Updated: Dec 3, 2019
“Business Wales AGP has been instrumental in getting Paperclip over some growth barriers.”
Graduate start-up firm with ambitions to compete with online marketplace giants.
Our blog takes another look at a business which we’ve provided support and expertise to in their efforts to expand and grow into new markets.
Paperclip is an award-winning student marketplace provider, with more than 30 universities onboard. With a vision to ultimately challenge the likes of eBay and Gumtree, Paperclip allows students to buy, sell and swap on campus. The firm has 17 full-time staff and has headquarters in Cardiff city centre. Founder Rich Woolley is originally from Penarth and went on to study and work as a management consultant in London, before returning home to Cardiff to build the Paperclip business.
Here, Rich Woolley shares his experience and offers advice to other entrepreneurs starting on their business journey.
Tell us about Paperclip.
We launched the venture at London Startup Weekend. The first funding round came from family and friends, which leveraged three institutional investment rounds from the Development Bank of Wales.
There was a skills gap in our sector in Wales, so when we started up, we recruited from the likes of Manchester and even the Czech Republic.
We’ve had some notable Welsh investors, though – including Hayley Parsons, who founded GoCompare, and David Buttress, of JustEat.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
Within a year, we’d brought 30 universities onboard with us. That’s something we’re really proud of – including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, along with a corporate marketplace with Dell EMC.
We’re also really proud to have been listed in WalesOnline’s 35 Under 35, most influential young business people.
Receiving Development Bank of Wales investment three times has meant that many other entrepreneurs look to the founding team for advice.
Ultimately, the fact that such high profile investors as Hayley Parsons and David Buttress have invested in Paperclip is the pinnacle – to receive the support and advice of such marketplace veterans is a real honour.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
The Paperclip journey has been long and winding with many challenges. One of the main things we wish we’d done differently is introducing a revenue stream earlier on, as UK investors (let alone Wales ones) are much more pessimistic to a pre-revenue strategy.
We also wish we’d engaged high profile investors like Hayley and David much sooner because earlier backing would have accelerated their investment cycle.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
Business Wales AGP has been instrumental in getting Paperclip over some growth barriers; the public relations we had with FD Comms, which was funded by Business Wales AGP, put Paperclip into the public eye and helped win numerous awards. Business Wales AGP also assisted with investment and grant advice as well as some human resources advice around staff.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
● Get to know as many people as possible; join an incubator or accelerator.
● Give as many talks/presentations as possible.
● Help as many people as possible. We were only introduced to David Buttress by chance, as the founder was helping another young entrepreneur who we mutually knew.
● Don’t give up; persistence and focus are key.
● Don’t think that Development Bank of Wales funding is the be-all and end-all. There is a world of investment outside of Wales that can be accessed on websites like AngelInvestmentNetwork.co.uk.
For more information on Paperclip, visit here.