Bark.com founder: “It’s great to know we’ve helped local businesses grow and thrive online”
5 min read
31 May 2018
On a mission to make it easy for consumers to find the perfect local service provider online, entrepreneurs Andrew Michael and Kai Feller set up Bark.com in 2015. Real Business caught up with Feller, who revealed how to nurture innovation and drive growth at a tech firm.
In just a few years, Bark.com has become the UK’s biggest online local services marketplace, enabling service providers across a wide range of industries to grow their online businesses.
Shortly after it launched, the company acquired SkillPages, a social media platform where service professionals could list their skills, and the acquisition immediately transferred 20 million of the platform’s users onto Bark.com.
In May last year, Michael and Feller took Bark.com to the US, launching their proven business model overseas for the first time.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, a site where members of the public can find and hire local professionals. Service sectors we cover include photography, personal training, building, cleaning, catering, web design, accounting and counselling, as well as an array of other professions. Our goal is to revolutionise how people find and sell local services online!
(2) How has it grown since foundation?
Bark.com launched in January 2015 and since then we’ve outgrown three offices, changed the business model three times, have hired over 35 people and this time last year launched in the US. We also acquired a social platform for skilled people called SkillPages shortly after launching in 2015.
(3) What do you attribute that growth to?
We tested and experimented with the business model and the site a lot until we were happy and 100% confident with it. It’s important to be flexible in the early stages and to learn from the market and your customers – it’s unheard of to get your product right straight away.
We have hired amazing and talented people and that has driven the company forward in a big way. Finally, we take a technological approach to everything at Bark.com, which nurtures innovation and growth.
(4) What has been fundamental in achieving profitability?
Similar to the above, applying technology to every business process has helped make us a profitable business. Negotiating is an underrated business tool in my opinion as well, you can negotiate prices on most things – from offices to machinery – to help keep your overheads down.
(5) How do you fund the business?
Originally it was completely funded by my co-founder Andrew Michael, but now it’s cash generative.
(6) What is the biggest challenge of launching a sharing economy platform?
You need to build both sides of the marketplace simultaneously so that both the customer and service provider is happy and having a good user experience. This is time consuming because you’re constantly doing tests and improvements in the early stages. However, if one side of the platform is not functioning optimally, the other side will suffer, so it’s important to get it right.
(7) What’s your biggest business achievement to date?
The whole thing! Since launching we’ve had millions of customers use the site, saving them time and money. We’re essentially changing the way they shop and have brought the local service industry into the technology era.
It’s also great to know we’ve helped local businesses grow and thrive in the online marketplace. I think if it wasn’t for Bark.com many would be struggling to compete against the big companies, that makes me very proud.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
Well, in five years’ Bark.com will have completely revolutionised how people buy and sell local services globally.
(9) What advice would you give fellow tech entrepreneurs starting out?
The biggest mistake I think entrepreneurs make is not monetising their product/service from the start, to prove their business model is profitable. That should be a priority over anything else, such as trying to build a big user base.
Also, it’s really important to surround yourself with talented people you trust, that are better at specific business functions than you rather than trying to do everything yourself.
(10) Who would you most like to partner in business with and why?
Elon Musk – I like his farfetched ideas and the problems he’s trying to solve like with SpaceX. He’s not afraid to dream big and to take risks.