Category - Moonfruit in the news

Mon, 15 Jul 2013


Charlotte

Mon, 15 Jul 2013, 16:54




Start-ups prize experience as the value of an academic background plummets

This article, based on research by Moonfruit, was published in July 2013.

Tomorrow’s employers no longer value a strong academic background, according to a survey published by Moonfruit, one of the UK’s leading internet companies. The research, commissioned to identify the ‘DNA’ of the ideal start-up employee, found that 81% of the nation’s start-ups said they no longer look specifically for candidates with a strong academic background.

A far more valuable commodity is work experience, with 47% citing it as the most important aspect of an ideal candidate. While 62% of start-ups ranked entrepreneurialism and creativity as the most important attribute in employees, a trend reflected by 55% of larger companies.

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Fri, 23 Nov 2012

Charlotte

Fri, 23 Nov 2012, 12:16




2013 - The Year of the Female Entrepreneur?

This article by Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White first appeared on London Loves Business and you can find it here.

Our newest columnist and CEO of Moonfruit Wendy Tan White argues that conditions are right to see a rise in entrepreneurship in women

A recent poll from The Telegraph found that while almost a fifth of young women would like to run their own business, just 3% wanted to become a CEO of a company. The paper wondered if climbing the career ladder “has gone out of fashion since the financial crisis”. I don’t actually think the wider global economic problems have affected the desire of women to become entrepreneurs.

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Tue, 20 Nov 2012

Charlotte

Tue, 20 Nov 2012, 12:20




London tech sector best in Europe for women

This article by Oscar Williams-Grut first appeared in the London Evening Standard on 20th November 2012. You can find it here.

London’s technology sector has the highest proportion of women entrepreneurs in Europe, according to a global study of 50,000 start-ups.

But the city’s start-up scene, centred around London's 'Silicon Roundabout', is still dominated by men, with women representing only nine per cent of those behind new technology businesses.

Eileen Burbidge, a partner at Passion Capital, said: “We need to keep highlighting female entrepreneur success stories such as Wendy Tan White, co-founder of Moonfruit which sold to Yell for $37 million and Tracy Doree, co-founder of LLUSTRE, sold to Fab.com.”

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Fri, 16 Nov 2012

Vicki

Fri, 16 Nov 2012, 11:40




What will 2013 hold for women in business?

This article by Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White first appeared on London Loves Business and you can find it here.

Last year I wrote an article about why there has never been a better time to be a woman in business. At the time, women-led firms were the fastest growing sector of new venture creations in the US, while in Brazil there were more female entrepreneurs than male. I noted that there were growth opportunities for women in the UK, particularly as we had a bit of ground to catch up on our American counterparts.

Fast forward 12 months and as we are just getting the chance to reflect on an epic summer, and post Moonfruit’s acquisition to Hibu (formerly Yell) for a cash deal worth $37 million, I am finding my thoughts turning to the New Year. What will 2013 hold for women entrepreneurs?

In the UK at least, the story is looking good. According to government figures, 15.2% of directors of FTSE 100 companies in February 2012 were women (up from 12.5% a year ago). For FTSE 250 companies, 9.6% of directors were women, up from 7.8% a year earlier.

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Wed, 5 Sep 2012

Clare

Wed, 5 Sep 2012, 16:46



Small Retailers Open Up Storefronts on Facebook

This article by Eilene Zimmerman appeared in the New York Times on 25th July 2012. You can read the complete article here.

USE YOUR PERSONALITY Unlike larger businesses, small businesses can build on their personal relationships to end users, said Wendy Tan-White, chief executive of Moonfruit, which builds and supports e-commerce Web sites. She advises using a cover image for a business’s page that relates not only to the product or service but to customers, too.

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Build a small business website with Moonfruit. Get a professional web presence with minimal effort.

This article by Martyn Casserly first appeared in PC Advisor, where you can read more.

Websites are useful things. We dare say they might catch on. We're being sarcastic, of course, but once upon a time an enterprising small business would have sought out a prominent location in the high street, or liveried up its vans (and in some cases employees) to create a visual presence for potential customers.

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Q&A: Wendy Tan White on selling Moonfruit for £23m

This article first appeared in London Loves Business and the original can be seen here.

