So how does a guy go from running up his credit cards and cashing in the 401K to growing through acquisition in Europe, expanding heavily into China and processing over $4.5B in transactions in just a few short years? Join us for a very intimate conversation with Mitch Free, the founder and CEO of MFG.com, one of the world’s largest online marketplaces within the manufacturing space.
As an added bonus, hear Mitch’s view on where the Atlanta early-stage venture market is, what it is like to work with Jeff Bezos and the Samwer brothers, and what is next for MFG.com. We also discuss the subject of several outside venture funds taking a closer look at the Atlanta market.
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How hard is it to move from a free service to a subscription/fee-based model? How did the business recover from it? How does SEO fit into globalization? What advice does Mitch have for early-stage entrepreneurs who are beginning to think about going global? What are the challenges to doing business in a place like China?
I don’t think that you can run a marketplace or a community serving a particular industry if you don’t know how to walk the talk and have the credibility in that industry.
I realized that I was going to have to bootstrap the business. So we focused really hard on delivering value that customers would pay for. We’d sell a subscription to the service and we’d buy a chair. We’d sell another subscription and buy a stapler. So we bootstrapped it along the way, and looking back, it was a fabulous way to do it. I’m glad it happened that way. Oh, it was hard – really hard. But it made us grow in lockstep with the market.
Don’t worry about globalization until you have a business worth globalizing. Focus on getting the business right at home before you try to take it abroad. There are a lot of things to work out in terms of revenue model, systems, scalability. When you do decide to go global, I think you have to decide which markets they are going to be, and why you want to enter them, and how you are going to enter them. It is also important to spend some time on the ground in those markets.
Switching from a free service to a pay service was the right thing to do because it meant revenue.
Hi, I’m here to see Jeff Bezos.
Let your people know that they’re loved. The most important thing in any business is loving your customers, and that starts by loving your employees.
[A bootstrapper's spouse] is immensely important because they have to buy into the fact that there’s going to be some risk.
Of course, there is much more in the actual interview itself. Enjoy! To play it, use the tools at the top of this post – you can play it via the embedded Flash player by pressing the big play button at the top, or download it to play on your computer or MP3 player.
Links referenced within this episode:
- DLA Piper
- Bezos Expeditions (no link available – c’mon, Jeff!)
- European Founders Fund, GmbH (Samwer Brothers)
- Adams Capital
- National Personnel Services
- SON Capital
- Technology Association of Georgia
Tune in and find out!
Our format is a little out of the norm as far as podcasts go. We treat our efforts as a true “show” rather than a super-concise (limited) vehicle for delivery of information. Therefore, the podcasts can run a bit long. While we try to have very substantive discussions, we also try to have a lot of fun along the way (and that tends to elongate the programming a wee bit.) Our theory is that if we are having fun during the show, hopefully, you will be having a little fun listening as well.
Here is the breakdown for the show, in case you want to hop around.
|Intro||00:00 to 01:28|
|Introduction:||01:28 to 12:14|
|Commercial/Comedy Break:||12:15 to 14:03|
|Main Discussion Topic||14:03 to 47:45|
|Commercial/Comedy Break:||47:46 to 48:43|
|Wrap-up/Analysis:||48:44 to 50:43|
Mitch Free, CEO of MFG.com
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