. Um, testimonials, et cetera. On the website, we would have re reached out to friends, family, anybody that we, we knew to, you know, do you want to use this service? Got on the phone as well to kind of get people going, did anything we could to get people onto the site.

And, um, you know, it was a gradual process, but the more to, to get people to use it. First few, you know, it was this huge excitement when we got the first couple of people on there and actually to book something, got a few more, you begged them for a testimonial, you put that up And you started to build the confidence in.

And, uh, I suppose the, uh, you know, you’ve, you’ve found what worked and what didn’t work.

Andrew: And essentially what you were doing was what the local shipping store. There’s one right on mission street here in San Francisco, where I bring them a thing. And unlike the ups store, the FedEx store, they will not just package it for me, but they’ll also say. Ups will charge this much FedEx charges that much if use USP se charged that much let’s decide which one makes the most sense for you.

And we’ll use that. That’s what you are essentially doing for them

Rory: Exactly. That’s

Andrew: all done remotely. And then your money was what charging on top of it or

Rory: We were charging on top of it. Yeah. Taking a cost on it. Yeah.

Andrew: All right. This was done to consumers who are dueling, who are selling to each other, using like a Craigslist or eBay type of sites. In fact, it wasn’t Craigslist.

What’s the name of the site in Ireland that you were using?

Rory: Yeah. Don’t deal. It’s actually bigger than eBay or certainly was bigger than me back in those days. And it was called Dundee, but very much the Craigslist type of, uh, you know, site.

Andrew: All right. So, so far all you are doing is just kind of figuring things out. Then you say, I think we’ve got a messaging that works. We understand what the photos look like. We understand how to give people a sense of confidence in us. It’s time to get a bigger flow of customers. I think the natural thing for many people to do is to say, let’s start advertising.

You did something. I think that is not natural, but makes total sense. You went to done deal and you started talking to them. How far away was done deal from you? How far was their office?

Rory: Yeah, they weren’t too far there, but maybe, uh, maybe Turkey miles or something. So not so far. So that was advantageous. We could get access to the, uh, you know, to the, to the management team and got to talk to the founder

Andrew: did you show up at their office,

Rory: yeah. at their office,

Andrew: you just out of the blue or did you schedule a meeting?

Rory: Well, I think I, I called him out of the blue, uh, kind of made a, a few contexts to people that I knew.

And then we ended up getting to the, uh, getting to the office for a meeting?

yet.

Andrew: Okay. And what was your pitch?

Rory: Uh, our pitch?

was basically That you know, there, uh, you know, we, we knew from our own purchasing and our friends and the research that we’ve done, that, you know, you are limited if you were a buyer, uh, on a classified site too.

The distance you could drive. So, you know, they were missing out on sales, um, for the, um, you know, the goods that were excited of the driving distance so that we could put together a transportation solution for them. They were going to have, uh, more sales on the site, more success, more ads.

Andrew: That makes a lot of sense. In fact, Craigslist, doesn’t do that here in the U S which means that I’ve never bought anything on Craigslist that I couldn’t drive over and pick up or have somebody drive over and pick up. And I’ve never sold anything that I wouldn’t take over. Meanwhile, one of the things that I noticed is in San Francisco prices are higher.

If you just go over the golden gate or over the Bay bridge prices are significantly lower. But I don’t need the Ajit of going over there. And I keep saying maybe one day when I drive out, I might do it. Nah, it’s not worth it. And so what you’re doing is saying, well, why, why should that disparity be there?

It doesn’t cost that much. We’ll find a way you partnered up, you offered it to done deal. How would you integrate in with what was your plan?

Rory: Yeah. So originally we thought, you know, we might say integration, do it, you know, an API integration, but the dumb deal team didn’t have a lot of time to kind of gave us a, you know, kind of said, okay, Sounds like a great idea, but how can we do this low, lowest touch possible? So the basically game was a banner on the side and we, we kind of, uh, Faked the dumb deal site to make it look like it was an integration on the banner.

And so we basically put, made it look like it was a deep integration, but it was actually using the banner, uh, as a step into our website.

Andrew: Sounds like they read lean startup or actually Eric Reese’s blog back then the book

Rory: I really listened to them. Yeah.

Andrew: It sounds like, so this is you doing it again on their platform. How did that work out when it’s just a banner? I wouldn’t have thought that people would look at banners even.

Rory: Yeah, well, the banner just looked like it was a delivery, a plugin or a delivery solution on the side of the ad. So when you went into the ad and the side banner, it just

Andrew: Okay.

Rory: had an arrow pointing to, it said, you know, if you wish to get this delivered, you know, You’ll click here. And then we were able to drag, uh, the, um, the title of the goods and the photograph into our site.

