“2021 is going to create some amazing new disruptors, you can just feel it”
Add To Cart Podcast
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In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Gabby Leibovich, Co founder of Catch, the business he and his brother started in 2006 from a garage in Melbourne and sold in 2019 for 230 million dollars. Gabby studied a Computer Science degree in pre internet days, but it was a passion for retail that really inspired his business career and led him to become an Australian eCommerce pioneer. A natural storyteller, Gabby chats about his experiences from the early days of Catch, selling one deal every day at midday. He shares his tips on finding great buying opportunities, tells us what informs his own unique brand of gut feeling and gives us the inside story on why he and his brother work so well together.
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Questions answered in this episode include…
- At what point did you realise that Catch was going to be really successful?
- Why did Catch succeed in the early days when so many others did not?
- Why do you think you and your brother work so well together in business?
- How do you know when an idea is worth investing in?
Paving the way for retailers in Australia
They may be seen as digital pioneers now, but when Gabby and his brother launched the business out of a tiny warehouse in Moorabbin, they were simply hoping to make enough money to pay the bills and send the kids to school. None of them had any aspirations of building the tremendous household name that they did.
How Catch came to be
They launched Catch in October 2006 and at that time, the goal was to sell around 60 products per day. Gabby recalls going to early suppliers and telling them about their model of offering a new deal and just a single deal every day at midday.
Back in 2006, when they told people that they were selling online, the first question they encountered was whether or not it was safe to put credit card details online. In the early days of the business when Gabby was the main buyer, he would drive a van around the streets of Melbourne, knocking on people’s doors to buy goods from them. Most people would ask which store he was from because they only had experience of making deals with people with brick and mortar stores.
“No one even understood that concept of being able to sell without needing to place the goods within four walls. It was a different world.”
When asked how you become a better buyer, Gabby says that buying is one of the skills that individuals cannot learn at university and it is a really hard thing to teach.
“Buying is very much about building relationships. People like to do business with people they like. How do you get people to like you? What do you need to tell them? What is your message.”
Catch discovered a window of opportunity. It was going to existing suppliers who made a few mistakes in ordering their supplies and reaching out to people who have goods that they need to dispose of. Gabby and his team then purchased these goods at very good prices and in return were able to offer amazing deals to their customers.
Gabby says that they were able to grow to the brand that people know today mainly through word-of-mouth. With customers telling friends about deals, they were able to leverage people’s fear of missing out to grow their reach and conversion.
How does Gabby know when an idea is worth investing in?
“I don’t think I’m smarter than anyone right now. We’re all seeing what’s going on. You can just see how it’s going to change the world and the way it’s changing the world already. Social media and social commerce is obviously an area that everyone is looking at right now. But I think the answer is probably in an area that hasn’t even been invented yet.”
He added that the world is changing quickly and people from different age groups are using social media apps and platforms differently. He also noticed that live streaming has been another huge area of growth in Asia.
Where does he get his confidence that his ideas will work?
Gabby says that he relies on gut feeling. It has been years of reading articles about retail, meeting and shaking hands with different kinds of people. It has been walking to lots of conferences and seeing what’s working out there, as well as knowing your audience and honing in on one idea.
He shares that they have failed many times before, but not many people know about these failures. It also helps that he and his brother are optimistic people. They don’t get discouraged by failure; they prefer looking at it as an opportunity to learn and improve. He added that it’s okay to start something new, run it for a few months and change the direction to see how it works.
Time to sell
Gabby sold the Catch Group for 230m dollars in 2019. More than 500 people reached out to him and his brother to congratulate them on the great deal they got in selling the business, but, as he says, he could never have predicted the Covid outbreak which has seen online sales go through the roof since then, giving a huge boost to Wesfarmers newly acquired brand. He admits, he sold a year too early. He says that he feels like a retired soccer player watching the best game ever from the sidelines. He says that he reads everything that has to do with retail just as much as everyone does and it’s quite hard to watch and read things like ten years of growth over ten weeks.
Gabby Leibovich is a digital entrepreneur and Co founder of Australia’s no.1 eCommerce group, Catch. After building catch.com.au from a Melbourne garage in 2006, Gabby sold it to Wesfarmers in 2019 for $230m. Gabby is also an investor in around twenty tech businesses and startups including Luxury Escapes, Catapult, Zip, Tribe, Hipages, Fiverr, Ratemyagent, Vervoe and Flippa. Second only to his passion for retail is his love of soccer.
Nathan Bush is the founder and lead strategist at eCommerce consultancy, 12HIGH. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.
If Gabby’s story inspired you to start thinking about ideas on how to turn your family business into the next big thing, you might also enjoy our podcast “Hagen’s Organic Story“.
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