My Week: Dan Yates of Pitchup.com

The CEO of Pitchup.com on running a caravan site booking service, preserving that start-up atmosphere, and 'hairy' moments with cash flow.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

At the moment we’re gearing up for the more intense part of the holiday cycle. It’s a very seasonal business and the traffic to our website now is about 10 times more than it was in December. This time last year we had 50 campsites available to book on our website, and now we have 209. In fact, this week we’ve seen a spike in traffic. We had 10,000 visitors to the site on Tuesday: it’s early days but as soon as the sun comes out the website traffic goes through the roof. 

So most of the work at the moment is making sure that the site is fast enough and stable enough to cope. We’ve signed up four big holiday resort groups to our service so we’re expecting a lot more traffic. My days are very long. We’re a UK-based business but we have teams of people in various places around the world. So when I get in to the office, it’s about checking what’s been happening overnight. It could be technical issues or a new brand partnership, so the work is different every morning. 

We’re building the team quite rapidly at the moment so this week I’ve spent a lot of my time making sure that people’s IT equipment is working properly. I also work a lot with PR teams to make sure that the buzz is still happening, and we’ve just expanded the team to include some marketing managers to bolster the PR efforts.
The ability that you have with a start-up to come up with an idea and put it into practice so quickly is very gratifying. Not to mention that you’re doing it with a handpicked group of people who all have the same attitude.

I feel invigorated when I get up in the morning because I never know how the day will develop. We could get a new brand partner, a new campsite decide to come onto the site after two years of lobbying from us, or you might even be interviewed for an esteemed business publication. In terms of preserving the atmosphere of the start-up, the three-month peak period that our business runs on has helped us to stay hungry and keep those characteristics. We haven’t signed for any five-year office leases or anything else long term. I’m a big fan of hustling and getting things done as cheaply as possible and as quickly as possible. 

In the early days, the risk element of being an entrepreneur did faze me. With a tech start-up you can spend a lot of money on the website and still the sales aren’t really coming in. So there were definitely some hairy moments where we’d spent a lot of money and the results just weren’t really there. The short season does increase the worry sometimes, as revenue is much smaller during the winter months. 

But I have an eccentric background in that I come from a family of entrepreneurs: my parents owned a holiday parks business, so it was as though I would always end up doing something like this.

Ultimately, we’re doing something new here: my inspiration was finding a way to make searching for and finding caravan sites very easy, and the sheer pace and creativity of it is what I love about Pitchup.com.

 

For more information about the service, please visit www.pitchup.com

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