So it appeared that you stepped into the dumb deal site, uh, further, but it was actually our site. And, uh, we were able to go from there. Yeah. It’s just, uh, worked really well.

Andrew: Done deal by the way, is designed a lot nicer than Craigslist. And it still has a lot of the same things as Craigslist. Like you can, I think, even buy some baby stuff, you like, uh, a new rocker or something. But the interesting thing for me about Don deal is they have a whole farming section where you can get farm sheds.

You can, I think you could buy poultry on there.

Rory: Yeah. Yeah. You know, it’s huge in the priming and the agricultural community. It’s absolutely massive, uh, cars, um, the agricultural side and the, um, yeah, just general kind of Craigslist stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, here it is. I can get hens 12th generation farmers. Wow. All

Rory: shipped the parish ones. So yeah, we actually had, yeah, we, we allowed, we allowed a shippers to sign up as well.

So we had all kinds of shippers, not just parcel shippers, people who would ship boats and people would ship livestock. So when she, one of the, uh, one of the items that, uh, our lifestyle that.

we shipped was actually a parish. So, uh, we had a guy who shipped animals and he came in and collected a pirate for somebody and know brought it to the other side of the country.

Andrew: Wow. Wow. That is a benefit that you can’t get over at the local shipping store here. Let me tell you about sending blue. And then I want to find out about that difficult moment when you came home and what you’ve found your family doing, but you probably Rory, I don’t think you’ve heard of sending blue.

Am I right about that?

Rory: No, I hadn’t heard of it before.

Andrew: They’re a fairly large company, but they’re now making inroads into the U S and they’re also making inroads into companies like mine. What they’re trying, like the ones in my audience, one of the big advantages that they have is they say, look, you sign up for a lot of these other email service providers where you’ll get to send out email.

They might hook you in with a free price. Come in and try it for free. Then when your email list starts to get significantly big, the price becomes astronomical and you always think, well, later on I’ll deal with it. It’s not going to be a big issue. You’ll move over. Number one, it’s harder to move over than it than it seems.

Number two, the price rockets up in everybody cares about, about spending too much money, but you’re kind of locked in, send them blue, says, you know, what we’re going to do is we’re going to start low and we’re going to keep it low. And so their prices are low beyond that though. One of the big problems that people have, Rory is.

You don’t want to keep a big set of email addresses in your email list, even when people unsubscribed, because a lot of these mailing services will charge you based on the people in the database, even if you don’t want to mail to them because they’ve unsubscribed, even if all you’re doing is saving it in there so that, you know, they unsubscribed so that you remember what they did in the past in case they resubscribe again.

These services we’ll charge you. We’ve all been there. If you’ve had an email list, you’re paying for thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of people who you’re not mailing to just because that’s the way the service providers work, send them blue says, forget that we’re not going to do it. A lot of the email services say, well, we’re only going to let you send out email.

And if you want to do automation, that’s a whole other, a whole other issue. And we may not even support full automation. Send in blue says absolutely automation is part of it. We’ll include automation. Some of these email providers say we are email service providers. They won’t go beyond email, send them blue, says why not text is becoming so big that sometimes it’s effective Rory to send both.

I have this one company they’re so it’s so freaking effective. They will send me. Email and texts the text messages feel like they’re coming from this one guy. In fact, my phone, my iPhone keeps saying, I forget the name of the guy, but my iPhone keeps saying, it seems like this is from this one person, because even the iPhone feels like this is a personal message.

Well to do that, Tony, that’s what it is. I just looked to be able to, to do that, to send text messages and email, and to sometimes save someone hasn’t opened up the email, maybe send a text message sometimes, right. All that should be built in. And that’s what sent him. Blues says, they’re going to connect everything, give you full on automation.

Give you. Free that’s truly free and very, very generous where you don’t have to pay. And then if you want to start paying the price will actually be incredibly low because it doesn’t cost that much to send out emails on my friends have created these email marketing companies and they say, look, this, it causes fractions of pennies to do this.

All right. So if you’re curious about sending blue and you want to try them out, I’m going to let you anyone in my audience go in and use them right now for free. All you have to do is go to send in blue. Dot com slash Mixergy send in blue.com/mixergy. They’ve got phenomenal ratings. They have not entered the startup space that is in my world, but they are now coming in with a force and I urge you to go try them out, send in blue.com/mixergy to get to use them for free.

Right now, one of the stories that you told Ari is about. Yeah, but the way you had a great job, you come home and you see your family, your wife, your kids huddled in bed together. Where, where was this? And what happened? Why were they doing that?

Rory: Right. Yeah. I mean, at one stage I was spending a lot of time in the UK. So we had started to look into the UK market and I was, uh, spending maybe four or five days a week in the UK. And I came home and, uh, No things are tight for that?

stage because, you know, we literally pumped all over cash into the business.

