Jason Wyatt is building a marketplace of marketplaces. With his co-founder Sam Slater, Jason has taken the technology and experience they pioneered creating BikeExchange — an aggregate online marketplace for bikes — to build a template that can be used for any purpose. Marketplacer is bringing the disintermediated economy to markets in an accessible and readymade format. Robin Block from MitchelLake sat down with Jason to understand the method by which they intend to expand, how they built their marketplace community and what the future holds for Marketplacer.
Techboard has partnered with B2BRocks Sydney on 28 September and has been bringing you more interviews with some of the great presenters who will be speaking at the Conference such as Bridget Loudon from Expert360 and Nicholas Chu from Sinorbis we have another interview with Chris Gilbert from Equitise coming next week. Jason Wyatt was scheduled to speak at B2BRocks but is is now unavailable but Marketplacer will be ably represented at the conference by their Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Francis. Read more about or book tickets to B2BRocks (don't forget the Techboard Discount Code).
Jason: “If you want to create a marketplace, you are going to need a platform. My line is, if you are going to write a book you don’t create Microsoft Word, you fill it up with a good story. What we provide people is that capability to write an amazing story. When we were putting BikeExchange together in 2006, we had no choice — we had to build the technology. But, if we could have bought it, we would have. The rate at which we sell it today is less than a programmer a month. We want it to be affordable because we want people to succeed. We have the technology, systems, and ten years of experience running marketplaces.”
Robin: What was the inspiration to create Marketplacer?
Jason: The whole project grew out of BikeExchange. When we first started BikeExchange, we were two kids — 25 with $15,000 in the bank. It was a completely boot-strapped organisation that grew organically. People started coming to us and saying — ‘BikeExchange is a great idea, can we do this for babies and kids, or home-improvement etc.’ We knew that we didn’t have enough money to scale into three, four or five different verticals. We also knew how hard it was to create a start-up because we had just done it.
In 2013, we decided to get involved in partnerships to create joint-ventures with smart entrepreneurs who were talented, hungry and could go into each of their markets with the expertise we could bring to BikeExchange. By 2016, we were operating in 9 countries, had tested our model in a multitude of tax regimes and with different products. That was when we started licensing our technology to globally construct a community of people who wanted to create marketplaces. We can empower them to build marketplaces at an incredibly fast-pace and to a world-class standard. Anywhere, any product, any service, anywhere in the world — that’s our mantra. We don’t want to own your marketplace, we want to empower: through our knowledge, technology, assistance and processes.
Robin: How are you selling the platform — what is the market strategy?
Jason: It has definitely become a SaaS play. We want to create long-term partnerships — so we want to pick the winners and create a community of likeminded entrepreneurs and businesses that are passionate about creating successful marketplaces. That means people solely dedicated to the marketplace project with whom we can share ideas and inspiration — working together towards a common goal.
There are really three parts to Marketplacer. There is the technology; there are educational pieces online; then there are the workshops — which are really like a pressure test. We run through legality, privacy policies, revenue models and sales techniques. In some respects, I think the SaaS model is the enabler, but the knowledge is the power. It’s unbelievably affordable. We don’t want five or six marketplaces — we want a global community of like-minded people creating marketplaces for every viable niche. We take the pain out — we host it, we do all the technical things that, as an entrepreneur, you won’t know. Everything around resiliency, redundancy, security — we give you a platform and the capability to write your own story.
Robin: In building the original business, and transitioning to Marketplacer — how have you approached talent acquisition and retention?
Jason: I didn’t want to work a 9-5 job — I’m not that type of person. But, I always wanted to be surrounded by great people that want to do great things. You spend more time with the people you work with than your loved ones. I think the team of people I have put together at Marketplacer is one of my biggest achievements and our most valuable asset. If you create a great community and a great product, you are satisfying a need and having fun doing it — energy creates energy. We aren’t overly motivated by money, although we do pay our people well. What I look for in someone is a person who is motivated enough to take the time to understand our business and then tell me something that could make it better. Someone who is looking for a way to add genuine value.
We have had many of our crucial team members for a long time. Of our first six employees, four are still with us. There is a level of institutional knowledge, and deep understanding of both the business and product that is developed by people who stay with a company that cannot be replaced or replicated in any way. In the corporate world, most people stay with a company for maybe 2-3 years. This is a short-sighted way to look at running a business and produces poor results. What we have built in our organisation is ten years of deep and rich knowledge from the ground up about how our customers think, what they need and how to run digital markets.
I think the secret to retention is letting people have fun at work and be part of creating their own culture — write their own rule book and their own destiny — hire the right people and then give them licence to decide the best way to get their own job done. If you can do that, and give people a job that is meaningful — they won’t leave. Great people want to do great things. We are slow to hire, we want to make sure that we align to people, their culture and mindset, and that they align with us. We find that people ask to join us, rather than the other way around.
Robin: What advice do you have for people looking to start a business and what do you see for the future of Marketplacer?
Jason: The one strategic decision that is worth a thousand operational ones should be the focus of any good leader. Getting too bogged down in the day-to-day operations can leave a company without direction. I think that there is a move to be too pitch keen in today’s world — people take their pitch to 200 VCs, or a growth fund when they are turning over $1 million a year. People will spend more time raising capital than actually running their businesses. I don’t even know what series A and series B means — I actually think it’s flawed by design. Too often in Australia people invest in shallow relationships and hope for deep results. We have always invested in long-term, deep relationships and have gotten deep results.
I am a strong believer that people in business should have mentors, and not mentors for what they are good at, but people that can offer them a perspective, experience or skill-set that they can’t access. Peter Bartels is a great example of that for us. Peter has been our mentor since pretty much the second year we were in business. He has given us wisdom, knowledge and leadership around corporate governance — things we weren’t thinking about as two 25 years old punks that started a bike classified site.
We built a long-term relationship with Peter and then created more networks and associations because of that long-standing relationship. We did exactly the same thing with Gerry Ryan. We have known Gerry for close to ten years, but for more than half of that it was a peripheral relationship. He could see that we were working hard — he saw us in the community — first in, last to leave — the basic fundamentals. The first time we met Gerry, we didn’t ask him for anything. It was years later that he approached us.
We are a new business. We are ten years old, but we are a new business. We have reinvented ourselves three or four times already. I think we will continue to invest in reinventing ourselves — be that big-data or an insights business. We have just started Marketplacer. We signed up 25 marketplaces last month — our first month of operations. If we can hold a steady growth of 20-25 new marketplaces a month, and nurture those systems to success, that will be an ideal outcome. We are happy where we are and we have traction.