How did you come up with the idea?
Around three years ago I went to bed after watching the film The Pawnbroker and woke up in the night with the idea for online pawnbroking. Today, we provide loans of up to £1 million against a wide range of assets including jewellery, luxury watches, fine art, antiques, sculptures, luxury cars and boats. Basically, we do the deals that are too big or quirky for a high-end pawnbroker or too small and not worth it for a private bank.
How was it financed?
We’ve raised equity finance of more than £10 million. Between them, the investors have been involved in businesses that include Sporting Bet, Betfair, and Facebook. They were convinced on the potential for this company, and it helps that I’ve created a business before, sold it and made money for investors. This is a sector that hasn’t seen much innovation; we’re creating a new market and the latest investors are backing the fact that we’ve got real customers, turnover, repeat business and are growing our loan book very nicely.
How did you market it?
In the early days we spent a lot of time doing press related activities to build credibility through the mass media, and we’ve had pretty good coverage. We’ve used direct response TV advertising and more recently advertising on some of the main terrestrial channels. We’ve also done search marketing online and Google Adwords, a lot of work to ensure we’re ranked highly for key terms. We also do banner and display advertising. We spend well into seven figures a year on marketing.
In the next six to nine months we’ll see a pretty big ramp up in the rate at which we acquire customers. We’ll be focusing more on the mid to high end customers, and there will be very real plans in the near future to take the business international.