And, uh, my wife and the kids before kids were in the beds and I said, Hey, if you don’t, it’s five o’clock in the evening. What’s going on? And he said, Oh, well, you know, we don’t have money for heating at the moment. Um, so we’re just kind of, you know, kind of sitting in the bed here to keep warm. And I went, Oh my God, what the hell am I doing?

Uh, at this stage?

Andrew: Why, why did you continue with the business at that stage?

Rory: this is such a, we just had, and it’s not just me. It’s my wife as well, had such a belief in what we were doing. And we saw it through and say, you know, this problem. And, um, we really felt that we could make us. And, um, you know, I have a fantastic wife, uh, fantastic support. She, you know, while I was away was participating and, you know, Building the business with me and, um, you know, um, she’s been a fantastic support and I couldn’t absolutely couldn’t have done this, done this with the editor.

Um, but you know, she had that faith as well. That’s, you know,

Andrew: you saw the vision of what this could be. It just, it just made sense that the world would need this. Is that it?

Rory: absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And, You know we said, we’re going to do this. And if we said we were going to do it and we were going to do it, you

Andrew: You know what, that’s the thing that comes across in my research review the word stubborn use good and bad. Right? You’ve used it about

Rory: Yeah.

Andrew: Give me an example of something that you do, where you say, I said, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this. And in the end you say, I only did it because I’m stubborn, but you accept that.

That’s who you are. Is there some other aspect of your life where you’re stubborn like that?

Rory: Yeah. I mean, um, you know, I started, uh, you know, I started. Training one time and said, look, I want to get back running. And I want to do a bit of running. One of my friends was cycling, said cycle and joined a triathlon club. And then somebody said, you know what? We should do it. You know, we should do an iron man.

I wasn’t great at swimming. And I just went, Oh, okay. Yeah, let’s do that?

And then, you know it kind of had. Said that I was going to do it, so I can’t really back out. No. So I have to go back and learn how to swim properly because I was just barely able to do to lens of a pool. And I had to go back and start and 18 months later had finished, finished the iron man.

Like I did it like, you know, just. I just said, Hey, I’m not just giving up. I gave up, you know, like having occasional drink, uh, you know, kinda changed my whole lifestyle, uh, you know, alcohol and just kept going until like, until I finished it. Yeah.

Andrew: And you know what I’ve got to say to say, I finished an Ironman is a significant thing to even say, I finished a marathon is not that significant because the let anyone finish. Right? You can take as much time as you want. There are people who literally days after the New York city marathon has done, will finish and they in many ways will get headlines because here’s the last person to do it the day after a few days after.

Iron man. They have a severe cutoff and that means that you’ve got to finish a marathon, run the equivalent of a marathon bike ride over a hundred miles, two miles swim. So marathons in three different sports. Okay. I get that. I also wanna understand a little bit more about your background. You are someone who comes from kind of an entrepreneurial family in the sense that your grandmother had some kind of store and you worked in it.

What’s the story that she had.

Rory: Yeah, she just kind of like a corner store, like, um, just to the corner store, um, sweet. And we call it, you know, sweet shop in Ireland or, um, but, uh, she sold, you know, sweets and cigarettes and, uh, yeah, it was a smaller store kind of. In a small town in Ireland. And, You know, it’s one of those places where it just, all the locals kind of hung out.

Those stores are gone or, you know, in a lot of cases are gone. Now they’re replaced by multiple seven 11 types now, but it was just where, you know, kind of local people just came in, could spend half an hour chatting to my grandma and, uh, you know, maybe buy a pack of cigarettes or, you know, a bar of chocolate or something like that.

Andrew: You see those all over the world and Israel and Eastern Europe. And they’re like almost built into the, into the apartment buildings at times. Right. And different depends on the country. They’re just a part of the community. And the person might even be able to come in and ask to buy something and then pay the next day.

It’s that kind of like,

Rory: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew: That’s. shocking. I used to just walk around with a cup of coffee, which is a very American thing to do with a cup of coffee, looking at different stores. As I walk through neighborhoods, when I’m in a new city, you would stay in with your grandmother. Your mom would just leave you in the store.

Nine, nine in the morning, 10 o’clock at night. You’d be, she’d be running the store and you’d sit there. Not

Rory: Yeah, my, my, like my grandma, grandma would start at nine in the morning. Um, she finished at 10, you know, 10 at night, take a 30 minute break. And, you know, in the middle of that was ACE. And she, I think she took, you know, Christmas day off and maybe one other day during the year, it was just like, that was, that was, you know, again, it wasn’t work for her.

It was just what she did like, and she. She, uh, retired when she was 91. So she, she, she shut the shop when she was 91 years of age.

