Q&A with GroupPrice founder and CEO Van Jepson
GroupPrice is a daily deals site for businesses, and business products and services. The Redwood City, Calif., company was founded in 2010.
SUB: What is the end-user experience like for your business customers?
Jepson: The GroupPrice deals are presented on the home page with a simplified one step buying mechanism in a fresh and fun tone. We continue to refine the experience by listening to hundreds of comments from member calls, surveys, posts to Facebook, LinkedIn and tweets.
SUB: Who are your target markets? Are you targeting large enterprises or SMBs?
Jepson: We attract startups, micro-businesses, and small businesses that create the majority of their revenue online with credit card transactions. We have found that they have been badly weakened by the economy and really want to grow their revenue while cutting costs.
SUB: What is the primary value proposition you offer your customers? Do you consider GroupPrice to be a Groupon for business?
Jepson: We enable our customers to find and buy a service or software in five minutes that enables them to grow their revenue while getting discounts of 40-60 percent. We are the Groupon for business, yet have meaningful differences in our business model. First we focus on business software and services, we offer our deals for seven days, and the first person that wants the deal gets it.
SUB: What companies do you consider to be your primary competition?
Jepson: Although small businesses bought $5B of software, services and supplies online in 2010, they did it through a fragmented process that takes 30 minutes to complete and that GroupPrice has transformed into a five-minute process. Although we don’t see competitors in the small business market with the same “grow revenue while cutting cost” focus, there are large business “source and spend” platforms like Ariba.
SUB: How did the idea behind the company come about? Was there one specific “aha” moment?
Jepson: Yes, and a string of insights that started during the work I did in 2000 leading the launch of the global small business portal, Bpath.com, as COO. Since then my passion and skill for enabling the global small business market, have been enhanced by the Internet and social commerce technologies. The confluence of these technologies uniquely applied to the GroupPrice solution allows us to bridge the “commerce chasm” that exists between small businesses and the merchants that sell to them. The small business market has an urgent need for a more efficient way to buy, and merchants need a lower cost way to sell. Now they both win with GroupPrice.
SUB: What were the first steps you took to founding the company? For example, did you secure financing first, did you assemble a team, build a prototype of the service, etc.?
Jepson: Being an entrepreneur with a work philosophy of creating a hypothesis—testing—pivoting until I found what really works, I worked in my home office and self-funded for the first half of 2010. In parallel I assembled a world-class set of advisors that spanned the technology, social media, and business dimensions while forming a customer advisory group where I could test specific ideas and designs. Once the idea was super exciting to all of us, “the big aha”, I pulled together a website development team and built a working prototype and started testing it with my customer advisory group.
SUB: Have you accepted outside financing? Do you plan to in the near future?
Jepson: The combination of small businesses really liking the prototype website allowed me to attract investors who were eager to help launch GroupPrice. In July 2010, armed with a one-page business plan and 10 slide presentation I was able to raise $285,000 from four well know angels. Growing our traffic, small business members, and revenue has been fun for the internal team of four, and we are now looking for funds to accelerate our success.
SUB: How are you marketing the service?
Jepson: It is a secret mix of SEO, social media, public relations, blog, email, referrals, affiliates and partners, including viral programs to enable explosive growth.
SUB: Where do you see GroupPrice in a year from now?
Jepson: It wasn’t until Groupon was past their 1st year and into a second that they became widely noticed. We have a similar 1st year trajectory and will stay focused on our rollout in the US for 2011. Though we see our current results indicating that we will grow explosively later this year and be profitable in 2012.
SUB: Finally, a question I always ask—as an entrepreneur who has weathered the recent financial crisis, what advice do you have for those just starting a business now?
Jepson: Create a business in a market you are passionate about first and can make money in second. Do the research yourself, and always test and refine the idea until you are so excited you can’t sleep at night. Then check it with your advisors, your audience, then build it—and use GroupPrice.
GroupPrice – www.groupprice.com