With Moonfruit’s acquisition by Yell fresh in our minds we catch up with its CEO to get the lowdown

In mid-May the news broke that Moonfruit had sold to directories giant Yell for £23m. It was a well-received success story, celebrated by a lot of the close-knit tech community in which Moonfruit CEO Wendy Tan White is a prominent figure.

You see, DIY website builder Moonfruit isn’t a product of the latest tech bubble, a start-up founded a few years ago and caught up in the whirlwind that is “Silicon Roundabout”. Moonfruit was founded back in 2000 and weathered the storm of the first dot-com burst. Having scaled back and bootstrapped for a few years, it became one of the first brands to trend on Twitter in 2009, reached profitability and by 2012 had built five million sites and 230,000 online shops.

I met Tan White last year and tried to lasso the CEO into doing a bit of regular writing for us here at LondonlovesBusiness.com. Her enthusiasm was followed by perplexing radio-silence that in the following months was explained by the news of the sale.

“Things were crazy,” she explained when I finally meet her again. “It’s been a real journey.”

A journey that I am eager to hear about. Why sell now? Why sell to an unlikely character like directory business Yell? And what has happened since? I settled down with Moonfruit’s mogulista to find out…

So Wendy how did the sale come about?

We had started going to the US a lot more. We have a lot of white label partners like Barclays, Bank of Scotland and Paypal so we were going for meetings with potential partners in the States.

We found that every conversation ended with, “we really like this stuff, but can we actually just buy you rather than partner with you?”

What was your reaction? Were you surprised?

It was surprising at first but some of the players were so big you could see why it made sense to them. They don’t want to licence you, then watch you go and licence yourself to their biggest competitor – and we’re small enough for them to control us as an asset.

What kind of companies were you talking too?

They all had SMB products of some sort. We find that the web presence and shop presence that people create with us are very sticky – once people have set up a website they don’t tend to move. They also trust you and tend to buy a lot more SMB products from you – so Moonfruit was quite an important jigsaw piece for these companies to complete their offering.

They were all looking for something quite modern, a lot of SMBs say, “if I build a site or shop, I don’t want to have to build it again for mobile, tablet or Facebook – can someone please take that pain away from me!”

Exactly what Moonfruit offers I suppose. How did you decide now was the time?

Years ago I met an angel investor from Silicon Valley called Robbie Van Adibe. When I was first raising money for Moonfruit (looking for around 500,000) he actually said to me “this is a big idea, go and raise £5m – you can do it.” So we did.

I kept in touch with him over the years and about 18 months ago he came to visit to see how we were doing. He looked at the figures and said – “if you were in the US right now you’d be totally ripe for buying.”

I think that added together with the market interest made us think there’s something going on here. Also we had a feeling that a peak was coming in the tech market which we expected would be signalled by the Facebook float.

We have been doing this for twelve years and reached the point where we had hit profitability, it was either raise again and scale or be acquired.

So how did you decide who to go with?

Robbie introduced us to a boutique banker in San Fran called Scott Smith – he had a whole network of people in finance and lawyers, (lawyers who talk about the magic of the Valley – you don’t get lawyers who talk about the magic of anything here!)

They gave us a lot of confidence and helped us to understand that there are methods to this kind of thing, it’s not a random choice. An acquisition is not easy. Once people know you’re interested in being sold and that there are other players in the market they start throwing out valuations. People often walk away in the middle of a deal, you can get gazumped – it’s like buying a house but worse.

They also taught us that there’s more to think about than the price. You need to be able to pay off your investors but also understand how long you will be expected to work there for? Will there be performance metrics and earn-outs? Will they let you stay in your own office or subsume you into the business? Are they going to carry on investing in you?

So all of these answers led you to choose Yell?

There were three players on the table and we picked Yell because it gave us flexibility. There’s a two year golden handcuff so some of the capital has been kept aside but it is not an earn-out. If we don’t hit our targets we still get the agreed amount.

We liked it because it’s part of a turnaround. They said “stay with us and help us to create a digital business, we can learn from what you guys have to offer and you can contribute and be part of what we are creating.”