Andrew: My dad had a store and we work seven days a week in the store that was selling clothes. And whenever I see people talk about how bad the hustle culture is, and it’s too bad that people have to work so many hours, I think. Do you know how. My dad and I, and my little brother and sister would stay in that fricking store, standing up all day long.

And we didn’t think of it as difficult thing to do. Now I get to be in the lap of luxury. I’m on the couch with my laptop. You’re calling that painful hustle, culture, culture.

Rory: Absolutely. I mean, it is a, you know, it is a dose of reality when you see something like that, they actually know what The and she didn’t look at it. As, you know, as being difficult, it was cheap. She thought she was blessed in lots of ways that she had opportunities that others didn’t have.

Andrew: The only challenge, the only differences my dad would be able to bring me into his store and we would just kind of chat and look at each other and he’d see what I was doing. I don’t yet fully know how to bring my kids into my work. Especially since my oldest is six years old, the youngest is four years old, so I don’t know how to do it, but I wouldn’t mind if we could work all day, if the kids were included in it somehow.

And didn’t just see me staring at a screen the way that they might stare at a screen when they’re doing some kind of video watching, you know what I mean?

Rory: Yeah.

Andrew: Have you thought of that?

Rory: Yeah.

And that’s the, You know, cause that was great for me is, you know, you could serve people behind that counter. I’m sure you did. You’d serve people. You talk to them, you learn the bag. Yeah. You learned about people. Uh, they told you stories. Yeah, it was great. I love this.

Andrew: to him it’s, you know, in a way where you’re formal, you’re in charge, right. You have to answer their questions. All right. And then from there, by the way, you ended up working for, um, What is it called? It’s called Waterford Wedgewood. That’s the Waterford crystal company. Right? I got their scotch glasses.

Beautiful, beautiful stuff. You then, right? What else? Give me just a quick background on you. I know you worked at AOL for a little bit.

Rory: Yeah. So I worked in what I started in Waterford crystals. Um, so working very sales And marketing roles and at one stage, um, I ended up, uh, Working on a kind of technology project that pretty well and, uh, you know, ended up on the tech bus basically. So, uh, my boss asked me to help, uh, implement an SAP project and there was a great guy who had been brought in from Apple to set up that a project team.

And that’s how I kinda got involved in technology.

Andrew: And this was partially them saying, does technology even make sense to us? They weren’t going all in because they knew the future was in tech. Right.

Rory: sorry, can you say that again?

Andrew: sense was that this was them saying, let’s evaluate the internet. Let’s see if this makes sense for our business. Right. And you were part of the let’s evaluate to see if it makes sense for our business.

And we’re talking about 19. When was this? Uh, early two thousands, right?

Rory: Early two thousands. Yeah. And we were asking that question, should we be on the engineers? We’ve got partners who are kind of dabbling in the internet. Sales are starting the questions where, you know, even like, Could crystal be sold on the internet? You know, we’re asking these, these questions, uh, could it be sold sustainably?

You know, there was a small niche, not, You know number of customers who were selling at the time. Um, was this going to happen? Was it going to grow? Yeah, we were asking those questions. Yeah.

Andrew: You know what, just, when I think it’s a natural, everyone should be. Of course. I remember what a friend of mine told me about working with Rolex as a client. They wanted to be, I forget the phrase was something like delightfully out of reach. They did not want customer service to be at your Beck and call.

They did not want you to be able to go on the site and order and demand anything you wanted. And so that bit of mystique of inaccessibility of, of, of a wall, I get it. And of course, if you’re selling glass, if you’re selling crystal, if you’re selling cups, if you’re selling anything fragile, there’s a, there’s an extra element there too.

So I understand why they would evaluate, they ended up getting, they ended up I’m sure. Saying yes to it. And then. Right. And then you also said yesterday, internet, you decided that you were going to go work for what I see on your LinkedIn profile. You’re a program manager at, uh, at AOL. And then, uh, soon after that you discovered the problem as we talked about.

Okay. So now you continue on with done deal. Things are going great. This little experiment of yours is working well. How tightly integrated did you get into done deal?

Rory: Cutting very integrated. I mean, we’re seeing great volumes coming through. Um, the business was starting to take off. People are getting interested in what we were doing. And, um, yeah, we were, we were quite integrated. So we were working on a weekly basis with the Dundee of team and everything. You don’t seem to be going well for awhile.

Yeah.

Andrew: All right. So then you’re saying, I think this makes sense. And at some point you realize it doesn’t make sense because what done deal is doing is taking to consumers and letting them ship a product from one to the other. Tell me how you realized, even though this was working for you, that you needed to shift to.

Working with businesses who are reaching consumers, instead of talking to consumers who are reaching consumers.

