Philip Wilkinson is a serial entrepreneur who recently founded Kopi, a UK-based subscription service offering single-estate coffees from around the world direct to consumers’ doors.
Philip Wilkinson is a serial entrepreneur behind numerous UK-based ventures such as Shopgenie / Kelkoo UK, GenieVentures, Crowdstorm, Keynoir, and, most recently, Kopi. He holds a degree in Computer Science / Artificial Intelligence & Psychology and is a founding investor in Webtogs.co.uk.
Kopi sends subscribers a different gourmet coffee each month, hand-picked by a team of experts, with roasting done just days before delivery by a specially selected UK-based boutique roaster. Each monthly delivery consists of 250g of gourmet single-estate coffee in a letterbox-sized package with a guide to the coffee’s background and highlights.
1. Where did the idea for Kopi come from?
While I was running the daily deal site, Keynoir, we often ran deals on gourmet coffee and I was always amazed by how popular they were. At the same time, e-commerce subscription models were starting to make waves in the sector and it just needed someone to put the two together! I got together with my co-founder Simon I’anson and discussed the idea with him and the rest is history. We went from a napkin in our local coffee shop to a business taking orders, within 5 weeks.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
There’s no typical day in a startup! I could be answering customer emails one morning (as we like to reply within an hour as part of the delight experience), or talking to our coffee experts about their new selections for the upcoming months, or down the warehouse helping the team pack boxes. The afternoon might be speaking to companies about potential marketing partnerships, going through our analytics to look for trends and patterns, or joining up with the tech team in Wales about the latest feature developments. That’s a small part of what I do…
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Kopi?
That doesn’t happen very often. If I do get a few hours then I’ll either have a nice glass of wine and watch TV with the family, go for a walk, or read a book. You’re always thinking about the business though no matter where you are.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
You always hear about luck, ambition, instinct.. which while all very valid, take second place to the real secret ingredient.. being tenacious. It’s that drive not to accept the status quo and thinking that everything is possible. I remember seeing the Steve Job’s video where he said “remember everything you see around you was built by other people no smarter than you”. When you take that on board – you realise that people with less drive and ambition are the only obstacle in your way.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
Dealing with older, more traditional style industries. When you start speaking to box manufacturers, injection moulding companies, publishing houses, and commodity brokers – you realise how far the digital sector has really come in terms of speed and innovation.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
The highs (getting press coverage, receiving amazing emails from customers, seeing our product in people’s homes) are the obvious ones. The lows are countered by the team around me, especially Simon, who can always help paint a different perspective on things when I have those days where things don’t go so well. On top of all that is the real ambition to deliver a business that has an impact on people’s lives; I never wanted to be a forgotten somebody in an office cubicle but rather a small footnote in industries that changed the world. A pretty big vision, eh!
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
With Kopi, I’d do nothing differently – it’s all been an evolution on the right path that we’ve learnt from and adapted to. With being an entrepreneur generally, I would have started at least one of them in Silicon Valley just to get that experience and learn from it. There’s still time for that. 🙂
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
I hope Kopi is in multiple countries around the world unearthing outstanding coffee for everyone and also in other new and interesting subscription verticals. Fundamentally we’re building a subscription technology and methodology that can be expanded into other sectors we think suit the model well.
9. If you weren’t working on Kopi, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be pestering the other companies I’m a shareholder in (webtogs.co.uk and genieventures.co.uk) much to the chagrin of the CEOs! Either that or spending more time with the family and living somewhere idyllic.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I don’t actually like coffee.. no I’m joking 🙂 In the first month, we hadn’t got our head around how the post office system worked for businesses (believe me it’s a minefield) and I had to go down to the post office, weigh one of the boxes, and ask for 300 custom stamps to be printed. The owner very kindly agreed but I had to come back in 4 hours while he fed each one through the stamping machine individually. Ah – happy days!
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
As Simon says…. “Start!” Stop procrastinating and just do it! There has never been a better time to get going.
22nd February 2012