GoInStore is set to disrupt retail businesses by creating an in-store experience online. co-founderAndre Hordagoda told us about his plans. Andre and his co-founder have been selected on The Fresh Business Thinking Shift 100, The Retail Technology Edition in association with KPMG Small Business Accounting.
What made you decide to launch your business?
Andre: I had forged my ‘employee career’ within the e-commerce industry for close to 15 years, though throughout, I always had a plan to start something for myself.
I fell into e-commerce in the early days when things like email marketing systems were just emerging. I started out with a company called Emailvision (Now Smartfocus) for a few years and then moved to a web analytics company called Hitwise, who were being bought by Experian at the time I joined. Despite being a consistently strong sales performer at Hitwise, I knew working for a major blue chip player like Experian that it would take far too long to earn a seat at their boardroom table.
As such, I strategically forged my career towards working for start-ups. My first experience in this arena was with an Israeli tech start-up where I was the only person in the UK. However, the reality of still not being my own boss sank in over the year I spent there, and I really hated those weekly ½ day conference calls between Israel and New York.
After this, and prior to starting GoInStore, I moved into online personalisation space with a company called Peerius. Here I reported directly to the CEO. I was responsible for the whole commercial division, so I was finally getting closer to what I wanted to do. As the company grew, I built up the commercial division in the UK and Germany. I was continually learning here, but eventually, the time came to make my move.
My co-founder, Aman Khurana, whom I have been friends with since high school, had also joined Peerius for a few years. This was a really important factor in us deciding to co-found, as we knew we were able to work together and could ditch our egos in favour of a no-nonsense focus on our shared vision. I’ll never forget the day we decided to take the plunge and start GoInStore - we haven’t looked back. It has been the most rewarding section of my career to date.
If you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur just starting up, what would it be?
Andre: It boils down to self-belief. No one is successful without that one key single element. You need to wake up on a bad day, look yourself in the mirror, dig as deep as you need to and crack a smile.
You have to be in the right place mentally. Personally, I make it part of my weekly routine to go the gym at least 3 times and I often meditate and do self-hypnosis. I really do think it is just as important as the daily running of your business - and I actively encourage my team to do the same. The company has signed up for a charity run in March and few of us have just committed to doing a triathlon in May.
What were the main challenges to setting up a business?
Andre: As I’ve said, I think the biggest challenge is mental. You’ll naturally speak to your peers, maybe find mentors, discuss with friends and family. Some will be more positive than others, but ultimately, you need an unwavering belief that you can manifest your goal (not dreams – there’s a big difference!). I’d also say you need to be a bit cautious when navigating the early stages of starting a business. There is a whole host of companies (and people) that offer ‘start up’ support, for a fee or ‘slice of the action’. But then you begin to wonder: “If you are so good at helping start-ups, then why don’t you have one yourself?”. Tread carefully or you can blow a lot of cash and end up owning less and less of your own business.
Having said that, it’s also important to find and surround yourself with the right support network – but I guess that’s a no brainier.
How do you think technology is driving businesses forward in the retail space?
Andre: I think for [retail] technology to be successful it must address real-world demands in some way. Consumers today want everything personalised, customised and tailored, and they want instantly. Innovations that can streamline processes, improve what the customer gets and how they get it will succeed – you only have to look at Amazon’s ability to deliver the ice cream of your choice within 2 hours.
We don’t deliver ice cream, but at GoInStore we recognised that for certain ‘considered’ purchases, the conversion rates a retailer has in the physical store is significantly greater than on their website (as much 10x differential in most instances), yet the traffic to their website is exponentially greater than the footfall in the stores. Thinking of buying a new car, sofa, expensive piece of jewellery? Need the confidence that what you’re buying is what you really need? What if we could deliver as close to the in-store experience, in the digital channel? Well, that’s what we do. Now a website customer simply makes a couple of clicks and they get a live video stream, hosted by the most appropriate in-store sales person, immersed into the store, without leaving their home, desk, getting off the bus etc.
What are your plans for your business for 2017 and beyond?
Andre: Our initial strategy was to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), get it into the live environment with real customers and then build our product features around the genuine needs. This phase went extremely well and saved us building something we ‘thought’ would work in favour of something that delivered genuine value.
Phase 2 was to pick off some of the key heavyweights within our target client bases. For example, Marriot hotels in the hotel industry, Farfetch in fashion, DFS in furniture, Maplin in consumer electronics and Porsche in automotive. By Aligning ourselves with market leaders in each of these fields we creating buzz with their peers and setting ourselves up as the go-to guys, for what we do.
This strategy also helps when you are planning to grow, impacting everything from funding, the ability to attract and hire the best talent through to press coverage.
Our aim now is to scale our operation by hiring the right people and consistently maintain our technical edge. We want to make sure our product is the best it can possibly be, our level of customer service is second to none and our clients love us as much as we love them.