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Interview: Cas Paton, CEO and Founder of OnBuy

TRB catch up with Cas Paton, Founder of one of the world’s fastest-growing marketplaces, OnBuy. Can you tell us about your background and what led you… View Article


Interview: Cas Paton, CEO and Founder of OnBuy

TRB catch up with Cas Paton, Founder of one of the world’s fastest-growing marketplaces, OnBuy.

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to become an entrepreneur?

I’ve been involved in web development since I was a teenager and started my first company while studying at university. Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood, and I set up my first business at the age of 21. I’ve had other ventures along the way, but in 2016, I founded OnBuy and decided to dedicate all my time, effort, and money into making it a success. It’s been quite a journey, and recently, OnBuy was recognised as “Europe’s fastest-growing ecommerce business” by the Financial Times (FT).

Can you explain what OnBuy does and how it differentiates itself from other marketplaces?

OnBuy emerged from the frustration caused by marketplaces that prioritise their own interests over those of sellers. Our vision was to establish a genuine marketplace where we never compete with our sellers by selling our own products. This unique approach allows us to fully support the success of the businesses on our platform, while providing customers with an extensive range of choices, rewarding experiences, and exceptional service, all without hidden costs.

Our unwavering commitment to fairness, transparency, quality, and trust for both retailers and customers has propelled us to become the fastest-growing ecommerce business around. At OnBuy, we have redefined the norms by offering retailers a sustainable trading platform, attracting the attention of millions of customers. Our clear business model has built trust among our customers, building a strong foundation for our growth.

How has the growth of OnBuy been so far, and what factors do you attribute to its success?

The growth of OnBuy has been nothing short of extraordinary. Over the course of three years, we have achieved a remarkable 3400%+ expansion. Our remarkable progress led us to be ranked among Europe’s fastest-growing ecommerce businesses on the prestigious FT1000 list. Furthermore, we secured the 11th position on Deloitte’s ranking of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK. Considering that we are currently operating solely in the UK, this classification across Europe is hugely exciting.

Launching a marketplace presents significant challenges, as I’ve dubbed it “the marketplace conundrum.” It’s the dilemma of having no retailers, which in turn means no products for customers to purchase. Simultaneously, retailers want assurance that the platform will generate sales. To surmount this obstacle, we persisted in persuading retailers to give OnBuy a chance. With a few initial retailers onboard, we gained traction, and momentum began to build. Retailers recognised the value we offered and understood that our model had the potential to revolutionise the eCommerce industry.

Our platform has attracted prominent brands such as Sports Direct, Unilever, and P&G, and we currently boast an extensive product selection of over 40 million items. The core of our success lies in our commitment to being a fair platform and steadfastly supporting retailers. We remain dedicated to cultivating a business that fosters growth and prosperity for our sellers. It’s something I’m very proud of.

Scaling a business can be challenging. How has OnBuy managed to scale the infrastructure?

From the start, we knew that technology would be crucial for scaling OnBuy. We aimed to be a true tech company with low infrastructure requirements and a lean workforce-to-sales ratio. Drawing from my experience in helping businesses improve their processes through technology, we built the business with scalability in mind – from the start. We didn’t aim for a minimal viable product but rather a product ready for the future. This approach allowed us to handle challenges like the surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic without any downtime.

Are there plans for international expansion, and how do you plan to manage localisation?

Our growth strategy involves building a viable model in the UK and then replicating it in other territories with necessary customisations. We aim to expand internationally and establish OnBuy as a leading ecommerce business in multiple countries. Localising our platform will be crucial to ensure we meet the specific needs and preferences of each market we enter. Watch this space, we have big plans for 2023. That’s all I’ll say on that for now.

What are the challenges you have faced while scaling the business, and how have you addressed them?

Scaling the workforce has been one of the big challenges. Going from a core team of 14 to 100 employees – and quickly – is a significant task that requires managing changes in management structure, processes, HR, tech, security, and office space. In the early days, we didn’t have all these processes in place, or the people to build them.

While scaling the workforce has its challenges, we have adapted our recruitment process and focused on hiring the right people who are passionate about our cause and willing to embrace change.

We’re lucky here at OnBuy; we have some exceptional people, and they are truly committed. I’ll give you an example: I have three girls, and on Sunday afternoon, we were at the cinema, and we had a payment issue. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and there were already eight of the team on it… on a Sunday afternoon, without hesitation. By the time I got out of the cinema, it was resolved. The team effort is unbelievable.

What’s next for OnBuy?

We are not a start-up anymore; we are a scale-up business. Today, we’re focused on creating more value and on making things better for our retailers, improving processes.

We’ve already kicked off the first stage of updates with a significant change to the way we do payments. This will bring us closer to our sellers and allow us to open our checkout to more payment options that customers want; an important and hugely beneficial improvement to the OnBuy experience.

This year is an important one for us with a lot of new features, functions, and benefits rolling out. We have some major (and exciting) changes coming to OnBuy very soon that will shake up the industry and drive more customers to make OnBuy their first choice. Watch this space.

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