Posted on Tuesday, Mar 29th 2022
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SoPost CEO Jonny Grubin started as a solo entrepreneur, bootstrapped with a paycheck, and has built a $15M+ revenue global business with a small amount of funding. Excellent story!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background? Jonny Grubin: I was born in London but moved to Newcastle when I was three. My dad is American and my mom is from the UK. I grew up in Newcastle and started on my entrepreneurial journey at a pretty young age. When I was studying for my high school exams, I kicked off and ran a range of entrepreneurial ventures of my own.
Then fast forward to 2009 when I was 18, I moved to London for university. I enrolled in a business management degree at King’s College, London. I dropped out three months later to run another startup full-time. I stayed in London and worked very hard to make that startup a success for many reasons.
I ended up shutting it down a couple of years later. That led to me launching a venture called SoPost in late 2012 which has been my dedication and focus for nine years.
Sramana Mitra: What was the 2009 venture that didn’t work out? Jonny Grubin: That was a startup called ZenSocial. The reason I glossed over it was that the original idea behind that morphed into what I ended up launching with SoPost. That was built around this idea that it should be possible to send a physical item to somebody without knowing their physical address.
A very good friend of mine came up with the concept. His challenge was that he is very dyslexic. Both he and his sister were traveling a lot at that time. He said, “I don’t know where my sister is. I can’t write her address down properly. Why can’t I just send a birthday present to her through her Twitter account?”
The core idea behind this was about turning somebody’s Twitter account or email address into a delivery address to allow me to send a gift or an item to a friend without knowing their physical location.
Sramana Mitra: Why didn’t it work? Jonny Grubin: After we shut it down, I spent a lot of time reflecting on it. There were a few reasons why. The way that we had formed the business, it was a group of seven or eight of us who had met over Twitter. At that time we started working, not only had we never met in person, but we didn’t know each other at all. It was pretty cool at that time. It was an incredible experience.
As things go on, you need someone who is at the helm. The fact that we were seven or eight people, who were committing our time to this for free, made it challenging to scale. What we didn’t have was more of a structure and some full-time commitment.
Sramana Mitra: Full-time commitment is less important. Somebody has to be in-charge. Somebody has to be accountable. The buck stops at somebody. It’s very difficult to work as co-founders with a whole bunch of strangers. You can hire people who can work for you. If you’re talking about equal partnership with a random group of strangers, I don’t think it works. Jonny Grubin: I would agree. If you are doing that, you need somebody who is the person in charge. We treated it as too much of a democracy.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . 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