Interview with Laundrapp's CEO and Founder, Ed Relf - Part 2

Posted by Victoria Arrington | 14-Jun-2016 15:17:43

Continuing on from last week, We now move on to part 2 of Ed's interview, with him sharing his thoughts on globalisation of platforms, the platform opportunity present across different businesses, and the key to doing platforms well.

I would say there is probably a platform opportunity in most businesses. When we started initially looking at the Laundrapp opportunity, we didn’t necessarily build this as a platform company from the very beginning.

Are platforms just for tech companies, or are they for every company?

I would say there is probably a platform opportunity for most businesses. When we started initially looking at the Laundrapp opportunity, we didn’t necessarily build this as a platform company from the very beginning. This goes back to the pivoting of the business - when we started Laundrapp, our focus was very much on starting “Uber for laundry”. And actually we realised quite organically as we began to build the supplier network, that there is a platform opportunity here - and that opportunity isn’t just working with one supplier, but to amalgamate many, and to unify them within a platform.

So then the vision of the business evolved to becoming “Just-Eat for laundry”. And the realisation came after that, “what is the difference in having your blouse dry-cleaned at the dry-cleaner around the corner vs. the one down the road?” None. It’s very different than a takeaway where there are big differences - the way the food tastes, how much it costs, etc.

So we have standardised pricing - no matter which supplier handles the laundry. And we realised what we were doing was more building “Ocado for laundry”, and the business organically moved in that direction from there.

What do you view the impact of platforms to be on globalisation and innovation?

The benefit of a tech platform is that it can easily globalise.

The previous businesses I have been involved in internationalised fairly early in the launch cycle. And I have learned from some of the mistakes made from doing so. Most companies internationalise far too quickly - because they are chasing growth. Laundrapp fortunately has seen enough growth within London and the UK, where we don't require globalising to fuel our current plan.

It will happen naturally at some point in the future, but we’re happy for it to be quite organic. The clear benefit is that because we built a platform, and it's been built to scale, it will be able to scale infinitely. However, consider when building a tech platform that you would like to be scaled internationally, that it is not just about the technology - it is also about the infrastructure, the employees, the marketing, and the management that is required to manage these platforms.

I wish it were the case where we could just switch on a new country and it could just manage itself. But very quickly, you’ll need an office. You’ll need people to manage it on the ground. You’ll need a sales team. You’ll need local marketing. And before you know it, you're not focusing on your core market. So, for us, our core market is the London/rest of the UK, and that is where our focus needs to be for the foreseeable future.

Not all businesses making the transition to platform enabled business models are successful. What would you say is the key to ‘doing platforms well?’

One is the way you approach building a platform business, by using technology that allows you to internationalise much quicker. Simple things would be the way you design the user interface for your app, or your website. Knowing that you may need to localise, and the text strings may need to be different lengths, all so you are not hard coding this stuff in, and then having to retrofit later on.

Another consideration is when platform businesses are aiming to scale, they must make sure from a management standpoint that they have very clearly defined goals and objectives, and people know what their responsibilities are. Often when businesses transition, you have disagreements over who is responsible for which countries, or which suppliers. An early, clear plan helps with the transition process when you have a land grab for resources, which can make the transition that much harder.

The most successful platform businesses I have seen are those which have started off as a platform in the first place. It's a very tricky thing to do; I have been in many businesses previously that have tried to make the transition later - and it’s very difficult when you have legacy technology, code, processes, teams, and responsibilities already in place.


The benefit of a tech platform is that it can easily globalise...[But] Most companies internationalise far too quickly - because they are chasing growth.

How do you envisage the role/importance of digital ecosystems now/in the future?

I wish there were a digital ecosystem out there built as a logistics platform - but there isn’t. It’s a good and a bad thing for us, as it forced us to build our own, which has in turn built a tremendous amount of value into the business.

What do you think stands in the way of organisations capitalising financially on the full potential of platforms?

I would say not fully owning the software. Many of the dry-cleaners and launderers that approach us do so because there is no other kind of software out there like Laundrapp. And for the valuation of the business, that’s been massive for us.

The other big advantage of having a platform like Laundrapp is the real-time nature of it. And what that has enabled us to do from a B2C standpoint is be incredibly experimental, and quite innovative in the services we offer to customers. It takes just a couple of seconds to add a new product to Laundrapp - and we are able to deploy that product pretty much in real time. And from a financial standpoint, that has huge benefits.

And with the bespoke nature of this industry, that is critical. A good example would be the seasonal nature of weather and/or events. Or peak holiday times, when people come back with piles of laundry. So, if you’re very smart when building your platform, you’ll be able to tailor and offer bespoke goods and services for when a customer has a specific need - and this thinking has enabled us to grow the business exceptionally quickly, which has opened a big financial opportunity for increasing revenue for us at Laundrapp. 

Edward Relf is an award winning digital entrepreneur and active angel investor with over 15 years’ experience scaling some of the world's most successful disruptive digital businesses. Having built a successful career through metric driven marketing and digital innovation, Ed now focuses his time on his latest venture Laundrapp (founder & CEO), mentoring and actively investing in the next wave of disruptive tech driven start-ups. Ed has been featured across the likes of the BBC, Guardian, TechCrunch, The Times and other leading news outlets as well as winning dozens of high profile awards for his work through the digital community and driving the next wave of successful British start-ups.

Topics: Case Studies & Interviews

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