We met up with Benita from Compare and Share, a great venture “on a journey to make sharing stuff easy, quick and approachable.” What are they looking to achieve? “Our vision is to open up the Sharing Economy like eBay opened up the second-hand goods market. Everyone should get their hands on their share of the £3.5 trillion worth of spare goods in the world, and we’re here to make sure that’s exactly what happens.” She explains to us where the company comes from, where they are going and what advice they have for others on their entrepreneurial journey.
StartupCatchup: Please introduce us to your venture Compare and Share.
Benita: Compare and Share is the world’s first comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy. We aggregate sites onto one platform and starting with cars and housing. Founded at the beginning of 2013, we already list 90% of the UK’s car sharing market and have over 1.2 million properties via our 17 signed accommodation affiliates — by the end of next year, we’ll access over 3 million properties. As experts in the sector, with unique market intelligence and industry relationships, we’re well placed to build the go-to brand of the Sharing Economy, enabling a generation of 25-34 year olds (we call them Generation Share) who would prefer to access rather than own goods, to find what they need all in one easy to use place.
I’m the Founder and Chief Sharer (CEO) and Nick Tong is the Co-Founder and Chief Geek (CTO).
Here’s my bio:
Benita Matofska: Biography
Benita Matofska is the Founder and Chief Sharer of Compare and Share the world’s first comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy. A worldwide expert on the Sharing Economy, she’s also the Founder of The People Who Share, a global campaign to build a Sharing Economy and the pioneers behind Global Sharing Day. Dedicated to social innovation and creating new game-changing business models, she is the winner of the Natwest Venus Entrepreneur of the Year 2014, Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards for Best Social Business Leader UK & World 2013, Winner of the Natwest Venus Business Award, Inspirational Woman 2013, Finalist in the G8 Innovation Summit DNA Profit with Purpose Prize, an RSA Fellow, an Innovator in the Finance Innovation Lab, member of the Astia network of women-led ventures and selected for Google’s Blackbox Connect.
Her 25-year career spans broadcasting, communications, business development, and entrepreneurship campaigns. She successfully launched two media companies, lived in New York for 8 years, devised and produced award-winning programmes for broadcasters including the BBC, Discovery and Channel 4 and as Head of Global Entrepreneurship at Enterprise UK, led youth-facing global entrepreneurship campaign, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).
A recipient of the Nesta Innovation In Giving Fund, she is a seasoned public speaker, has shared a platform with Desmond Tutu at the One Young World Congress, been invited to Number 10 Downing Street to present her work on the Sharing Economy and delivered presentations at TEDx, Guardian Social Enterprise Summit, Sustainable Brands, Le Web, Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Dubai, Nesta where she launched the Global Sharing Economy Network and the House of Commons. She has been featured in the media worldwide including BBC Worldwide TV News, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Guardian Sustainable Business, Metro, CBC in Canada, El Mundo in Spain, CNN, Virgin.com, RTP in Portugal, Korean Times and numerous online blogs and publications
Plus: Nick Tong’s
Often referred to as a “geek that can speak” Nick is a technologist with engaging communications skills. He is an entrepreneur with specialist experience in management information systems and product innovation.
With other 15 years of technical experience Nick has worked with brands such as the NHS, Courvoisier, RSPCA, Publicis, Vodafone, Fixnetix, HomeTrack and the BBC. Nick has gained an exceptional ability in interpreting technology enablers and formulating digital strategies to fulfil business objectives. Nick is CTO and Co-Founder of Compare and Share, the worlds 1st comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy; and previously founder of Tizuni Digital a full service digital agency specialising in information systems and product development.
StartupCatchup: How did you come up with the idea?
Benita: I was trying to book a family holiday — and have a real locals experience. I went onto Google and got 15 million hits. I was tearing my hair out having to search and trawl through hundreds of sites to find what I needed and I realised there had to be a better way. I wanted to go to a single place, just like you do, for air travel to find what I needed. That’s when it dawned on me — what was needed — a one-stop comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy. Instead of being affiliated with lots of airlines, we’re affiliated with sharing sites.
StartupCatchup: What made you actually take action and go for it?
Benita: I’m an innovator and an entrepreneur, I spotted a big opportunity — an exploding new market, the Sharing Economy and an opportunity to build the go-to brand in the space. As soon as the idea hit me, I started putting it into action. As a former media entrepreneur, I know an unmissable opportunity when I see one and this was it.
StartupCatchup: How many people are currently working on the project and who are they?
Benita: Currently we are a team of 7, with 4 of us working (very) full time. We are: CEO, CTO, lead developer, front end developer, designer, marketing lead and finance. We seek out what we call ‘S’ Players or Share Players– creative, disruptive innovators, who understand community and the Sharing Economy and want to push boundaries and build something mind-blowing, game-changing. We’re also backed by a team of stellar advisors including: Michelle Quest, senior partner at KPMG, Rob Cameron, former CEO of Fairtrade International, Michael Norton OBE and Mike Philipps, former senior partner PwC.
StartupCatchup: How are you funding the project?
Benita: We made crowdfunding history by being the first company to triple their target on equity based platform Crowdcube, raising our seed round. In addition, we raised some investment via FFF and both Nick and I have invested ourselves.
StartupCatchup: What are your plans for the business and what do you hope to accomplish?
Benita: Our vision is to open up the Sharing Economy just as eBay opened up the second-hand goods market. We are building the world’s first consumer-facing, social impact, global technology brand.
StartupCatchup: What has been the most rewarding experience so far on the journey?
Benita: Our Crowdcube success was very rewarding plus being selected as a startup to watch by Google for the prestigious Blackbox Connect Programme for born global ventures which took us to Silicon Valley for a two week programme to plug us into the Silicon Valley eco-system. We’ve also won TechPitch, TechCityNews Elevator Pitch, Startups 100 for 2014, Best Startup 2013 and I just won the Natwest Venus Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014. What’s really rewarding though is seeing the vision come to life and being able to book my family holiday via Compare and Share without having to trawl!!
StartupCatchup: What, if anything, would you have done differently looking back on the journey now?
Benita: I would have different expectations of fundraising and a greater appreciation that is is difficult to raise money in the UK. This isn’t Silicon Valley, it takes longer to get great ideas funded here.
StartupCatchup: What would you advise others who have an idea but simply don’t know where to begin?
Benita: Start with passion. What drives you? What is it exactly that you want to achieve? What can you bring into this world that nobody else can? Do what you love. Once you can answer those questions you have your USP. Start by building an MVP of your product. Build a prototype, see if people like it. Get feedback, improve it, don’t give up.
StartupCatchup: Can you give us a quote that motivates and inspires you to keep going?
Benita: Do what you love, love what you do and others will love it too. AND…
NEVER take NO for an answer…
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