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Mark Harbottle
Mark Harbottle

Matt Mickievicz
Matt Mickievicz
Smart50 rank: 48
Revenue: $3078473
Growth: 49.15%
Founders: Mark Harbottle, 39 Matt Mickiewicz, 29 Dave Slutzkin, 31
Head Office: Victoria
Employees: 11
Industry: Internet

The idea of having no major competitors would be enough to make most entrepreneurs swoon. But Dave Slutzkin, chief of website marketplace Flippa, says it’s a challenge.

“The biggest question for us has been whether we should take full responsibility for growing the web business market,” he says.

“As the biggest player in the space you can't win serious volume from competitors, and you can't rely on anyone else to generate market growth – you simply must push the boundaries yourself in order to make serious gains, hard as this sometimes is.”

Growth might be hard for Flippa, which is now the world’s biggest online marketplace for websites, but it has also been fast. The company has produced average annual revenue growth of 49.15% over the past three years, with revenue hitting $3.08 million in the 2011-12 financial year.

While the company stands out as the biggest player in its nascent market, it also stands out as easily the biggest exporter in the Smart50 Awards; more than 80% of its sales are generated outside Australia. The biggest focus of the export push is the US and the company took on its first US employee recently.

For a business that is very much on the leading edge, Flippa’s most successful marketing initiative is one of the older tools in the eMarketer’s arsenal – email marketing.

“We've ramped up our efforts at communicating with our user base by email, providing them updates on the site and a whole bunch of interesting related material. This keeps them engaged and enjoying their Flippa experience,” Slutzkin says.

He says one of his biggest challenges is around analysing which opportunity the company should attack. And he admits that the company doesn’t always get it right.

“We worked hard for a long time on building a new tool, which was going to be revolutionary and change the market and our business completely,” Slutzkin recalls.

“We launched it, it made a brief splash and then sank. Some of our assumptions were wrong and essentially we'd failed. This valuation tool still exists, but it's mutated and changed from our initial plan.”

The lesson? The customers always decide.

“It reminded us that the market is the ultimate arbiter of what a great product is, and that failing early is great.”

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