SoPost may be one of the 50 fastest growing technology firms in the UK now but the business was borne out of a failed venture. Jonathan Grubin created the first iteration of the Newcastle-based company in 2009. “The idea was to turn a Twitter handle into a way to send a physical product,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to ‘tweet’ a book to someone.”
In 2010, Grubin dropped out of university to focus on growing the start-up. “But it didn’t work out,” he says. “We gave it a good crack but we had to shut it down.” However, he just couldn’t get the idea of using dynamic delivery addresses to send real-world items out of his head. By 2012, he’d had enough. “I was obsessed,” he admits. “I launched SoPost.”
Learning from his previous failure, Grubin bootstrapped the company during the first few years. A friend built the basic website and SoPost partnered with a popular musician to trial its innovative approach to 21st century merchandising. SoPost sent out DVDs from the musician’s latest tour to people tagged on Facebook. “The person tagged would then click through and tell us where to send the DVD, and the friend’s credit card would be billed,” Grubin explains.
The stunt was successful but, more importantly, it caught the eye of an executive at a major beauty brand. “She got in touch and said, ‘Can we have that?’” says Grubin. “I saw how excited she was by the idea and, even though I wasn’t sure why, I was smart enough to understand that she knew something I didn’t.”
This happy accident led to Grubin pivoting SoPost to help companies launch effective sampling campaigns online. Today, major brands like Mondalez, PepsiCo, L’Oreal, Liz Earle and Britvic use the technology to send products to the right consumers, and capture data on the campaign to understand impact. “Sampling is really important for most consumer brands,” says Grubin.
SoPost has its roots in the beauty industry and 80 per cent of its brand partners still come from that sector but word is getting out. “People see our campaigns and get in touch,” says Grubin. “We have a huge amount of inbound enquiries. We’re growing really quickly now.”
SoPost now has three offices across two countries, and is active in seven markets around the world. “Our major target is geographical expansion,” says Grubin. “In five years’ time, I’d like to have 15 offices around the world offering what we do on a global scale.” He also plans to start targeting smaller firms for the first time, helping exciting young brands to find new consumers.
Grubin is a classic serial entrepreneur. He started his first business aged 14, building a network of incentive websites. “I’ve been starting businesses for the past 14 years,” he says. “The life of an entrepreneur is all I've ever known.” Being a serial entrepreneur can be lonely, he says, but at SoPost he has found his dream team: “I’ve had brilliant people here since the early says, and that’s the biggest reason we are experiencing success.”