From Engineer to Serial Entrepreneur
Van Jepson is an engineer by training. After working for years in technology marketing for über-big tech companies like Apple, Sun Microsystems, Marimba, and others, he was finally bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
Over the last decade, Jepson has launched four new tech companies, wearing multiple hats as founder and CEO. His newest business is GroupPrice.com, which does for businesses what Groupon does for consumers. We interviewed Jepson about his transition from working for the Man to actually being the Man.
ISBB: When did you first decide to launch your own company?
Jepson: In 2000, I left global technology businesses to lead startups because I love to form high performance teams that are aligned with solving customer problems. Customers buy solutions that benefit them. Seeing a customer requirement, then building, refining, and delivering a solution is challenging and fun. This process demands an integrated skill set, and leading this process in a large, richly-resourced company is easy when compared to a resource- and skill-constrained small business.
How did you create the concept behind GroupPrice?
A small business owner spends most of their nine to five day working with their customers. This leaves their other hours to look for ways to grow their business while cutting costs. They currently endure an approximate 30-minute long and tedious process of searching-evaluating-comparing-buying for each item. I wanted to dramatically reduce their costs by leveraging group buying and fit the whole process into a five-minute slot in their day. So whatever they want to buy — a service, some software, needed supplies — they could get a great deal on it in just five minutes! Using GroupPrice, they can quickly find and group-buy the services, software, and supplies needed to grow their business while keeping costs within budget.
Are you still in beta testing? How’s your web traffic?
We completed our open beta test in December after listening to hundreds of comments from calls, surveys, and posts to Facebook and Twitter. We developed, tested, and launched our new site over the holidays and now GroupPrice deals are presented on the home page with a simplified one-step buying mechanism in a fresh and fun tone. Our traffic has quickly quadrupled and revenue is growing.
Are you focusing more on products or services?
Our focus in on local services, software, and supplies that enable the Internet-centric business to grow online while cutting costs. We offer three new deals on Monday that run through Friday of each week and will increase this number quickly as more merchants sign up to post deals. Our first customers loved how simple and fast it was to find and group-buy the deals they wanted. Now they’ve told us to grow the type and number of deals.
When will you consider GroupPrice to be a success?
Success has different attributes in each phase of growth: forming a team, attracting investors, small business signups, posting more merchant deals, and growing revenue. We have achieved all of these and have nailed the process. Now our challenge is to keep the many moving parts in balance and scale it up while keeping our customers happy.
For more information about GroupPrice.com or to list your service on his site, contact Van at firstname.lastname@example.org.