Ten years ago, Moonfruit was staring into the abyss. The web building specialist, set up to make web design simple with drag-and-drop technology, had suffered heavy losses in the dot com crash. Founder and CMO Wendy Tan White had filed for insolvency and even fired her future husband, Joe, to make ends meet. The chances of survival were slim to nil.
Today, the company is approaching its zenith. Almost 3.5 million websites have been built using its user-friendly self-build technology, and this number is growing all the time as new templates, images and functionality are added to the site. Moonfruit now offers services in several languages, and has become a Twitter phenomenon through its marketing strategy.
How have Wendy and her team pulled it off? How have they risen from the ashes of the dot com crash to become one of the most dynamic companies in the online space?
Part of the answer lies in the company’s solid foundations. Before launching Moonfruit in 1999, Tan White had worked first at Arthur Andersen, then at internet bank Egg, a background that brought credibility and contacts.
“The guy who launched Egg was kind of a mentor of mine,” says Tan White, “and he persuaded me to stay for an extra year at Egg but work part-time while I built up Moonfruit, and he seeded the business.
“Other friends and family helped to seed us, and management consultancy Bain set up an incubator business; they were looking to seed small firms and were a big help in packaging up a professional business plan.”
The company also received a £6m investment from luxury giant LVMH. Tan White says this investment came because “we had good seed investors, we had Bain on board, we’d all worked in blue-chips, and I was coming out of Egg which was a big internet float.
“Also, many people were looking for businesses they could scale, and our product is scalable, it can be international, it can be global, it can have big growth margins because, like all virtual companies, the cost of fails is low.”
, Right from the outset, the company showed it could raise awareness with original marketing campaigns. Its first campaign, based on sharing passions online, featured guys with freaky moustaches, priests swapping football cards and a group of weirdos painting with their bums. Unorthodox, but it got people talking.