Here's the conversation that launched Scoopon—one of Australia's greatest disruptors of the service sector—and the story of how we moved quickly to get the idea to market. We both remember the discussion that took place at Nando's chicken shop* just after Hezi spotted Groupon, a US‐based website that pioneered the group‐buying concept.
What Groupon did in the early days was group a bunch of buyers together to source a great offer from a local service provider. It was just like Catchoftheday, but for services. It worked on the same FOMO element of offering a great deal for a limited time on the premise the deal will most likely sell out.
By mid‐2010, Catchoftheday was flying high. Things were going from strength to strength, so we could afford for Hezi to leave the room and take responsibility for the launch of Scoopon.
We lived by our motto, ‘Idea by midnight, execute by midday’, so by noon the next day, we were ready to go. Our mission? Let's turn Scoopon into the Catchoftheday of experiences and activities. There was no time to waste. After we agreed to pursue it, we spent the next hour brainstorming a great business name and settled on Scoopon (scoop + coupon. Genius!). The name was catchy, stood the test of time and it's (still) as good as ever.
Some of the services we sourced for Scoopon early on included deals like:
It's hard to believe that this juggernaut, which would take the country by storm and spawn a plethora of copycats, began in a dilapidated shed out the back of the Catchoftheday offices. There was no room in the main office (it was already buzzing with 15 staff members) so this little ‘side hustle’ was banished to the back shed until it could pay its way. If WorkSafe inspectors had popped in, they'd have taken us to court. The room had no windows, no air and so few chairs that we had to wait for someone to get up to go to the toilet so we could sit down and check our emails at their desk.
Boom! The floodgates opened.
Now I got put through instantly to the owner and the receptionist would go to great lengths to find the boss as no‐one wanted to be the one who lost a $15 000 sale.
I'll never forget the first deal we featured when Scoopon launched in April 2010. I managed to convince an Endota Spa franchisee in South Melbourne to run a deal with Scoopon. I expected to sell 20 vouchers or, if we were lucky, maybe 50. In just three hours, we sold 873 massages for $40 each, half the normal price, making around $20 profit on each one. Do the maths. We made $17 000 on our first deal. We were all blown away. We had just discovered our next Catch! It was time to press the gas and hire a team.
I've always believed that when it comes to building a new business, you should never build the chimney before you build the house. Why would you? It's a risk and why waste money on something you haven't tested? Once we'd signed up 50 suppliers to the site across the three major cities of Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast, I knew we had something, and only then could I justify investing in an expensive website and hiring teams of people.
Throughout our history we have always believed in hiring smart people with the right characteristics and attitude.
Jon Beros was one of them. He joined us early on and stayed with us, leading Scoopon until 2018. But hey, I'll hand the microphone over to Jon.
How fast did we find success? Immediately. Here's the blog we used to tell our suppliers how good we were, how fast we were growing and why they should work with us.
Again, we managed to launch a business that hit the market just at the right place and at the right time. Scoopon was firing on all cylinders. Merchants were coming onboard left, right and centre and we were even turning many away. Customers couldn't get enough of the deals, and who could blame them, when we were the first to offer them a half price massage or a half price dinner. These kinds of deals are common now (because of Scoopon) but back then, it was ground breaking.
The media loved what we were doing, and a strategy of amazing deals and plenty of PR helped lay the rail tracks that would help us build a brand known Australia wide.
By late 2010 our little headquarters were bursting at the seams so we moved into the Catchoftheday head office in Moorabbin. Compared to our little tin shed, we felt like we'd landed in Google's headquarters. We had enough space for everyone to have a desk and room to grow. Luxury! Catch had 20 office staff, Scoopon had 15 and we all celebrated the move by spending the weekend setting up the office for what we felt would last for at least another five years. We lasted one.
As they say, ‘From little things, big things grow’, and soon, our travel category made up 50 per cent of Scoopon's revenue. That one hotel deal led to the creation of a dedicated high‐end travel site called bonvoyage.com.au. That then merged with the market leader Luxuryescapes.com.au to become one of Australia's most successful travel deal sites, and subsequently became the second major exit for the group.
It's hard to describe how big 2010 was for us. This blog, which we sent to all our customers, comes close.
We celebrated the end of the year by taking our staff of 60 and their partners on a cruise around Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. It’s amazing to think that so much had been achieved by such a small team. It was clear we were doing something very special.
And from a distance we were also being watched by a whole new group of people: investors.