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Andrew Clarke has the Midas touch when it comes to business and his secret is not to just play the game but to change it. Since a very young age, his innovative businesses have been disrupting the Australian industry in a wide variety of ways.
Andrew has had a diverse career, starting out as a silver service waiter and bartender in the 1970s before moving into real estate. He started his first two businesses at the young age of 19 – a cleaning business and an amusement toy business. He began working at The Haven Glebe in Sydney at the age of 24 and four years later, he made the decision to buy the hotel for himself. Andrew started doing show packages at the hotel and when he found that they were filling up every night, he turned people away to other city hotels and charged a commission. Andrew became one of the pioneers of event ticketing in Australia when he then founded Showtix which he later sold for a $500,000 profit.
Andrew’s obsession with digital performance marketing was ignited when he saw the power of websites such as Wotif.com in the early 2000s. The website took his hotel from around ten years of 65% occupancy to 90-100% almost overnight, and he later sold The Haven for a $5 million profit.
This interest in the digital space led Andrew to his next venture – Cashrewards. When he recognised the success of online cashback overseas, he made the decision to launch the model in Australia. Cashrewards is now one of the fastest growing businesses in the country and is Australia’s largest shopping cashback website. Since starting the business in May 2014, the business has given $12.5 million back to Australian consumers through the site and built up a membership of close to a quarter of a million. This number is growing rapidly, with approximately 3,000 new members per day.
“It’s shocking to think that only a few years ago our biggest department stores such as David Jones and Myer didn’t even have an online e-commerce platform. We’re taking Australian businesses to the next level when it comes to online marketing. We work on a commission model – each sale through the site results in commission which we share with our member. Retailers love it because they only pay when they get a sale, similar to models like Wotif.com. It’s simple but it works,” says Andrew.
Andrew has shared his top tips for how to spot the next big thing below:
#1. Look outside your market
“Your market may be Australian consumers but generally speaking, we follow models and behaviours from overseas. Your first port of call should be looking at the US, UK and Asian markets and see what kinds of business are gaining traction there. Don’t be scared of competition – find a model, make it your own and don’t sit on it.”
#2. Ensure your business is highly scalable
“This one is key if your goal is growth. When I was in the hotel business, there was nowhere I could go after filling the hotel to 100% capacity. It was the same with the ticketing business – once you sell out, you’ve reached a wall. I was limited in those businesses in a way that I’m not now. Cashrewards is applicable for every online business and for every person who shops online. My audience is so unbelievably broad that the sky’s the limit when it comes to growth.”
#3. Look at trends and what could become redundant in the next 5-10 years
“The classic example of this is Uber, who have effectively turned the entire taxi industry on its head. You must be willing to look for alternatives and not accept what has worked before. Listen to what people are complaining about and use creative brainstorming techniques to open your mind up to possibilities of how industries could work smarter, faster and better. The internet has opened up the market and created opportunities for so many new businesses that could never have existed in years gone by. With the steady increase in online shopping, it made sense for me to tap into this market as the trend shows no signs of slowing down.”
#4. Listen to what people want
“We were very careful when designing the business model and naming it. We felt that ‘points’ didn’t resonate with people. Consumers can earn points in a wide variety of ways but points, even if you can exchange them for money, are simply not as motivating as cash in hand.”
#5. Technology can amplify and help scale the business
“We spent twelve months building our unique proprietary technology and we’re still continuing to build it to stay on top of trends. This not only gives us an edge in the market but it ensures we have our own intellectual property. Any business idea should be deeply rooted in technology and the digital space in some way. If your idea is not highly, highly, digital then you need to change it.”