Yell is trying to create a new digital market space for SMBs. It has rebranded to move away from the old yellow pages type branding.

It still generates £1.6bn in sales last year, it is a big cash generative business but the old part of the business is in decline. It still has time to turn it around, the digital revenues are on the increase and Yell has hired a new team to make the digital transition.

Also we liked the fact that it is a UK/US company, so UK floated but with all of the directors in the US – it gives us great access to the US market.

So how has it been so far?

We really didn’t know what it would be like – people warned us that however much they promise, you often can’t help but be subsumed into a big corporate’s processes which slows everything down. But it’s been great – they say “we brought you here to innovate not get sucked into the business”. They have protected our brand because they realise that we are not just a product but a community. Moonfruit has very engaged customers; we talk to them directly and co-produce with them.

Yell is very interested in our culture. We have always taken it for granted as we were part of the tech culture – we move very quickly, we’re agile, transparent and we still take chances. The yell team want to see how we will expand that into a bigger scale.

So what is next?

We’re doing some media products to push out through their sales force but Yell is interested in future innovation and are investing in us to become an innovation centre and pass what we learn onto it.

Our next step is to learn how to scale. Learning to leverage people and keep the culture in-place and co-exist with a bigger culture. Investing in us gives us something to do – as entrepreneurs and having pushed hard to achieve it’s hard to switch that off.

If we learn to scale we can use that experience if we go on to start another business. Looking past that I envisage becoming an angel – I would certainly want to do that with the right people. Most angel investors were previously entrepreneurs – you can keep working with start-ups but not always be the one right on the wire.

Sounds great – looking forward to seeing how it all pans out!

Wed, 13 Jun 2012

Clare

Wed, 13 Jun 2012, 10:04



Chatting about the journey to £18m cash exit with Eirik Pettersen, CTO of Moonfruit

This interview took place at the Moonfruit office, Central London. June 2012 and appeared on the Blue Glue blog.

As one of the earliest members of Moonfruit, there is a lot we want to know from Eirik right now. The London based team of designers and developers who are passionate about providing great design and products that support small businesses and individuals, has been acquired by the directories giant Yell for £18m in cash. But firstly…

….a huge congratulations to you and the team on the exit. What has the last few weeks been like for you?

It’s been a real rollercoaster, with many emotional highs and lows. You never really know if it’s going to happen or not right until the very end. As you pass through the various stages of the deal, it gets more real and you get excited but often the day after you can be quite sad. It’s probably akin to giving away your daughter’s hand in marriage – you are happy, but at the same time you are sad to be handing over something you’ve cared deeply about for many years.

But to put that all in perspective, we are really excited about working with Yell in the future – there are many opportunities and it will be a fun and challenging ride.

How has your exit strategy changed over the years, if at all?

I’ve been told the best exit strategy is to not have an exit strategy! The most important thing is to create a valuable and sustainable business, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last 12 years. As we continued to explore various partnership opportunities, often the conversations turned into corporate development discussions and what Yell were doing was the most appealing.

How did you “groom” Moonfruit for sale, if at all?

As I said, the best way to make yourself attractive to a potential acquirer is have a healthy business, with good past performance and a credible and exciting business plan. It means making the right choices for the business, showing leadership and being able to exploit opportunities.

What kind of people have got you to where you are today?

Smart ones that can get things done. You can get people who are smart and can’t get things done – they create work. And you can get people who can get things done but aren’t smart – they create work as you have to clean up their mess afterwards.

Great programmers. Laziness, Impatience and Hubris, are the three great programmer attributes according to Larry Wall, the inventor of Perl.

We want developers writing programs that Moonfruit users find really useful (laziness means they work hard to make computers do most of the work), that take huge pride in their work (hubris) and that write programs that are fast and anticipate user’s needs (impatience means they don’t tolerate inefficiencies).

You have a good record of staff retention at Moonfruit, any tips?

Things are coming in threes today! Purpose, Autonomy and Craftsmanship are the three things that we try to give to everyone at Moonfruit.

