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Solo Entrepreneur Bootstrapping with a Paycheck to over $15M Revenue: SoPost CEO Jonny Grubin (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 1st 2022

Jonny Grubin: Aside from that, there were a couple of things that led to its failure. The way we executed was not great. The whole idea behind what we were trying to do was about making the process of shipping a physical item easier. When we went back and looked back, it was a 26-step process to send an item to another person. We were making it much harder. It just really affected the adoption rate. It wasn’t because nobody was interested in the concept; it was because it was a long-winded experience to use our product.

The third is that the timing was wrong. We could have launched exactly the same thing years later and would have had better success. The reality is the way we structured the team, the way we executed things wasn’t helpful.

Sramana Mitra: I would offer you another possibility also. It’s a hyper-segmented target audience. I think people have reservations about giving out their delivery address. There is this particular segment of people who would want to divulge their delivery address.

One of the issues we deal with a lot is the question of TAM. Is there enough market for what you’re offering? If something is niche-y and sub-segmented, it’s okay to build a small business but it’s not going to be a scalable business. Let’s hear what happens in 2012.

Jonny Grubin: We ended up closing our business in the middle of 2011. I then went off and got a job at a frozen yogurt shop to help pay the bills and then ended up at a friend’s company. He had built this model around putting a commercial infrastructure around very smart technical founders. His model was that there are a lot of smart technical products who need to raise investment to turn it into a business.

A lot of people in that position are not going to be successful at raising the money. Also, they don’t want to be doing the business side of things. They want to focus on what they’re really good at which is building incredible tech. I joined this company that was focused on finding really intelligent tech founders with great products. The model was that his business would invest whatever was needed to build out the product.

Over the course of the year, I was the link between these external teams and the commercial infrastructure that we had built internally. What was really good for me was that my friend Simon always knew that I wanted to go off and do my own thing. I wasn’t in a position financially where I could go my own way without some sort of fallback. The agreement we came to was that when there was something I wanted to spend my time doing, as long as I was covering my cost within the business, I could work four days a week.

About a year and a half in, I wanted to have another go at this concept that we got very wrong last time. I was convinced that it hadn’t failed because the idea was bad, but because of the reasons that we had talked about. While on his payroll for the first few months, I launched SoPost. It’s a very different organization than it was in 2012.

When I launched it, it was trying to take that concept that we started in 2009 much further but also to do things differently. First, your address shouldn’t be a fixed place. It should be where you are or where you want stuff to be sent to. It shouldn’t matter if I don’t know your address because there are things I don’t know about you that rarely change. I was trying to solve a couple of problems that I experienced myself. Perhaps it changed a little bit since the onset of the pandemic, but I live in the middle of London. I used to be rarely home. I would always miss the delivery. It’s also extremely expensive for delivery companies and retailers.

The idea was to abstract the idea of an address. Let’s turn that virtual identity into a proxy for where somebody is or where they want something to go. I obsessed over this idea. It sounds very cliche, but I was always thinking about it. I had a few dreams where I dreamt about it. When I launched SoPost, I wanted to validate something. Did I drop out of university for the right reason? Have I just wasted a few years of my life with nothing to show for it?

This segment is part 2 in the series : Solo Entrepreneur Bootstrapping with a Paycheck to over $15M Revenue: SoPost CEO Jonny Grubin
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