We spoke with David Tymm the CEO and co-founder of i-movo, whose secure digital vouchers help brands and retailers increase loyalty and sales. i-movo is featured 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?
David: I was working for a business which sold e-commerce software, which allowed companies to sell online, and regularly heard from our customers: “What I really want is something where I can use my website to encourage my consumers go to a retailer that stocks my product to try it.”
Big consumer goods companies such as Unilever were not interested in ‘selling’ online but more using online to educate and influence buying decisions. They saw the web as a marketing tool rather than sales channel; a method of creating demand for products and interest in their products. One idea that came up repeatedly was to use the internet and mobile phones as a means of distributing vouchers. So, the idea came from customers, as most good ideas tend to.
To what do you attribute your success?
David: We found a good solution to a complex problem that we now have protected by patent; we have executed it well with a small team of very capable people; we have great, loyal customers and excellent partnerships with companies within our ecosystem. If you look at the many companies who have tried to enter this market who have failed, they have got one or more of these things wrong.
What were the main challenges to setting up your business?
David: Firstly, setting up a business is not very expensive at all anymore; you can get a good presence on the web without necessarily needing premises and if you are a technology business, it used to be really costly to buy the hardware and software, but all of this is available online with cloud services.
Establishing it is the difficult bit. Because I knew the people I set up the business with, who provided the initial backing and development resources, that wasn’t the challenge that it is for some people. It was more about getting ‘heard’.
Most start-up businesses try and sell their products or services to larger businesses. If you are a B2B company as we are, then the larger companies we are trying to sell to are inundated with people with ‘brilliant’ new ideas. Therefore, if you are working for an established company there are so many start-up’s clamouring for your attention, there is a tendency to shut them all out. Getting in front of people who might be customers or users of what we were building was and continues to be the biggest challenge.
How do you think technology is driving business forward?
David: There has been so much innovation over the last 10 years with consumers and businesses being asked to do things completely differently. If you look at the dominant platforms such as Google, Amazon & Facebook, these represent behaviours that people simply never ‘did’ before. I get the sense that many people have had enough change but maybe I’m just getting old…The focus now seems to be shifting to automating and improving existing customer behaviour patterns. It’s more about: “How do I make the things that I am already doing much easier?”
For example, when scheduling a meeting in your calendar, you can get information on the best way to get to a meeting and how long it with take you depending on whether you drive or take the train. Finding minor enhancements to existing behaviour is where a lot of companies are now focused and consumers really value this.
Do you think that there has been a shift in consumer behaviour?
David: I think the biggest shifts have taken place already. If you look at the online to offline shift, such as online sales, there was a rapid uptake in the beginning, but the proportion of online to offline sales has remained fairly static now for the last few years. The big change has taken place and settled down.
Social media is another example, the people who have wanted to join Facebook and Twitter have already done so, although the numbers are growing, it is nothing like the growth previously.
The next shifts will be a large number of incremental changes rather than seismic ones.
If you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur starting out, what would it be?
David: I’ll have two suggestions. You need a really well-differentiated idea and you’ve got to have really significant barriers to entry. If you have an idea, then these are the two tests to subject it to.
“Can I show how it is better than other ways of solving the same problem?’ That’s the only way of charging a premium for something which what every business needs to do to survive and thrive.
Also, what’s to stop somebody else coming in and trying to do the same thing and just charging less? The bane of any entrepreneur’s life is when they spend time developing an idea in the market and then somebody else comes along without an ounce of creativity or talent who is good only at copying things and says they will do the same job but cheaper. Many people are seduced by cheap prices, even though most learned experience is you get exactly what you pay for. Establishing yourself as the thought-leader in your niche is a defence against copycat new entrants.