Take a look at Dan Pinks article on motivation – he says that people need to be able to solve problems their own way and have the freedom to solve the problems creatively at a level of craftsmanship that gives them satisfaction. I want people to come to work because they feel they are solving some kind of problem, and I want them to know that they fit into the system in a way that really matters.

When we set up Moonfruit 12 years ago there was a strapline we always brought up in interviews, which is where the company actually came from, “Allowing people to share their passions online.” We do look for people who have passion in what they do. It isn’t just about doing a job, it’s about fulfilling a passion, if you will. People work the hours they work because they love being here and solving the challenges.

How have you found the right people over the years?

In the early days, ‘99 and 2000, we used lots of agents. I also did much of the work in the beginning and used my own networks, especially in the lean years up until about ‘06/’07. In about ‘08 when we started to grow a lot faster, we couldn’t find people through JobServe and other online job ads so easily, and there was little in the way of Linkedin and Facebook. It was pretty much just MySpace in those days and all you could really do there was find another band member.

So 3 years ago we changed how we hire, and had a policy not to use agents. For me, I didn’t see where the value was. We partnered with BlueGlue as their approach seemed closer to what we did ourselves, using seeder companies and trying to find people in similar companies with a similar ethos, rather than a bank of candidates in an agency. It was also good that the BlueGlue system could go across all the areas we needed to hire in – not just tech. We are really happy with the hires we have made together so far.

Thanks Eirik - always a pleasure to chat with you.

How to pivot your startup if necessary

This article was taken from the May 2012 issue of Wired magazine and features Wendy Tan White, founder of Moonfruit. Read the original article here.

Klaus Nyengaard had witnessed the success of desktop applications for PCs and predicted that the same would happen with mobile phones. So in 2000, he created marketplace Mobli, secured funding and amassed the world's second-largest portfolio of mobile apps. Mobli predicted exactly how the 3G smartphone market would develop. Its mistake was expecting it to develop five years sooner than it did. "If you read reports in 2000, people were talking about 3G being just around the corner. We'd have smartphones in two years," explains Nyengaard, who is now CEO of Just-Eat.com. It was another five years before there was enough 3G coverage to make it a viable business, and eight years before the launch of Apple's App Store. "It's just as bad being too early as it is too late," he muses. Mobli's prematurity, combined with the founders' bullish resistance to accepting funding that gave them a runway longer than six months, meant that their coffers ran dry and they had to close.

Too much funding can be just as damaging as too little. Not only does funding have to be paid back, often at a multiple, but it also makes entrepreneurs lose focus, as Wendy Tan White (right) discovered with website builder Moonfruit. "We went from seed to a few million in funding within six months," she says. "That wasn't enough time to learn who our market was and what core features people were interested in. You end up spending money on the wrong stuff." White then shrank the company from 60 to two people: "In the dark years we learned to generate our own income and adopted what's now called the lean startup model."

The delicate funding balance is made more precarious by the fact that everyone at the table - the VCs, angel investors, the CEO with phantom stock - is keen to make money out of you. School for Startups founder Doug Richard took other people's advice and sold his company Visual Software for shares instead of cash, which lost 99 per cent of their value within weeks. "Everyone has a different set of incentives. Nobody has your interest, so stop whining and make your own decisions," he says.

One of the most terrifying decisions you need to make is to quit the day job. "If you don't commit full-time, you won't have the impetus to go and find customers or raise capital," says Adil Abrar, director of Sidekick Studios. He built gaming platform Budge, which fizzled out because he ran another company. "There was no real incentive to make it work because our mortgage didn't depend on it."

Assertive decision-making is also critical when it comes to firing a misfit, as Simon Campbell took too long to discover with his web-applications company Conexia. Aged 23, he was dazzled by an experienced former Oracle salesman who had charisma and impressive contacts. The startup agreed to pay him more than everyone else in the hope that he'd make sales. After a month without signing anything, it became clear that he wasn't right for the job, but Campbell kept the faith that he'd come through. He never did, and tried to sue the company when it did ask him to leave three months later. Conexia didn't fail, but the incident zapped morale and set the business back by 12 months.

"Work out what's right for the business and what it can afford," Campbell explains. "If sales people want a massive base, there have to be question marks about what they will deliver. If you realise you have made a mistake, get rid of them as soon as you can."