Rory: So there’s two, two aspects to, you know, as we started to scale and we started to see problems. So one MAs uh, the first problem was that we weren’t just shipping parcels. So we were shipping lots of different, uh, types of products. And each of those products had different characteristics. So shipping parcel is not the same as shipping at Polish.

Uh, it’s not the same as shipping a parish or anything like that. They’re all different infrastructures. So those parts of the business all work separately. And we had a lot of, uh, companies who were so much smaller. And in fact, the operators, a lot of the operators who are shipping our products were maybe one man band, or they had a, you know, a small number of trucks or the delivery vans and the quality and service wasn’t.

Tremendously. Great. So in a lot of cases, some of these people may have been, you know, working with the bigger companies and decided that that’s, you know, they weren’t able to meet their standards or didn’t want to meet their standards or whatever. So, you know, we had things where people were expecting deliveries and, you know, you’d ring up the guy and he was gone to the races for the day.

This is actually happens. And, you know, people had to drop stuff on the curb site and not rang the door well and all kinds of stuff like this. So the quality. Um, was hard to manage and we had very little margin, um, to, you know, to actually kind of work on that. Uh, and the second thing is we were talking to consumers.

that maybe, you know, if I was shipping my, I like we use my rims today, um, could be six months or nine months before I’m buying something on the equivalent of Craigslist and don’t deal again.

So my lifetime value or my repeat purchase was low.

Andrew: Okay. So tell me about the stubborn part. You’re a stubborn person. We talked about. You’re somebody who sticks on, why weren’t you willing to switch or how did the stubbornness play into your decision-making?

Rory: Yeah. I mean, I probably should have made a decision quicker, you know, in hindsight, but you know, you have To blame the sticking wishes and, you know, kind of giving it enough time with the, um, you know, with that kind of stubbornness, I suppose, of actually spending too long. So in hindsight, looking at, we probably spent.

Too long, um, trying different options to make it work rather than making a big pivot. And so we tried lots of experiments and different options and probably we should’ve made a big, bigger pivot sooner.

Andrew: To get rid of this thing that’s working. If you feel like a tweak here or a change there could make it work. Could make it pay off. Okay. Why couldn’t you say let’s stick with consumers, but at the same time, add this other element. And if the other element makes significantly more profit or can cover the rest of the business and we can, we can say no to consumers.

Why not make that type of transition?

Rory: And we could, we could have, but I think what we found in the first phase is that focus, you know, when we tried to bite off too much in, and having too many delivery options, too, too many different types of disparate deliveries, um, it made it more complicated. So, you know, what we learned from that process is focus.

We said that, Hey, if we. Keep what we have and we don’t, you know, focus entirely on the pivot. We’re probably always going to be just kind of going back to that and holding that way that it would work and depending on it and using it as a crutch. So we actually made a bold decision. I actually dropped that and to focus on.

Uh, an area that we felt might work, which was moving to more to a B2B solution. And we had seen customers come in on the platform who were smaller businesses and, uh, we’re starting to use our service and getting a lot of value. We’re going to have a lot of repeat purchase from us and the economics were much better.

Andrew: Was there someone on the outside who said Rory. I want you to pay attention to this thing instead of continuing in the direction there was, who was that person and how did they do it?

Rory: Yeah, it?

was a guy from, uh, he was working with eBay at the time, Vinny O’Brien and uh, he said to me, you know, Rory just have a look at the UK Marcus, um, you know, it’s underserved there. I think what you’re doing and your team is great. Um, but just have a look at the B2B market over here. Uh, eBay was starting a deeper into B2B at the time.

And, uh, you know, he was paying a lot of attention to that area and he said, look just. Take a close look at that. I’d RGO because I think you’ve got a great potential or what you have there. Um, and there’s a, there’s a, there’s a gap in the marketplace.

Andrew: All right. Let me talk about my second sponsor and then come back into this, by the way, my second sponsors is HostGator. I talk about them for hosting every kind of website. They also allow people to host, uh, online. Stores. I’m looking this up right now. They are the most popular as far as I can see right here, the most popular, um, excuse me, WordPress using woo.

Commerce is the most popular shopping platform. I have no idea WooCommerce. Wow. Let me ask you this word. If someone were to think about an online store, I think they could use some inspiration for what’s working. Tell me about some of the things that people, um, some of your customers are selling right now that we might not expect.

And that might trigger an idea in someone’s head and maybe send them over to HostGator to sign up for hosting

Rory: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got to say, uh, dog food is, uh, we’ve got a dog food supplier and, uh, Doug crudes and, uh, pets, you know, it’s probably the dearest, uh, joint to our piece of beef that you’ll ever buy is a, you know, dog food. Um, you know, we spend more on our pigs than we do on ourselves in terms of food.

Andrew: Oh, you’re saying pound for pound. People are spending more on meat for their dog than for themselves.

