INTRODUCTION

How do two immigrant brothers with no money, limited industry knowledge, amateur technical skills and strong accents (that hasn't changed much …) build some of Australia's most successful digital businesses with a combined exit valued at more than $1 billion?

It's a good question. We get asked it a lot, which is why we wrote this book.

You won't know our names and you probably won't recognise our faces, but you'll almost certainly know some of the brands we built, sold and/or merged for more than $1 billion after just 13 years in business.

Here are just a few of them:

  • Catchoftheday: Australia's most popular shopping site
  • EatNow/Menulog: an app that revolutionised the food delivery business
  • Scoopon: a major disruptor in the services and entertainment sector
  • Luxury Escapes: a travel deal site that made luxury travel affordable for all.

How did we build these brands, and, more importantly, how did we sell them for such a huge amount? Not by watching midday TV, working a nine‐to‐five job or borrowing money from a rich uncle to ‘give things a go’. We built these brands with our bare hands, doing everything ourselves (surrounded by great people, of course) and doing it the hard way.

But what does ‘doing it the hard way’ even mean?

It means:

  • getting up at dawn in the freezing cold to set up a market stall in Wantirna (in suburban Melbourne) to sell imperfect clothes, while all our mates were sleeping off their hangovers from the night before
  • driving around the industrial sites of Melbourne in a beaten‐up, Mitsubishi one‐tonne van, cold‐calling hard‐nosed suppliers to try to source our ‘catch of the day’, hoping those suppliers wouldn't notice we were selling their stuff online
  • hauling the stock back to our warehouse, unpacking it, photographing it, writing ads, answering customer emails, building online sites, packing up goods and schlepping them to the post office … every … single … day. (A quick ‘Hi!’ to Kate and Kevin from Caulfield post office. We saw more of them than we did our best friends at the time.)

As the Catch business grew, a typical day for us would look something like this: upon waking, we'd check our emails. We'd drive to the office, be at our desks by 8 am, solve the problems from the night before (we were a 24/7 business), attend a supplier meeting at 9 am, juggle a thousand different balls and decisions throughout the morning, eat a hurried lunch at our desk, have more meetings with suppliers in the afternoon, head home at 8 pm, have a quick dinner, kiss the kids, say hello to our wives, hit the desk for another few hours, answer more emails, get to bed around 1 am and then get up and do it all again the next day. You could say we ‘bootstrapped’ it.

We had no money, no experience and no contacts, so doing it ourselves was the only option. And besides, no‐one had ever built a business like this before, so we had no roadmap to follow. But we did it, and we're here to share the stories and lessons we learned along the way so you can hopefully take a few shortcuts and get to where you're going faster.

We want to make your journey to success as easy as possible so we're sharing much of what we've learned with you. We've held nothing back.

In this book you'll find:

  • more than 200 bite‐sized nuggets of wisdom called ‘Catches’, which you'll find at the end of each of the three parts of this book
  • 21 longer‐style ‘lessons’, which are dotted throughout the book
  • snippets of emails and phone scripts that helped us build this business from the ground up
  • numbers and more numbers: revenue, profits, products sold and much more
  • screenshots of the early advertisements and websites that helped us launch our businesses
  • a raft of ‘live’ examples of materials you can use and be inspired by.

The businesses we built

Before launching into part I of the book, we thought we'd give you a bit of background on the businesses we built, along with a business timeline to put our Catch story into perspective.

Fast facts

Logos of catchoftheday.com.au and catch.com.au.

Catchoftheday was launched in October 2006. From humble beginnings of selling just one deal a day, by 2010 it had become Australia's most visited online shopping site. In 2017, the site added a marketplace capability in order to compete with eBay and Amazon, and it was rebranded to become Catch.com.au. In August 2019, Catch.com.au was sold for $230 million to Wesfarmers, which owns some of Australia's leading retailers: Bunnings, Kmart, Target and Officeworks. Today, Catch employs more than 500 staff and has yearly revenues exceeding $600 million.

Logo of Scoopon.com.au.

Scoopon was launched in April 2010 and had a similar ‘deal of the day’ concept to Catchoftheday but sold discounted coupons for services and travel. Scoopon revolutionised the way businesses such as restaurants, hairdressers and masseurs marketed their services. In 2012, Scoopon Travel was launched, offering travel discounts on accommodation, tours and flights. We launched five‐star luxury travel website Bon Voyage not long after, and in late 2017 both Scoopon Travel and Bon Voyage were acquired by leading travel deal site Luxury Escapes.

Logo of Grocery Run.

Grocery Run was launched in September 2011 and became part of the combined Catch Group*. It pioneered the concept of selling grocery items online and paved the way for the giants of supermarket retailing to launch their e‐commerce sites.

Logo of Mumgo.com.au.

Mumgo was launched in July 2012 with the slogan, ‘Where mums go’, with the aim of entering the burgeoning kids’ and baby markets. Mumgo was later integrated back into the Catch.com.au website.

Logos of Eat Now and Menulog.

EatNow was launched in October 2012 as a food ordering app. EatNow was one of the original disruptors that introduced the food home delivery concept to Australia, paving the way for Uber Eats and Deliveroo to enter Australia. In early 2015 EatNow merged with market leader Menulog, which in May 2015 was acquired by the UK conglomerate Just Eat for $855 million.

Logo of Luxuryescapes.

Luxury Escapes is a travel business founded by Adam Schwab and Jeremy Same. While we didn't build this amazing business, in 2017 we became part owners after we merged our two travel businesses, Bon Voyage and Scoopon Travel with Luxury Escapes.

The Catch timeline

2004
Ran independent eBay businesses from our respective garages
2006
June Collaborated to launch DailyDeals.com.au
October Launched Catchoftheday.com.au with five employees
2008
September Moved Catchoftheday operations to Springvale warehouse
2010
April Launched Scoopon
September Moved Catchoftheday into combined office and warehouse in Moorabbin
2011
May Tiger Global acquired a 40 per cent stake in the Catchoftheday business for $80 million
August Moved into combined office and warehouse in Braeside
September Launched Grocery Run
2012
July Launched Mumgo
July Acquired Vinomofo
November Leased a warehouse at Truganina
2014
October Completed the $20 million automation of the Truganina warehouse and fulfilment process
2015
January Announced merger of Menulog and EatNow
May Announced sale of Menulog/EatNow
June Launched Club Catch
2016
July Catchoftheday bought back the 40 per cent stake from Tiger Global to become a 100 per cent privately owned company again
2017
June Rebranded Catchoftheday as Catch.com.au and launched the Catch Marketplace
July Launched Bon Voyage
August Acquired Pumpkin Patch
December Sold Scoopon to Lux Group
Acquired Brands Exclusive and The Home
Merged Bon Voyage and Scoopon Travel with Luxury Escapes
2018
February Launched Catch Connect
2019
August Sold Catch.com.au to Wesfarmers for $230 million
Photograph of the early days of Gabby and Hezi.

The early days! We had no idea the business would grow to be so big. We were just having fun, playing with computers.

Source: © Michael Clayton‐Jones / Fairfax Media

Note

  1. *   The Catch Group (and sometimes simply ‘Catch’) is a loose term we used to describe the growing clutch of businesses that we were launching. It is not a legal entity but a quick way of referring to our collective businesses.
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