While the beta is yet to be launched at the end of April, Given.co is already making waves as the next go-to site for small business comparison. Think GoCompare, but B2B and without the annoying jingle on the advert. Based in the country hills of Wiltshire, Marcus Hill and Nick Dunse are aiming to be the number one provider for business insurance, funding and services comparison.
So, what is the vision? What is Given.co?
Our vision is to disrupt the digital online comparison market for social impact. Given is a comparison platform that helps SMEs make smart and ethical decisions, we do that as a web platform that compares business services that would be useful to SMEs over more than just price but also customer reviews and sustainability data.
We are trying to build a business that goes beyond price comparison sites that really focuses on the interests of our customers and that has social impact.
We have social impact in two main ways; one is encouraging our stakeholders and users to look at their social and environmental impact, generating and comparing data on how they are performing, and then when someone chooses a platform, we have a giving programme where we give 10 per cent of that cost to something called Spear that trains disadvantaged young people so that they can get a job.
What was the inspiration for you?
When I sold my last business, I was thinking ‘How can I set up this business that has a clear social purpose to it? And also a business that will influence other companies.’ That is what I like about the comparison industry. We feel like we can positively influence those who are using our product.
In my background, my previous business that I set up was called LondonBio Packaging, we made biodegradable packaging for the food industry. I spent 10 years building that, and I have a background in environmental sustainability. It had over £9 million revenue that provided environmentally friendly, biodegradable plastic packaging.
I sold that two years ago to Bunzle and that was an amazing journey. It was the first company I had set up, I took some time off to think about what I was going to do next and then I found a passion to set something up that took those lessons I had learned about sustainability in business and using that leverage you get from tech into a new company.
What is the business model?
Any SME will benefit from our service. Initially we focussed on the food industry because that was my client base from my previous business. But now we have moved across all industries.
We started off with business loan comparisons but we continue to add other services that will prove useful to businesses, so we are launching the beta at the end of this month and we will add insurance and recruitment firm comparison later in the year. We want to find out what is important to SMEs and we are getting feedback about finance, HR and recruitment and sales and growth.
How did you know there was a market for this?
We are pre-launch so the proof will be in the pudding, but we think that the comparison market is very much consumer focused right now, none are doing in the B2B market. There are smaller companies in this market but they are less established so we saw an opportunity. We spoke to businesses and we feel like the SMEs would appreciate this and we want to provide this service.
Many SMEs don’t have the time or resources to benchmark a particular service and it can be impossible to properly compare information, so we think there is a problem that SMEs have. We are bringing something unique to the table, looking beyond price and into customer reviews and social impact of the supplier.
How did you fund this business?
I have, off the back of most of the proceeds of the previous business, funded given.co to date, and tried to build it on a shoestring, spending the minimum possible.
When we launch our beta at the end of the month, we will then go to our first round of funding with angel investors. It is a pretty good market to raise money at the moment, it has such generous incentives for investors and start-ups are in a great position right now.
What have been some significant milestones for you?
Part of it has been in developing partnerships to get the data we need. Getting partnership with an organisation called B-Corporation, who are a US based company and a leading business sustainability data company. When we realised they were interested in what we were doing that was a big moment for us.
Meeting my business partner, Nick, was also really helpful in this whole process, to know we were moving in the right direction. The big milestone is coming up, when we actually launch given.co!
Where do you see yourself and given.co in five years?
In the medium term, I want to add more business comparisons for services and improve on our sustainability data. In the long term, we are interested in developing an intelligent function to understand businesses and then suggest services to them.
Part of our platform could link into their accounting software and then use intelligent data to monitor that and then suggest services based on that, shortening the time they spend searching for new services. Long, long term, we want given.co to move into the B2C market and look into bringing our unique branding to customers who aren’t businesses.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
One thing is to get going! Quite often it’s about starting and doing something proactive. There used to be this school of thought where you had to have the perfect business plan with all your ducks in a row to get going, and I think that is a less prominent way of thinking now.
My experience as an entrepreneur is to start putting one foot in front of the other. You learn and you may have to pivot a bit but otherwise you will just be left planning and never actually building anything.
Be ambitious with the people you work with. Aim high with who you work with or hire. I used to just work with anybody because I was so grateful that someone was interested in working with me, but now I would aim high and try to get the best possible people to work with you.
If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…
I am interested in investing in asset classes, and private equity is not a big stretch from entrepreneurship, it’s just a different side of the coin.
Perhaps a more left-wing answer, although still in the sphere of entrepreneurship, would be to own a hospitality business in a hot country; running a hotel in Sri Lanka would be the dream.