Rory: Yeah,

Andrew: I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes sense, right? First of all dogs, unless you’ve got a big dog, they don’t need that much. And if you want them to live longer, this is an easy thing to do. You can’t send them to a spy.

You’re not doing other stuff. Oh, imagine if someone’s listening

to this and says,

Rory: that those poachers you see at the pet store, you know, and how small they are. And, uh, yeah. It’s, uh, um, it, it, it’s, it’s amazing. So pet pets or pet food is being huge. It’s increased dramatically in the, during the pandemic we’ve seen. DIY, um, you know, garden homewares, uh, you know, exponential growth.

Um, Yeah.

I mean, those, those areas of being huge in the last, in, in, in the last five.

Andrew: You know what I wonder, I was going to say, it’s not like you can give your pets vitamins, but I wonder if you could and why aren’t there vitamins for pets. And the nice thing about vitamins for pets is smaller pot product, right? So you don’t have to spend a lot on shipping high value, right. And then it’s a daily habit vitamins for pets.

That would be a great idea. Don’t you think Rory.

Rory: I think so, because there’s definitely vitamins for horses. I’ve heard of that before. So there’s bitumens of that performance for, you know, to help parses with joint pain and stuff like that. So I’m sure that’s the next stage. I think we’ve cracked something there.

Andrew: Right. Plus every human being seems to be, you know, going out and buying vitamins for themselves. You should see the shelf that my wife has of all these herbal, this and that. Right. And if you’re doing it for yourself, why wouldn’t you think? All right. Listen to me, people, whether it’s that idea or any one of the other ideas I brought up in these past interviews, or frankly, one of your own, the beauty about HostGator is they make it so easy to spin up a website.

I might even use the word spin up. It’s like a hard disks, I think because everyone else has it. They just one click, press a button, another click, say you want WooCommerce. Boom, you’re up and running. Try it out. If you don’t like it, toss it out. You’ll learn something in the process that will allow you then to feed your next idea and your next idea.

And your next idea, HostGator makes it incredibly fast, incredibly inexpensive, and also incredibly reliable. I’ve been using HostGator to host Mixergy. You people did not even notice when I made the transit, but I didn’t cause the sites still work. Yeah. So it works super fast and I save a bunch of money cause HostGator’s really low.

And if you use my URL, it’ll be even lower for you than it is for others. hostgator.com/mixergy. All right. When you made the transition, did you have to start finding, first of all, you had to say no to the consumer business. Talk about what you had to do to what, what stopping it was. And then where did you get the new customers and what was it like to turn up the new business?

Rory: Uh, yeah, so the, the. Existing customers, you know, we just bit the bullet sweet. Contacted our existing customers that emailed them, you know, just told them that we were going to be closing down the service over a period of time was pretty short or, you know, a couple of weeks. Um, we had one B2B customer that we needed to really focus on.

We had an opportunity. They had, they’d given us, uh, four weeks to get, uh, an integration done. And, um, so you know, it really meant that we put all hands to the pump. So everybody just, uh, you know, got excited about it and we got focused on it. So I don’t think it was huge drama once we made the decision.

That was Ash, you know, we just kind of focused on what we needed to do. And, um, yeah, we told her existing customers and we got cracking and we launched in the four weeks. We got a label out for the customer. We probably spent the rest of the year, as I remember that was June. And we probably spent the rest of the year kind of patching it up and making sure that it works.

Um, I’m getting it sorted out, but, uh, yeah, we, we managed to get a, a quick win in there and got the confidence building again. Yeah.

Andrew: who is my next line of questioning was going to be, why didn’t you sell that part of the business? Why didn’t you transition? Why don’t you find a way to put one person on it, to hold onto it. But all those things, all those questions are about how do you hold onto the thing that’s not working or get some value out of it.

And, and that becomes a distraction from finding the thing that is or pursuing the thing that, you know, makes sense. Right. That’s that’s a mistake that I’m making, even in questioning. And it’s, it’s a mistake we make in business all the time.

Rory: It is. I mean, you know, the one thing that I keep learning and even I, at what we decided to do, we probably needed to even focus more in later years, we found that, you know, it was even, that was too white. So, you know, you’ve got to really be hyper-focused on, you know, what’s the problem you’re solving. Who are you solving it for?

Can you make that as, you know, kind of sustained as kind of a clear as possible because then it gets easier. The more strands you’ll have on it. When you get into becoming a larger business, you can add on, you can expand your time.

you can build on, but when you have the resources, when you scarce resources and you have to kind of, uh, you know, prove what you’re doing, uh, I think, you know, being very focused is, is really, really key.

Andrew: So, where do you get your customer? What’d you get the customers in the early days?