Just as important as people is the place you start your business, as Luke Johnson, chairman of Risk Capital Partners, discovered when trying to launch mussels-and-frites restaurant chain Belgo in New York. "We completely underestimated the cultural and economic differences between the UK and America," he explains. "The restaurant business in New York is much more competitive than in the UK and with much lower expected returns." Two years and $5 million (£3 million) later, Johnson and his partners retreated from the US.

Even with the right timing, people, place and product, you're not immune from failure, as Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, discovered when he started Catalyst Recruiting out of his Yale dormitory. He explains: "We had a really beautiful business plan - with census data, market research, complicated models and strict customer-acquisition budgets. However, we just didn't know exactly who our customers were." Ries classifies his mistake as "achieving failure": being so focused on executing a plan that you don't ever pause to assess if it's good or not, thus wasting energy going in the wrong direction. The solution? To continually test the market and iterate.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012

Clare

Wed, 21 Mar 2012, 14:28



A Successful Husband-Wife Team

This interview by Sramana Mitra first appeared in her blog. Part 1 of the interview is reproduced below but you can read the whole of it here.''

Wendy Tan White is the CEO of Moonfruit, a company she co-founded with Eirik Pettersen and Joe White. Moonfruit is an on-demand website development platform that allows anyone to develop a website for any purpose in a matter of minutes. Prior to Moonfruit, Wendy worked at Arthur Andersen as an IT consultant and helped establish Egg.com. Joe worked as a website developer while finishing college and completed projects for clients such as Disney and Egg.

Sramana: Let’s start by reviewing your personal backgrounds.

Wendy Tan White: I studied computer science at Imperial College in London. It was a great experience and a great college. I used to program really old assembly line systems, which is a far cry from where we are today. Both of my parents worked in IT, which was unusual in those days, especially for my mother. She worked for DEK in Reading, England.

After college I ended up working for Arthur Andersen. It was good commercial experience although it was not my passion. I ended up in a financial services IT consultancy. One of my first big career step came when one of my clients headhunted me to help set up the Internet bank Egg.com. It was the first UK Internet bank which came around in 1997. That is where I got the bug that led me to try and understand how communities work on the Internet. Initially I approached that from the perspective of banks, but I quickly started looking at how people shared their passions online. That is when I founded Moonfruit in 1999.

I was quite lucky that my boss at Egg told me that if I stayed around a bit longer, he would help seed the business, which he did. He also let me work part-time at Egg to give me the opportunity to get the business started while being able to maintain some income. He was a tremendous mentor.

Sramana: When you started Moonfruit, what was in your head?

Wendy Tan White: It has always been about democratization. As a developer, I realized that if someone wanted to publish something online, they could not do it themselves if they were not a developer. I wanted to give them a simple user interface to share their passion online. It did not matter to me if it was a hobby, business, or passion. These were the days before blogging and social media.

We ended up building something that was like a PowerPoint editor. It really was a SaaS product, which was not a common concept in those days. The idea was that it was a very literal editor. It was a visual editor to create a website.

Joe White: My story dovetails into this. I was at Cambridge getting an economics degree. In the summer I started working at a software company, which is where Wendy was in the graduate program. When she left that company to go to Egg, I was going back to my finals at Cambridge. One of the guys I met at that company was interested in setting up a web design agency in 1997. I told him that I was going back to school and that I could look for some clients with the intention of sharing the work with him if I were able to find some clients. The first client we got was The Big Issue, then we got the London School of Economics, Disney and a few others. By the time I graduated, we had a group of clients that included Egg.

I was traveling between London and Cambridge, balancing school and work. I got to know Wendy when I went to work on commissioned projects at Egg. Wendy was the one commissioning work to us. When Wendy decided she wanted to leave Egg to start Moonfruit she got me involved, along with Eirik, who is our other co-founder. This all occurred before we were married.

Wendy Tan White: Eirik Pettersen was my best friend from university. He was a physicist but would do programming on the side. We always talked about starting a business together in college but we ended up going our different ways after school. When we set up Moonfruit, I wanted him to come in as CTO, and Joe’s agency built the prototype that we went out and raised money with.

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