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Bootstrapping a Global E-Commerce Company: SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Apr 20th 2018

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back a little bit to the chronological story. In 2007, did you open up all of these English-speaking markets?

David Menning: It was a step-by-step approach. In 2007, we were still trying to improve the Australian market. We were trying to improve the experience of the customer. Eyeglasses is quite a complex product. It has a complex part in the checkout process where the customer has to put in their lens details. This is something which we continued to do in 2007.

I think it was 2008 when we actually started moving into other English markets. That was also very successful. Then on the back of that, we then started moving into non-English markets. In 2008 to 2009, we started translating our website and localizing it to other non-English languages such as Japanese, French, German, Danish, and Swedish.

Sramana Mitra: How did the business split across those markets? Australian market remained number one for a while, I imagine. What other markets were coming up?

David Menning: The other English markets grew quite strongly. Today, we’re in 15 other languages in 30 plus countries across Europe, the Americas, and Asia. In Asia, we have websites in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. In terms of the growth of how that’s developed, the Australian market was our first market. We are the number one player in that market. We are the leading online optical store in Australia.

In other English markets such as UK and USA, in the last couple of years, local players have entered the markets and they have been funded by financing and private equity. For example, there’s one competitor in the US that has a heavy private equity funding. As you can imagine over the last couple of years, the climate and the business sentiment has been to raise money and then use that money to acquire customers. That company was able to grow quite quickly in the US.

Sramana Mitra: Yes, with over $100 million.

David Menning: Yes. Same thing happened with a competitor in the UK. In the UK and US, there are these two competitors that have a very prominent local position. However, we’re still very competitive with them. We’re probably the number two or three player in these markets as an organic play. We’re profitable. We’ve never raised any money and we’re competitive. It’s great.

Sramana Mitra: I presume you reached $100 million in revenue by 2007 or 2008?

David Menning: That’s right. We, quite quickly, exceeded that number.

Sramana Mitra: When did you hit $5 million?

David Menning: I believe it was about 2009 that we hit $5 million.

Sramana Mitra: Wow! That’s pretty fast.

David Menning: I think our growth was about 50% to 70% year on year. There were years where it was close to 100%. Our growth was quite strong for an organic business.

Sramana Mitra: When did you hit $10 million?

David Menning: I think it was 2011. It was only two to three years later.

Sramana Mitra: Where are you now?

David Menning: We’re around a $50 million run rate.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Bootstrapping a Global E-Commerce Company: SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning
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