Rory: Yeah. So that meant, that was the time we went back. Um, and I started going back over to the UK. I just, initially we were trying to sell, you know, kind of remotely. Um, it was difficult and I was making an occasional trip, but, uh, just decided, look again, all in. So, uh, kind of got on, got on a plane, got a flat in London.

I went over to London and kind of spent a week there. And, you know, it just went to everything that was related to e-commerce, uh, whether it was a, you know, a show, whether it was a talk, but or who has, you know, the Magento meet-up, whether it was, you know, woo commerce meets up, went to everything and then.

You know us, the e-commerce, you know, community is not massive, even though, you know, UK is pretty large country, but the, the community is not massive. And within six months he kind of got to know, you know, some, you know, most of the major players and started to build relationships and started to get customers.

Andrew: So I’m looking you up in SEMrush to get a sense of where your traffic is. It’s still 73% in Ireland, right. And 20% in the UK and five in the U S does that sound right?

Rory: Yeah, but I, I that’s our traffic to our, I suppose, to our sites. So there’s a huge amount of interest, I suppose, in the, um, in the company from our lens. Um, our we’ve been 90% of our customers are UK are UK based. So our customer base, but

Andrew: So it’s a lot of people coming to your site because Irish pride, this is a company in Ireland that started as doing well. We want to

Rory: recruiting. Yeah. PR yeah, kind of, kind of that stuff.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. And then of course, um, people, your customers, customers, the big traffic is not going to be on your site or is it

Rory: So our customers, customers. Yeah. And that’s another point. Some of our, some of our white label customers come to our site and we’ve got. Big white label customers in Ireland. So are, are, there’s a lot of volume of customers, smaller customers come on, our white label product come to our site. Uh, whereas our larger mid-market customers would becoming, um, would, would not come to our site, go to the, uh, uh, their own site yet.

Andrew: is that? What’s the white label part of your product.

Rory: Yeah, so we have a white label. So we have a user interface that, uh, we generally our product.

say we send it directly to customers that are, you know, kind of mid range. So it’s mid-market but we set a white label product to customers who would have thousands and thousands of customers.

So customers would 7,000, 5,000 2000. Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: Oh, so again, you’re not going direct necessarily to businesses, just like you did before with the classified business where you found the main partner and they got you customers, you’re doing the same thing. Now you’re finding people who have online stores and then you sell to them. They expand to their thousands of customers.

What types of businesses have that kind of access to two online stores?

Rory: EBay say E-bay would be another one of our customers. So eBay uses, Uh, you know, discovery technology. So they use our API, it’s their frontend and, uh, they, uh, they use it. We’ve also the Irish postal service, uh, on post actually use our, uh, use our

Andrew: How’d you get eBay and the Irish postal service

Rory: yeah. Again, this was going to these meetups.

uh, you know, meeting people at these, uh, yeah. Yeah. I met, I met the postal guys in, in, in the UK. Would you believe it? So I met them at conferences because they’re selling into the UK market. So I met, you know, those guys in the UK.

Andrew: And then you’re just getting to know them, befriending them and then relationships happen from there.

Rory: Exactly. Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. How many of, how much of your, your time, or how many days a year would you say you were traveling at your height?

Rory: Uh, I was in the UK 42 weeks at a 52.

Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay. And now it seems like you’re cutting back. Am I right? Well, first of all, COVID said stay home, but also

Rory: I haven’t been, I haven’t been outside of the County and I’ve been inside of the County in a year and not to say, uh, you? know, yeah. Uh, but yeah, the last couple of years I haven’t been traveling so much, but yeah, I think traveling two weeks, two weeks a month maybe or something like that Yeah.

Andrew: But also this interview usually would happen. Let’s say at the earliest an hour later than we started, you asked to do it earlier. I said, no problem. And I’m glad I did it. But what I’ve noticed is when people ask for that, it’s generally because they’re at a point in their lives when they need more family time, that it seems like you’re at a point.

Am I right about that? Is there like a rule at your family dinner time we’re all together or is there something like that? Right.

Rory: There is. Yeah, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve we’ve we try our best now, because again, you know, I was away for, you know, the previous 10 years, I kind of spend a lot of that time away. So, you know, I’m a bit more precious about my, my own personal time now. And yeah, we have, we have things like that about trying to be together for dinner, et cetera, as much as much as possible.

Andrew: Laurie was founded 2010. You’ve been at this for over a decade. You ever feel like everyone else is selling after seven years becoming unicorn? What am I still doing here or you’re you’re still good on it.

Rory: um, so go down there. So, I mean, Yeah.

again, it’s like, it’s, it’s like, it’s like the iron man, you know, I mean, uh, you don’t have a vision and I think, um, you know, we can see, I can see the progress now. We had a, probably a difficult start, um, can, may went on the wrong direction. The bit of the stubbornness, uh, you know, kind of, uh, cost us maybe a year or two, but, uh, No, I think, you know, on the industry that we’re in actually what we’re doing.

