Mettrr founder on taking on Squarespace and navigating angel investors

The former equity derivatives trader is heading into the US market to take on Squarespace and Wix with his automated website builder.

Setting up, optimising and maintaining a website is one of the most important things that a business can do.

But the huge website builder market seems to tough to crack, as US giant Squarespace, valued at around $1.7 billion and Israeli firm Wix, worth $4.5 billion are mighty and invest heavily in online marketing.

However, one London-based entrepreneur Sebastian Lewis, who runs software company Mettrr, believes he has a unique advantage over these companies with his offer.

Simply, his company allows you to have a website up and running in 24 hours after a 15 minute phone conversation.

Who is Sebastian Lewis?

He previously worked in the City in equity derivatives but quit in 2009 after deciding the City lifestyle ‘wasn’t really what I wanted’.

Lewis went travelling for a couple of years and while away from the intense atmosphere of the City, his father, a wall and floor tiling specialist asked him to create a new website for his business, having previously advertised in the Yellow Pages.

‘I had a go making a site for him, I’m pretty tech savvy but not massively so. My dad said he isn’t great with computers and he found it pretty tough going.’

Mettrr is targeting tradespeople who don't currently have a website
Mettrr is targeting tradespeople who don’t currently have a website

Lewis says to design a template you have to be a copywriter, designer and then understand the technical (and sometimes baffling) nuances of hosting, email and domains.

‘I started looking into completion rate on these websites and it was amazing.

‘They’ve only got about a 10 per cent completion rate of anybody undertaking a website. And their financial model shows they’ve only got a 2.5 per cent paying rate on average (Squarespace offers a free trial and Wix is free, employing an add on or freemium business model).’

These stats are taken from 2012 but Lewis says they haven’t changed much since.

‘We’re all tech savvy now but if you tell a 19 year old hairdressing grad to build their own website they’re not going to do it.’

Motivated by this gap in the market for a more accessible website builder, Lewis says he left no stone unturned to launch a tech business which could scale fast.

‘We tried getting people to fill out forms and send them in the post, we tried to get a brief of someone using their phone SMS. We went to people’s houses and we got people to come to the office and none of those really worked.

‘We still had the same completion rates as our competitors.’

Further reading on entrepreneurs

So he started booking people into telephone appointments and making them pay for their website before they had the phone conversation, which involves the straightforward task of answering 50 questions about your business.

‘The customer’s answers go into an automated machine and by the time the call is finished the website is built.’

It should be noted that Mettrr provides an affordable, simple website and doesn’t cater for businesses with complex sites.

He employs a team of 50 in Shoreditch with no need for a web designer.

Who uses the company to build their website?

Lewis says the most commonly seen sector is cleaning companies but his customer base is diverse, with pastors in the middle of the US using his company as well as solar panel engineers in California.

‘We’re doing 500 sectors in the UK now and we’ve taken it on in the US this year as well.’

What about people who simply don’t want to talk on the phone to get their website built? Research from Ipsos Mori for Deloitte shows that the number of phone calls among people who use smartphones in the UK is falling. How does Mettrr cater to people who prefer to communicate in non-voice methods like instant messaging?

‘Do you know what, we’ll talk to them on live chat and then say that you have to speak on the phone. You can’t actually get a website with Mettrr unless you’re prepared to go through that phone appointment. Our strategy is working – turnout for the phone appointment is 80 per cent.’

How it works and how much it costs

For £34.99 a month for 12 months, customers can use Mettrr’s ‘unlimited website changes and then have an option to renew after 12 months or leave the service. The company contacts customers four times during the 12 months with a personal service to try and get them to make more changes to their website.

“Our retention rate in the first year is 70 per cent and in the second year it rises to 80 per cent”

‘It’s like marketing as a service really,’ he explains. ‘We’re a traditional SaaS business in that sense but it’s fully automated so it’s totally scaleable. We’ve got call centres taking those phone call appointments in Mexico City, Phoenix and Belfast right now and are about to open up in the Philippines as well.’

How Mettrr got funded

The company is now very well funded and its last round in June 2017 meant it raised £5.5 million from angel investors at a pre-money valuation of £25 million. Pre-money means the value of the company which doesn’t include external funding or the latest fundraising total.

“I get a lot of investment requests from VCs ask when our next round is”

Since 2012, Mettrr has raised four angel rounds, one seed round and one equity crowdfunding round of £100,000 for 30 per cent of the business on Crowdcube (in 2012).

How did Lewis make the jump from crowdfunding to getting angel investors to invest millions into his business and what was the entire process like?

‘I was fortunate that I’d been in the equity derivatives market for five or six years previously and I had some clients in various investment banks that were very helpful.

EIS Investments often means that people in investment banks get paid bonuses and various things around the April time, end of tax year when you’ve got this EIS benefit. So that was kind of the cycle I went on.

‘You network firstly with individuals in investment banks, then to their friends and you start to build out a network from there. I then got meetings with angels through an EIS platform called GrowthInvest.

‘Introduction to angels normally ends up with sending some materials, you’ll then meet them face to face… two to three meetings after that I would say to closing.

‘But there is as much chance of a no at that point to a yes’, says Lewis pragmatically. ‘Platforms make it a little bit easier but they can only go so far and that individual’s going to want to meet you and do their own due diligence and meet the team and I don’t think you’re ever going to get to the stage where you’ve got reasonable ticket investments on a platform level. It’s always going to be personal.’

‘The Angel network in the UK is tough.’

“I’ve met lots of people that you have three meetings with, they say they’re going to invest and you never hear from them again”

To Lewis’s credit, a group of wealthy angel investors did decide to back him to the tune of £5.5 million earlier this year. Mettrr will use the money to head into the US market and build out the C-suite exec team.

His story goes to show that an idea for a business rooted in common sense, a persistent spirit and strong networking means a small business can quickly scale into new markets and change millions of people’s lives in the process.

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for from 2018 to 2019.