Having found his first customer in his own father’s floor and tiling company, Sebastian Lewis is familiar with the hurdles small business owners face when trying to put their company online.
Spotting the evident gap in the market for giving small business owners a service tailored specifically to their needs, Lewis founded Mettrr Technologies in 2012. The founder then turned to crowdfunding to help finance his company’s early activities, one of the first UK entrepreneurs to do so. Five years later, he now oversees a New York office and has his sights set on the rest of the world.
Business Advice caught up with Lewis to find out what makes Mettrr stand apart from rival website builders, and why an effective online presence is so vital for any young company.
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Sebastian Lewis, CEO of Mettrr Technologies, a DIFM (do it for me) website provider that uses AI to build personalised websites for SMEs. Our mission is to enable every small business to reap the benefits of an online presence by removing the hurdles – technical expertise and time – to get there.
I founded the business after my dad, a wall and floor tiler, asked me to build him a website quickly and cheaply. I realised then that there was a gap in the market for this kind of offering, and now, with Yellow Pages soon to stop print production, it’s more necessary than ever.
How long have you been around for?
I founded Mettrr in 2012 – we officially launched in 2013.
How do you make money?
We build and maintain websites for small businesses for a monthly subscription fee.
What makes Mettrr’s website builder stand out from similar services on the market?
Unlike other DIY website builders, which require a certain level of technical know-how and an investment of time, Mettrr uses artificial intelligence and just one 15 minute phone call with small business owners to build their entire website within 48 hours.
This revolutionary service is what we call DIFM – Do It For Me. From the word go, Mettrr builds and manages the website, making changes – everything from updating images to changing prices – at the request of the small business owner
Our pricing plan is a subscription-based model, charging a monthly fee that can be cancelled after 12 months.
How did crowdfunding help you grow your business?
Mettrr was one of the first businesses in the UK to secure capital through crowdfunding. Through Crowdcube, I raised £100,000 to invest in our earliest business activities.
This took the business out of my bedroom, with a new office, business rates, employing sales staff, website builders, and toward our first partnership with the Federation of Master Builders
How important is a strong online presence in generating business for a small company?
I can’t stress the importance enough. The Yellow Pages will soon cease to exist in print format, which means small businesses without an online presence will become obsolete.
The beauty of a website is that it never sleeps. It’s the mark of professionalism, showcasing a business’s best work and contact information all in one place, and as a consequence building trust with prospective customers and generating further word of mouth.
For a business to survive in today’s world, having a strong online presence is no longer just a nice thing to have.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Opening our first US office in New York in the New Year.
What setbacks have you had along the way?
The biggest setbacks have been finding the right talent and the right avenues to market.
Finding good people that want to invest themselves in what you are trying to achieve is difficult early on, especially when there is a finite talent pool in the business.
As for sales, we were lucky with such a great partnership early on with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), but trying to replicate that route to market with similar partners proved difficult because of limitations with the data we had available at the time. Whilst it slowed us down at one point, it was an important learning experience.
In five years’ time, I will be…
I aiming for Mettrr to have a presence across every continent, with offices in every major business hub.
What one tip would you give to others starting out?
Make sure everyone involved in the business feels valued. Everyone knows startups are an uncertain thing – especially if you’re trying to disrupt an industry – but you don’t want to make it even riskier by having a team that don’t feel invested or appreciated by the founders and senior management. Losing good talent at the wrong time can be catastrophic for an emerging business.
Despite criticism, crowdfunding platforms remain a “vital conduit” for small business finance
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