It’s, it’s not massively complex in terms of rocket science, but it does require a bit of patience. Plugging in these carriers are difficult. Uh, there’s no standards in the industry. Lots of, uh, you know, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to work it out. There’s no manual that there there’s no, you know, you get, so it’s taken us a bit of time to kind of develop the capabilities that we have.

We believe that that’s a bit of a mold now because we’ve done the hard yards. We’ve put the time in, we understand this and it gives us a bit of remote.

Andrew: All right. So when we started this interview and I asked you millions in revenue, obviously millions in revenue, can you give me a sense without like violating your own, your own rules of what you can say of where revenue is? Are we talking tens of millions? Can you say if it’s over 40, over 20, any, anything that’s even a wide range would give us a sense of how far it’s come.

Rory: Um, I can give you it’s, it’s just, you know, I can say that it’s between at the end of this year, it will be between five and 10.

Andrew: Okay. And how many years did it take for it to, to actually click in where you felt like, okay, this business now makes sense. Now we need to grow what we built. We, we made sense of it up until here. Now we need to grow it. How many years did that

Rory: Yep. And in reality, you know, from, from 2010 to 14, we were on the old model. So it took us down in 2014 to 16 to build the new, but new model. So really it’s from 2016. So in reality, You know, kind of look out at that. You know, we learned a lot from the early days, but you know, we have to Trek the entire code base, but to start all over again, you know, it really was, uh, almost a complete new start.

Uh, so, uh, you know, I, I look at it that it’s a 2000 to 16, but a lot of learning in the, you know, in the pre the previous few years before that. Yeah.

Andrew: All right, let’s close it out with this then. What’s what’s next? What are you, I’m assuming you’re doing this interview with me because you’re thinking about more expansion in the U S or is there something else?

Rory: Just more on a, you know, a more expansion on a global basis. So we’ve seen phenomenal growth this year. Our growth has been absolutely phenomenal. I think it’s the base that we’ve put in. So we’re looking at, we’re looking at growth in a couple of different areas. Uh, we’re looking at, uh, Europe. And then looking at potentially strategic partnerships into the, uh, into the us.

Um, the U S I think again, we found working with partners like we discussed in, uh, in the interview already has been really beneficial for us. So, you know, if we found the right partnering in the U S I think That’s the way that we would go.

Andrew: That’s the biggest takeaway for me from this interview? Well, actually there are a bunch. Here’s what I got. Number one, listen to Eric Reese, even so many years later, I feel like Eric has receded. He’s now creating law stock market. Right. He decided that that’s his focus. So he’s not out there championing these lean startup ideas.

And in many cases, people have accepted them. But I think, I think the vocal people who are talking about lean startups are the ones who are disagreeing with it and they feel like they can make a point in a name for themselves by arguing with the thing that that’s working. But his ideas made sense for you and they continue to make sense, start out small, put a minimum viable product out there and then build out on it.

So that’s the first thing that I’ve got from you. Number two, when somebody comes in with a new idea, that makes sense, be open to it. Even if you’re already so far invested the way you were in creating your full product and creating a payment process and selling it. Good ideas, make sense, jump on them. Um, number three, focus.

Right? And so you could have done what many people I have to say. My instinct is often to hold on to too many things, but you didn’t, you said we’re going to stop the consumer business focus and go all in on the B2B business. And that made a dramatic difference. That’s that’s what made the world of difference in your business?

Right?

Rory: Yeah. And probably put it on that faster, to be honest, you know, but, uh, yeah. Cause definitely I think is, is key.

Andrew: All right. The website for anyone who wants to go check it out. It’s scurry, S C U R R i.com scurry.com. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first. If you need email marketing software, you have to go and check out, send in blue, do your research, look them up, look them up online, see all their reviews.

You will find that they are not just free to get started, but also their price remains low and their features are strong. And because they don’t charge you for every email address in their system, you’re going to want to keep more of your email addresses in their system, which means you have greater insights into who your customers are and you won’t start getting stingy and say, let’s delete all these contacts, which is such a painful thing to do.

If you’ve got an email, uh, I an email list, but just about every email software requires you to delete it. If you want to save money. All right, anyway, go check them out. Send in blue.com/mixergy. And finally, if you’re selling dog vitamins or anything else, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. You’ll do yourself a favor and your business a favor.

It will be strong. And I look forward, I interview people who do that, right? How great would it be three years from now? We do an interview with an entrepreneur. She says, I heard about vitamins for dogs. I did an Andrew. It was a crazy idea that I just did for fun. Turned out. It made sense.

All right.

Thanks Rory. Good evening. And bye.

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