Matt Truman, CEO, True Capital
1.What is the greatest opportunity for the retail businesses you are involved with?
There is a fundamental lack of growth in the retail industry but we are investing in disruptive businesses. There is a step-change in the value proposition for customers and the incumbents cannot compete. Take ‘Tyres On The Drive’, which we are invested in, it is an Ocado style white glove service that is 20% cheaper than Kwik Fit. The overall market will not be growing but the value proposition will.
2.What is the biggest challenge to these businesses?
To grow in a controlled capital efficient manner and to manage the cost of acquisition of customers. It needs to be very data-driven. The availability of data is improving and the methods of getting your brand out there are too. The cost of acquiring via Google has gone up so businesses need to look at how they compete with the big guys?
3.With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently so far (career-wise)?
I left JP Morgan in 2012 and launched True Capital and I’d say I would have accelerated it a little quicker. Taking it internationally or putting more capital into some businesses.
4.What will the high street look like in a decade?
The biggest challenge for traditional retailers is the cost of getting traffic into their stores and calculating these costs versus buying terms on Google. The cost of say acquiring a tyre-buying customer has gone up 80% in the past year on Google. The challenge is to understand the arbitrage for acquiring store customers against the cost of buying search terms on Google. There is no excuse really in managing this because the data is all available today. It is dealing with people that’s the big challenge. It is about cultural change.
5.Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
At Love Crafts the sessions on mobile have gone up from mid-30% to 70% over the past year alone. The issue is that it adds an extra technology channel, and the conversion rate is 50% of that on desktop. But it is the primary growth channel.
6.What retail businesses do you admire?
Shop Direct has done a fantastic job. It’s a long way ahead in terms of data and personalisation. The start ups we invest in will undoubtedly have had discussions with them. ASOS has done a tremendous job. Its engagement levels with customers have recently kicked on. Although not a retailer, Land Securities really looked at its estate and sold its secondary shopping centre sites and moved into other developments like Bluewater. River Island and Booker have also been powerful recently.
7.If you hadn’t been a retailer/service provider to retail, what would you have liked to do?
Whatever it was I’d liked to have done it with my business partner Paul [Cocker]. Before True Capital we set up Paul and I ran Alex and Alexa in our spare time with an investment of £250,000 from the two of us well as friends. We needed to prove we could invest. We made only £48 of sales on the day Lehman Brothers collapsed but we ended up selling the business to Tiger Global. We worked on it for three years whilst doing our day jobs.
8.What marks out of ten do you give yourself so far for achievement?
Rather than scoring myself, it’s about the business really, which embodies the people. It’s about building a culture that makes people want to work here. I have built two businesses since March 2014, True Start which is a disruption platform and True Capital which has £100 million to invest in the retail and consumer categories.
9.Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi Channel/e-Commerce Movers and Shakers?
Established people like Archie Norman, Charles Wilson and Tim Steiner. They created value over many years and were disruptive forward-thinkers. If we can create more of these people then we’d be doing well. More recently, Jon Owen of Ribble Cycles is a world-class leader, Jonathan Wall at Shop Direct is very impressive and also Edward Griffiths who is ex-Boo.com and is on the board of Love Crafts. And Matt Moulding, co-founder of The Hut Group, who is very focused on data to a level which is unheard of in the industry.