Let’s start by going all the way back to your early career days. What did they look like?
I read Russian at university, then moved to Moscow to work as a commodity trader for eight years. I was mostly involved in the sugar trade. It seems a long way removed from online greeting cards, but in fact it was a great training in strategic thinking and in how to build teams and get the most out of people.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
When I was at university, I started a shirt business. In the end, my studies got in the way and I dropped it, but the spirit was there from early on.
Where did the idea for Moonpig come from? Was it that ‘Eureka!’ moment people dream of?
When I left Russia, I decided I wanted to start my own business. I spent a year studying for an MBA while working on different business ideas. Moonpig seemed like the most sensible one. It was a good business model and it was well executed. We had a good team who were allowed the freedom to do their job well, but undoubtedly we benefited enormously from being in the right place at the right time.
But you still have to make the most of that luck. What helped Moonpig to do that?
Data. It is important to be decisive in business, but it is also critical to use every bit of data to get a clear picture of what is working and what isn’t. Online businesses have the benefit of a huge amount of customer data to interrogate.
Was there a pivotal moment for the business?
It was when we started advertising on TV. We knew within a couple of days that it was very cost effective and it enabled us to grow the business from £3m turnover to £45m in three years.
Was it all plain sailing?
There was a point in 2004 when we had been losing money for four years. We needed more investment, but the existing investors had lost faith. I had to find another new investor and extend my own mortgage in order to keep the company going.