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Be inspired every day with Living North

Meet the Founder of the Fastest Growing Tech Company in the UK, SoPost

Jonathan Grubin
November 2019
Reading time 5
The founder of SoPost, one of the UK’s fastest growing tech companies, and Living North Entrepreneur of the Year Award nominee talks coding from the age of eight, a failed attempt at business and his (not-so) average day.

Tell us a little about your pre-SoPost years, have you always had an interest in tech?

I’ve been playing with tech since I can remember. In junior school, I got to skip lessons to help reformat the computers, and I remember when we got dial-up internet – I was allowed online for 15 minutes a day (after 6pm!). 

I really got hooked, and built up an interest in websites and coding from the age of eight or nine. I can’t code any more (I was never particularly good at that) but I became fascinated with the internet and everything I’m doing today has really come as a result of that. Before SoPost, my experience was pretty varied.

I had my own companies and worked with other entrepreneurs too. I started university in September 2009, but dropped out a few months later to go full-time on another venture, and in the time between dropping out and launching SoPost, I was working in commercial and product roles at early-stage, high risk (but high excitement) start-ups.

Where did the concept for the business come from? What inspired you?

When I quit uni, it was to go full-time on a venture that was trying to turn a person’s Twitter handle into a physical delivery address. To put it lightly, we failed miserably, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. When I started SoPost, my vision was to create a dynamic postal address, linked to social IDs rather than a postcode. 

I’d set out to solve two problems: firstly, that I’m rarely at home and often miss deliveries; and secondly, that I don’t know anyone’s actual address. The idea was that your phone number, email address or Facebook ID could act as a proxy for where you were or where you wanted stuff to be sent to, and SoPost would be the intelligent data layer that dynamically re-routed deliveries to the correct location. 

About two weeks before launching the concept, I met a guy who was looking after Noel Gallagher’s digital marketing. Long story short, he was trying to find a way to generate more sales of a tour DVD, and, to generate some PR for my venture, we built a really simple website that let people buy the band’s DVD for a friend. 

Our gimmick was that, instead of entering the friend’s delivery information, the buyer just tagged them on Facebook, and we took care of the rest. Someone pretty high up at Avon saw this, got in touch and asked if we could develop the concept for her. 

Everything we’re doing today has spawned from that email in January 2013, and my recognition of the fact that she had some deep insight that I’d be stupid to ignore.

What is unique about SoPost?

We have a strong first mover advantage, but our success is waking up competitors. I think that’s a really good thing, as it pushes us to keep on innovating. 

There are so many things that differentiate us, but first and foremost, it’s the fact that we’re a technology company at our heart. 

Everything that we do at SoPost is focused on helping brands run the most powerful product sampling campaigns online, with a focus on relevance, data and analytics, and we’re really unique in the fact that we have technology (and some very cool AI) that means we can deliver the best experience to end consumers, and the most powerful platform to our customers.

SoPost was named alongside Deliveroo as one of the fastest growing technology firms in the UK, how does that make you feel?

I’ve never looked at awards as a benchmark of success, but Deloitte ranking us as the 13th-fastest-growing tech company in the UK was huge. As a founder, it’s often hard to recognise your achievements, and this was one of those moments that made me stop and think, ‘Hey, we’re doing ok.’

Who is SoPost for?

Our customers are brands and retailers, but millions of consumers interact with our platform. When we build new functionality, we look at the benefit to the consumer as much as what it delivers to the companies who pay us.

What does the average day look like for you now?

I’m not sure there is an average day. Sometimes I’m waking up at the crack of dawn for a flight or a train, and other times I take advantage of our flexible working policy and enjoy a lie-in. My days are really varied, but generally involve meeting a lot of people, and working on SoPost’s strategy. As the business has grown, my role has shifted from being involved in the minutiae of everything to not doing so much of the day-to-day execution, but I still like to dive in when I can – particularly in meeting with our customers and building out our product roadmap. 

Who inspires you?

This might sound cheesy, but my team. They really do. The mountains they move and the commitments they’ve made to help me realise SoPost’s mission are phenomenal.

What is your favourite thing about returning home?

I spend so much time away, it’s nice to just be able to relax in my own space. The familiarity of your own bed and being able to make your own meals rather than relying on restaurants or takeaways is something I’m really beginning to appreciate.

What do you do in your downtime?

Sometimes nothing at all. But I like art, theatre, music and food, and downtime can often revolve around those things.

What are you watching at the moment?

I’ve just finished a few shows: Big Little Lies (average), The Handmaid’s Tale (good) and Billions (I gave up). I’m on the hunt for the next series to dive into.

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