On Starting A Marketplace For Business Best Practices

David Tang
On Starting A Marketplace For Business Best Practices
Flevy
from New York, NY, USA
started April 2012
1
Founders
10
Employees
164K
alexa rank
1.24K
followers
5.08K
followers
675
subs
market size
$57.5B
starting costs
$15.8K
gross margin
90%
time to build
210 months
growth channels
Organic social media
best tools
Instagram, Verifigator, Twitter
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
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Hello, my name is David Tang and I am the founder of Flevy. We provide business best practices—the same as those produced by top-tier consulting firms (like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, etc.) and used by Fortune 100 organizations.

Our core offering is the Flevy Marketplace, which operates as a typical online marketplace. You can think of us as the Amazon, eBay, or Etsy of business documents. These best practice materials are authored by a network of several hundred subject matter experts, mostly seasoned executives and management consultants with 20+ years of experience. With over 5,000+ documents (including frameworks & methodologies, presentation templates, financial models, etc.), spanning over 350+ management topics (e.g. Digital Transformation, Lean Six Sigma, Strategic Planning, Change Management, Performance Management, etc.), we are in fact the largest publicly available knowledge base of business best practices.

We also have a subscription service for frameworks and templates called FlevyPro.

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Homepage

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Top Best Practices of 2021 - as of Aug 2021

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Some of Our Authors on the Flevy Marketplace

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FlevyPro Library

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Example Product Page

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

Before starting Flevy, I worked as a management consultant for a global firm. There, I spent a disproportionate amount of my time cranking out PowerPoint slides, Excel financial models, or other types of business documents. I was also exposed to the concept of a “business framework.” (For those unfamiliar, business frameworks are tools consultants leverage to address their clients' business issues in an organized, thorough, and efficient fashion. Each framework is communicated through a detailed PowerPoint presentation that provides a structured approach to analyzing and solving a common business problem.).

Persistent execution is more important than the business idea.

An entrepreneurial spirit is something I’ve always had since childhood. I began by selling comic books in elementary school. By the time I was working in consulting, I had already launched well over 100+ projects, from social networking communities to mobile apps to niche search engines. I call these all “projects,” because I would constantly shift from idea to idea and would always have many concurrent projects.

After a few years in consulting, I decided to quit and pursue entrepreneurship more seriously. At the time, I didn’t have a business idea in mind. I felt a lack of income would be a good incentive to come up with something.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Despite my plans to start a company immediately, after leaving the corporate world, I essentially immediately fell into independent consulting, as some former colleagues contracted me for ad hoc consulting work.

While working as an independent consultant for several boutique firms, I realized a major competitive advantage the larger, global consultancies had was their internal knowledge management repositories of business frameworks and past deliverables. This allowed them to deploy inexperienced project teams to clients because their teams are armed with well-researched and proven methodologies. It also saved countless hours of work. It was this realization that later percolated into Flevy.

After a couple more years of independent consulting, I launched Flevy. I decided again to cut the financial safety net—for real this time—and quit all my consulting gigs. Furthermore, after 100+ unfruitful projects, I decided to cure myself of my acute, late-stage shiny toy syndrome and focus solely on Flevy. This was it.

I took the bootstrap route with Flevy. Thus, being very tight on budget, most of Flevy’s early growth was based on guerilla marketing campaigns on social media.

The first problem I had to solve was dealing with the chicken-and-the-egg problem intrinsic to the marketplace business model. By that, I mean we need to have a sufficient number of products available to attract customers; likewise, we also need existing customers to attract sellers to list their products. To address this, I prepared a 2-sided launch—an initial soft launch geared at attracting sellers and a second launch for customers. For this initial launch, the website was designed purely to gain the interest of sellers. We also set the expectation to the sellers upfront that the marketplace launch would not be for another few months. This afforded us time to add products to the marketplace and to ramp up interest for the second launch. When we launched the second time, the website was now customer-focused (like a typical online marketplace) and we were fortunate to generate sales on day 1.

As a marathon, the most immediate action is to start the race.

We are now coming up to 10 years since launch. It has been slow, but the steady journey—much slower than I had anticipated when launching Flevy nearly a decade ago.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As a private company, we don’t share our finances. We are profitable and reached profitability in our first full year.

We currently have over 5,000+ products available on our marketplace, which is the largest of its kind available. We have served customers in over 130 countries, from startups to Fortune 50 companies.

Our goal is to continuously and aggressively grow both our knowledge base and customer base for our marketplace. We also have a couple of newer offerings:

(1) A subscription service to help become subject matter experts and achieve excellence across a variety of functions, e.g. Digital Transformation, Organizational Design, Customer-centric Design (CCD). This offering is called FlevyPro Streams.

(2) Online management/executive education programs. These programs are designed to help leaders of tomorrow—i.e. those on track to the C-suite in the next 1-5 years—accelerate their career growth to become successful business executives. This offering is called Flevy Executive Learning (FEL).

Our operation is very lean and completely virtual, comprising just 10 individuals, most of whom are contractors. Our highest cost now is in online advertising. For each dollar revenue, Facebook and Google collect a sizable chunk.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One thing I’ve learned is the journey to building a business is much more of a marathon than a sprint. Although the media likes to tell the tale of the overnight success story, that has been a far cry from my reality.

I think this has been particularly true for the case of Flevy, where we are bootstrapped.

From this general lesson, I think there are 3 main takeaways—(1) as a marathon, the most immediate action is to start the race; (2) don’t give if you don’t see early success, as success takes time; and lastly, (3) persistent execution is more important than the business idea.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Here are 3 platforms and tools that I’ve found particularly useful:

(1) Upwork, for hiring project-based or long-term workers.

(2) Encharge, for email marketing automation.

(3) Zapier, for automation of random processes.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

To be honest, I don’t read many books or watch podcasts for my business. However, lately, I have been watching and enjoying these general interest podcasts:

(1) All-in Podcast

(2) Joe Rogan

(3) Lex Fridman

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Here are a few recommendations.

Foremost, although this may go without saying, I would recommend pursuing a business idea based on your actual life experience. For instance, Flevy is born directly from my experience working at various sized consulting firms. This way, you have directly validated the business idea and already understand the mindset of your customer.

Secondly, for those also bootstrapping, try to come up with a business idea with low to 0 startup costs. This is fairly easy to do for online companies. Try to avoid high costs when starting. I made this mistake in the beginning when paying for a publicist and software developer (to create a backend for processing documents). These costs ended up being complete wastes of money for me, which is especially detrimental at the early stages when funds are tighter.

Lastly, automate as much as possible. There are countless niche tools available now, with more launching each week, to help to this end. Automation yields exponential, compounding benefits down the road.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
David Tang   Founder of Flevy
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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