Tag - Wendy Tan White

Wed, 16 Apr 2014


Wed, 16 Apr 2014, 09:31

Work-life balance: Founders' Font of Knowledge

Six-hour working days, banned from checking emails after 6pm - rest time is your time if you live in France and Sweden. With this is mind, here's Moonfruit's Wendy, Joe and Eirik on what they do to hit that sometimes elusive work-life balance. 

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Mon, 15 Jul 2013


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


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


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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Wed, 5 Sep 2012


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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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!

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


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.

The Good Web Guide

The Good Web Guide asked Wendy Tan White, founder of Moonfruit, to share some of her favourite websites. See the article here.

Wendy Tan White is the founder and CEO of Moonfruit, a design-led DIY website builder company - "We do all the hard work so that you can be free to design your own website in just a few hours with no technical knowledge." Wendy's aim is to democratise the web and to this end, Moonfruit has just launched a Shopbuilder which means you can create your own shop which will publish to mobile and Facebook automatically. Since the launch in October 2011, over 60,000 shop sites have been developed and worldwide over 4 million websites have been created in the last 12 years, 1.5 million in the last 12 months. Wendy has won many awards but winning Entrepreneur of the Year at the CWT everywoman in Technology Awards in 2011 was a highlight.

As well as running Moonfruit, Wendy is mother to a 7-year-old and 4-year old. She lives in west London with Joe, her husband and the COO of Moonfruit.


Designers Guild - When my home feels neglected (as it frequently does), I make it feel better by treating it to something bright and colourful from this stylish homeware shop. An antidote to greige!

Tech Crunch - The site that has all the up-to-date news and stories on the tech world including start-ups and investing.

Reuters - Another site which is excellent for all news as well as tech news - and (declaration of interest coming up) it includes a regular blog by Joe White.

Water Forward - A simple idea to provide fresh water for 1 billion people who don't yet have access. You can easily donate $10 using social media and to spread the word.

The Kernel - Edited by Milo Yiannopoulos, this site publishes high-quality writing about the way technology is rapidly changing our lives and is not afraid of debate, comment and controversy!

Hsaba - My father is Burmese so this blog is one of the many that I follow to source recipes and chat about Burmese life and food.

Pinterest - This online pinboard helps you to organise your life and to share the things you love: recipes, kids, photos, crafts, storage, motivational words and much much more.

"Business in You" - more than just hot air

Entrepreneurs and business owners need to fight their own cynicism towards government initiatives, argues Moonfruit.com co-founder Wendy Tan White in Real Business.

As co-founder of Moonfruit.com, I am supporting the government’s Start Up Britain initiative and its recent "Business In You" campaign – which aims to show there’s a business idea in everyone.

Now that I've gotten over the shock of seeing my face plastered on a billboard on the A4, I wanted to explain why these schemes are so important for entrepreneurs and growing businesses – as well as the UK economy in general.

Like most entrepreneurs, I am sceptical about “initiatives” for startups and SMEs, and fatigued by a glut of patronising “how-to” guides. Many corporate-led outreach programmes are CSR- or PR-driven; while there’s nothing wrong with this in itself, it means that support for new businesses is often one-way and short-term, and ceases once the case study is published. Like a one-time charity handout, it does little to support a new business in its ongoing growth and evolution. I like action!

So what’s different about "Business In You", and why have I laid cynicism aside?

Firstly, challenging economic times have necessitated a more symbiotic relationship between the government and UK businesses – of all sizes. While startups and SMEs still need the support of big corporations, larger companies can call on the agility and speed of smaller businesses. All businesses could do with the support of their government to help them be financially sustainable in difficult economic times.

In turn, the government needs the support of its businesses, particularly entrepreneurs. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs account for 99 per cent of all enterprise in the UK, and nearly two thirds of private-sector employment. Put simply, the government needs us to help boost the economy and fight increasing unemployment, so it is within its interests to create a support network that makes a difference way beyond a political gesture.

Increasingly, we all need a symbiotic business ecosystem to survive – a positive, supportive environment based on "pay-it-forward" goodwill. It is this ecosystem that makes Silicon Valley such a startup hotbed, where each service provider plays a part in an ongoing and collaborative success story.

I love the way lawyers and PR agencies are not afraid of putting skin in the game themselves and when one senior law partner stopped talking about time on the clock and warrants and instead about the "magic" in the valley I had to smile.

David Cameron’s Tech City speech last year suggested that Silicon Valley could provide a useful model for more entrepreneurial Britain. I was sceptical about Startup Britain when it launched, but I’ve experienced their positive ecosystem in action: at the recent launch of Moonfruit ShopBuilder, the outgoing StartUp Britain CEO and founder of Enterprise Nation Emma Jones spoke at the event, PayPal lent us their auditorium and both organisations promoted it to their communities. Some 150+ SMEs attended.

The government is also backing up its campaigns with a number of tangible measures. Its extension of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee System will help more businesses borrow the money they need, while the Startup Britain Marketplace aggregates offers, events and links for new businesses that are really designed to help.

The MentorMe matching site will find you a mentor and the initiative the PM seemed most keen on when I spoke to him was the freeing up of unused government office space to provide new businesses with variable, low cost working space.

It’s certainly a creative idea but logistically challenging. Partnering with experienced incubators/co-working spaces like TechHub, WhiteBearYard and Club Workspace would help turn this from an idea into reality, quickly. So while I understand why people could be cynical towards yet another “initiative”, I believe it’s up to us to take the steps to make sure "Business In You" is more than just hot air.

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