SME Insider recently caught up with Tom Brooks and Pete Dowds, founders of east London startup, Mopp.
In this interview they discuss their reasons for starting up a business, the transition from employee to entrepreneur and what’s in store for the future.
What made you decide to leave your jobs in the city and start up a business?
As close friends, we’d always been interested in the idea of starting a business together and it got to the stage where we weren’t fulfilled by our roles in the city. Working for a large corporation felt very impersonal, the hours were long, and we weren’t really having any fun. We’d gained a lot of experience and made some great contacts so we decided that the time was right to go for it.
How did you find the transition from employee to entrepreneur?
It was great! It’s an exciting move to make, and ultimately, we felt free. It felt good to escape the office politics and to enjoy ourselves a bit more. There have been challenging times as we’ve grown – we didn’t pay ourselves a salary for the first 10 months – however the hard work and dedication is far more rewarding when you are more than just a cog in a behemoth system. As the company has grown, we are constantly striving to make sure that the unnecessary politics and needless hierarchy we experienced in our previous careers plays no part in Mopp. There’s too much to do for anything like that to get in the way!
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Get cracking! Everyone has an ‘idea’ but it is the execution which sets you apart. You will no doubt look back and be embarrassed by some elements of the early stage of your business (check the first homepage for Mopp for proof of that!) but just getting started is one of the biggest moves you’ll make. As Reid Hoffman says, ‘if you think your product is perfect when you launch then you’ve launched too late”. Be scrappy, become a networking master and work hard. Also, make sure you have a co-founder on board with you. It will be a bumpy ride and the adage that ‘two heads are better than one’ definitely applies to running a startup.
What’s the best part about being based in east London?
We’re based right next to London Fields and Broadway Market which is a really great creative area with lots of new startups. Our office is in Netil House, just off Mare Street and there’s new companies moving in all the time. We have a 3000 sq feet office is in such a great location and it is terrific value for money, we’d highly recommend this area to entrepreneurs and startups.
How do interns help the business run smoothly?
Interns are a crucial part of the Mopp team. They are invaluable to us and we give them a great deal of responsibility. They are driven and determined, and while they are learning they contribute greatly to the collective effort. We offer opportunities for employment if an intern has impressed and we find that this makes them even more eager and hungry. We’ve actually taken on two interns as full time employees in the last two weeks and hope to make more of them permanent members of the Mopp team going forward.
Looking back on your first year, is there anything you would do differently?
We make mistakes every single day! In the first year of a startup there’s so much that you learn, and in hindsight it’s easy to say that certain things could or should have been done differently. The most important thing is that you learn from any errors going forward. Our main issue was that we grew too quickly. Ultra-fast growth meant that our operational quality suffered slightly at times. However, the lessons that we have learnt will make for a stronger business model as we progress.
What are your next steps?
In the short term, we plan to be nationwide across the UK by the end of 2014. In the medium term, we hope to expand into international markets, Europe primarily. We’re also looking to expand the range of services we provide, so we can become the UK’s premier online domestic services provider.