Wendy Tan-White, Founder & CEO Moonfruit, on Her Startup Trend Predictions for 2012

Moonfruit CEO & Founder Wendy Tan-WhiteAs we reported recently the UK’s number one DIY website builder, Moonfruit, has partnered with PayPal to launch ShopBuilder – an “out-of-the-box” e-commerce solution that lets traders sell instantly and everywhere, through the global channels of the web, mobile and social media.

We spoke to Moonfruit Founder & CEO Wendy Tan-White about Shopbuilder, what's next for Moonfruit and her predictions for the big startup trends of 2012.

Which features or aspects of ShopBuilder are you most excited about?

It’s the multichannel publishing that really has me excited. By that we mean that every shop built with ShopBuilder can sell their products immediately on the web, on mobile and through Facebook, without having to create three different versions of their site, we do that for them.

The other thing that is amazing about the product is how quickly you can get trading.

We take the email address you sign up with and use it to create a PayPal account for you, so you can simply add a product to your site and start accepting payments. It’s that fast.

There’s no waiting around to setup a merchant account.

What kind of company will benefit most from ShopBuilder?

ShopBuilder is primarily aimed at smaller traders, many of whom have already used Moonfruit.com to build and support their website. They may have been using eBay or a similar site to sell their wares before, but they haven’t had the technical or financial resource to be able to sell on their own site.

With ShopBuilder, these smaller companies can now set up a professional looking and standardised shop across lots of different platforms and start to make money! As small businesses and retailers account for 51% of the UK’s GDP, it’s a really important market – not just for the individuals within it, but also for the UK economy in general.

Was ShopBuilder a natural extension of the services that Moonfruit already offered, or did it feel like a big leap?

Moonfruit has always aimed to democratise the web. We believe that everyone should be able to have a web presence that meets their needs, whether they’re an individual with a fantastic photography portfolio, or a full-time small trader. We set out by creating tools that enabled people to craft and own their online brand identity.

ShopBuilder builds on Moonfruit’s central principle, but takes it a step further by allowing people to actually make money from their web presence.

On the other hand, we’re excited because ShopBuilder genuinely fills a gap in the market. Until now, setting up an online shop has been a real pain for smaller traders. They could use a site such as eBay, but then they’d have to create a totally separate presence on their other sites, and on some sites it’s much more difficult for people without technical knowledge. So I think it’s a natural extension for us, but a bigger leap for small businesses online.

When we spoke to you last January, you mentioned plans to expand to the US. How are these plans going?

We’re pleased to report that while “breaking America” is a huge challenge for any UK business, we have set up Moonfruit.com successfully in the US – and a third of our users are now based across the pond.

In September 2010 we raised $2.3m from Stephens (US) for accelerated international growth, and earlier this year, we received backing from from influential Silicon Valley-based Dave McClure of 500 Startups.

It has been an incredible learning experience, and I think we’re starting to understand the ins and outs of a place like Silicon Valley, where start-up companies like ours are viewed totally differently than they are in the UK.

What will 2012 bring for Moonfruit?

As well as our continued expansion into the US, we will also build on our existing tools to ensure they continue to help people control and customise their online presence – as well as support smaller traders in quest to make a career from their passion. For example, we will be adding integration with eBay and other online marketplaces for ShopBuilder, so people can sell instantly and globally across even more websites.

What are the most exciting ventures you’ve seen in your role as 500 StartUps mentor this year?

I love Farmeron (www.farmeron.com) which provides online farm management tools. Yes that’s right! But it brings farming into the 21st century and does so with great design and humour.

Farming plays an important part in the World Economy and is certainly an untapped area for digital innovation. There are certainly ways we can apply the lessons of the new digital economy to industries that don’t initially appear to have a natural fit.

We published an article recently about subscription service start-ups being the next big thing. What other trends do you think we’ll see in 2011?

Subscription start-ups have been so big this year because they have taken an old payment model – as you noted, monthly subscriptions have been around in one sense or another for decades – but given them a twist. So now, consumers can subscribe to specific services they really want, such as regular beauty treats.

I actually think micropayments will make a big splash in 2012. Like personalised subscriptions, they let people choose and pay for the things they really want, rather than paying for lots of things they don’t.

For example, some media sites are allowing users to pay a very small fee to access a specific piece of content, such as a TV programme or film. Across different industries, micropayments will attract new customers on a low-commitment basis as more and more companies seek to make money from their content – something a tool like ShopBuilder naturally supports!

If you could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of the tech entrepreneurial world, what would it be?

Aside from the obvious change (more widespread financial backing!), I would love to see a shift in UK attitudes to business. Unlike in the US, our businesses are often forced to make a profit too quickly, and therefore their natural growth can be stifled.

I’d love to see a cultural change that encouraged people to take calculated risks and learn from their mistakes, rather than be tainted and scarred by failure.

Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our readers?

Just one thing. Obviously as a start-up founder myself, I’m an example of someone who has turned a passion into a business. Recent Moonfruit research, which polled 300 entrepreneurs, found that over half of those people started their business because of something they really felt strongly about. My advice to anyone thinking of starting up a business would be to think about the things they are passionate about in life, and put a structure around it to make a profit from that passion.

Because ultimately, starting up is hard work – so the more you love what you do, the better!

Click here to read The NextWomen's interview with Wendy Tan-White from March this year, and here to watch a video of Wendy talking about the ups and downs of raising funding.

Sign Up to our Newsletter

So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.

We try hard for smart reading.