Digital Disruption

Andrew Carroll (MBA, 2010) formulated his business plan whilst finishing his MBA and his business, Yocuda, offers digital receipts to customers and data insights to retailers. We popped into his office for a quick chat.

Tell me about you time at Cass!

My time at Cass was pretty intense. I turned 30, got engaged and went back to University, all within about 3 weeks! The next 12 months were then spent in the inferno of fast learning that is the full time MBA!

My whole reason for doing the MBA was to formalise my business knowledge. My first degree was in History which, whilst fascinating and great fun, was, in my opinion, not training for the world of Business (compared to peers who studied Law, Accountancy, Economics). Actually, my favourite subject at school was Chemistry, which in some respects I regret not continuing, who knows, maybe I will go back to University again!

When I finished my undergraduate degree I worked for Betfair and I was, I can’t remember exactly, employee number 30 or something like that. I missed out on the stock options but I gained experience, seeing the business grow to more than 400 employees and I found the whole concept of the Network Effect fascinating.

When I joined Cass my plan was always to pursue an idea that I was hoping to have whilst I was there. Thankfully I did!

What did you do after?

I went straight in to this. I wrote my business plan for eReceipts as a part of my dissertation on entrepreneurship, with the wonderful Sionade Robinson as my mentor. That was September 2010, by January 2011 we were officially incorporated and we had raised seed finance by that Summer of 2011.

How did you come up with the idea?

The idea came about when I was sitting in one of the brilliant Julie Verity strategy lectures. She was talking us through a case study on Danish company called Metax who were smashing BP and Shell by stripping costs out of the forecourts but also by using data, collected through issuing digital receipts, to better serve customers.

The idea that payments were an entirely digital process ending with a useless piece of paper started to look pretty absurd. Shouldn’t all receipts be digital? So that gave me the idea, or at least my dissertation topic!

What is Yocuda?

When I first started the idea was that as a person I could have somewhere to keep all my digital receipts alongside things like loyalty points, discounts and offers, promotions and coupons. Whilst this is still our long term ambition, we obtained limited traction with retailers.

Today Yocuda helps retailers understand their customers better. Our largest clients include Argos, Debenhams, Halfords and array of fashion retailers from French Connection to Monsoon Accessorize who now all offer their customers our digital receipts; eReceipts. On average roughly 20% of a multi-channel retailers’ revenues are generated through their websites leaving a whopping 80% still transacted through their stores. When a customer buys through a retailer’s website the retailer obtains a lot of information on that customer: what they buy, what they looked at, their location and more. But retailers are often blind to who their customers are instore. To date we have helped retailers identify in excess of 40m unique in store customers and digitised over 600m receipts.

We also supply additional services to retailers helping them make sense of their transactional and customer data through our analytics and marketing products. Hence why we re-branded from our former name eReceipts to Yocuda, which stands for “Your Customer Data.”

It’s all about the data!

Going back to my longer term view on data I strongly believe that customers should own their own data. Individuals are, in my opinion, still very naïve in regards to what happens to their data and are probably not even aware of the data they are giving to third parties.

With the arrival of GDPR next May I think this is a kind of an inevitability. Arguably shopping data is the most valuable data that a person should own. Liking a handbag on Facebook is one thing but actually purchasing that handbag is far more actionable data. It’s going to be a fascinating two years whilst customers, banks, retailers, technology companies and the like wrestle with the new world of customer data and its legal implications. Suffice to say GDPR is a huge opportunity and I feel a lot of companies are just being compliant rather than looking at it as a competitive advantage. In any event I think it plays well into our growth plans!

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I would say there have been two things: talent acquisition and the sales cycles to big retailers. On the hiring side there’s been the bubble in tech world. When we first started we were hiring engineers at £35/£40K per year these engineers now command £70/£80K with the same skill set. It’s just supply and demand; there are roughly four jobs out there for every developer. I also naturally want to believe in people and will take what they say at face value. This is not ideal when hiring sales people, they are always so good at selling themselves!

The sales cycle to retailers is long and lengthy. It’s hard to find the decision maker and then retail churn means that you get to a certain stage, that person leaves and then you have to start all over again. It’s taken a lot longer than I hoped it would to get to retail adoption but thankfully we had the finances to weather the storm. Now it’s the network effect we have got working in our favour so it’s harder to be pulled out, but that first bite took much longer than expected.

Do you have any advice to pass on?

Be more confident in what you think you can achieve and give it a real go! One of the things I found sad about my MBA cohort was that many of them wanted to go start their own businesses or transition into another job, but when push came to shove and they finished the MBA a lot of them dribbled back to their previous field. They might be better paid now but that’s not really the point of doing an MBA. So I’m not sure if it’s a confidence thing or what.

The MBA is such good learning and a great platform. After, you understand so much breadth. You learn about markets, hedge funds, corporate finance, marketing and you can pretty much sit in a meeting with any professional and have an understanding of what they are talking about.

Finally it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Lords Cricket Ground
Favourite holiday: Skiing in Val d’Isere
Must check every day website: Retail Week
Dream travel destination: Maldives
Cheese or chocolate: Why would you choose rotten milk over chocolate!