Saurav Chopra &
Our mission is very closely aligned to my personal ambition
Knowing when to ‘pivot’ is an undervalued skill in entrepreneurship. Saurav Chopra and Chieu Cao tell Smith & Williamson’s Hall of Fame how they had the vision to pivot their business not just once, but three times en route to building employee experience platform Perkbox, now a global business based in three countries.
Both Saurav and Chieu have family histories of entrepreneurship. Saurav grew up in Delhi in a family of business owners, helping his father with his insulation businesses from a young age. Chieu had been brought up in the US - in Houston, Texas, and went to university in Boston. Both his parents had run businesses, along with many of his friends. For both founders it became an enduring ambition as they launched their careers.
They also shared a passion for technology. Saurav studied Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology before acquiring an MBA in Management of Technology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a further MBA in Entrepreneurship and Strategy at the London Business School. After university, Chieu built his knowledge working for Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft.
The pair met while working at Yahoo and decided to build their own technology company. Initially, they founded Huddlebuy, a deals website aimed at SME owners. Despite generating good revenue, the company was essentially a lead generation website. It didn’t fulfil their ambition to build a really innovative technology business. They ‘pivoted’ and the result, ultimately, was Perkbox.
Saurav says: “Perkbox was originally founded with the idea of catering for the needs of SMEs in particular. Employee engagement has been a well-established industry for a while but, until Perkbox appeared, only large corporations could afford to pay for employee engagement solutions. With Perkbox, SMEs were able to finally compete with large corporates in the battle for talent and hence helped level the playing field.”
The pair has had plenty of challenges along the way. Attracting talented staff on limited resources was tough. “All we had to recruit talent was our vision of making employees happier. This really resonated with our new recruits who wanted to become a part of something they truly believed in and make a positive difference to society,” says Saurav.
Fundraising is always difficult for early-stage businesses. Fortunately, in the early days the pair found that its investors were betting on their business capabilities, rather than the concept itself. This proved important as they pivoted, and they managed to keep the support of early investors as they reshaped the business.
Chieu says: “After going through a difficult period when we only had three months’ cash left in the bank, we secured investment from high-profile figures such as Alex Chesterman of property website Zoopla and Sherry Coutu, a business angel, this gave us a platform to springboard off and become the multinational and multi-product business we are today.”
The company quickly built momentum. The proof is in the numbers, with Perkbox growing rapidly in the last three years. Turnover jumped from £14.7 million in 2016 to £34 million 2017 and £53.5m (unaudited) in 2018. Perkbox ranked fifth in the 2018 Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain's 100 private tech companies, and fourth fastest growing according to Syndicate Room.
Perkbox now has over 270 employees across offices in London, Sheffield, Paris and Sydney following a recent expansion overseas. It has also launched a new range of products. Saurav and Chieu remain hugely ambitious and have set their targets at helping 100m employees worldwide live better by 2025. Chieu says: “Our mission is very closely aligned to my personal ambition – to help employees live better, in life and at work.”
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