Serial entrepreneur, Alastair Campbell, the co-founder of Carsnip, shares his thoughts on entrepreneurship and his plans for his revolutionary car search engine. Carsnip have been selected on The Fresh Business Thinking Shift 100, Retail Technology edition in association with KPMG Small Business Accounting.
What made you decide to launch your business?
Alastair: I wanted to do something different and I have always disliked the way the car search works as it doesn’t work for car discovery, the way search currently works assumes a knowledge around cars that our research showed that 76% people don't have.
I'm building a search engine where you can find a car cheaper and faster and not just by searching across a small number of cars but for every available car in the UK. For example, Carsnip has currently 661k cars against AutoTraders 473k cars and Motors 361k.
We added 25000 cars to Carsnip last week alone. Every week there is more choice for buyers.
To what do you attribute your success?
Alastair: Persistence. Persistence is the key to all of it. In the early days, you don’t have much money and it is difficult and hard. Never tell yourself that it can’t be done, you just must keep going and if you believe it’s right and you think it works and get the validation of what you do, in terms of people liking it, that’s good. That doesn’t include the validation of friends, because, overall, they will be quite nice to you. The real test is when strangers tell you it’s a good idea.
What advice would you give for an entrepreneur just starting up?
Alastair: Don’t spend much. Do as much of it for as little as possible, and try and get feedback and if your customers recommend it to other customers. Then if that’s the case, go and raise some money to expand it, but don’t put everything into it, if you have no validation as to whether it is a good idea.
And persist. More start-ups fail because people give up at the hard times when you have no money and you are working 12 hour days, so, if you come from a proper job to working 12 hours per day, then you need to change your mind-set. The best mind-set is where you don’t have work and life, you just have life, which work is a part of.
For me, with all my businesses, it doesn’t feel like work it’s just something that I like doing, therefore it doesn’t matter if I’m on holiday or jumping out of aeroplanes I don’t think this is a nice break from work, it’s all wrapped up in one thing. If you have a lot of pressure then you are probably going to struggle, because you need to see it as a way of life.
What were the main challenges to setting up your business?
Alastair: I would say the main challenges were, building on such a tight budget for it to be any use for selling, to get some money to carry on. In terms of making sales, that was challenging as well as finding the right people, which is a very difficult thing to manage.
How do you think technology is driving businesses forward?
Alastair: I think it always has. There is a lot of talk about it now about disruptive technology all about computers, but I think innovation is a thing that happens regardless and that businesses capitalise on that innovation. Innovation, especially in technology whether you’ve got a steam engine in the past or a web server in the cloud now, technology is a tool and people innovate around these things and invent new things, I don’t see this as separate from the past. And I think with digital technology, it's easier for people to invent things because they want to invent them.
Now, especially with a small digital business it’s mostly about distributing your content more widely to a global audience. So, distribution and awareness are probably the most important things for what that technology is doing.
What are your plans for your business for 2017 and beyond?
Alastair: 2017 will be fantastic (and very hard work!), we are employing our marketing & content team and are recruiting at least 4 more developers for the launch of interesting new products for car dealers. And we will be launching a new car search website for a client, so we will be having quite a busy year.