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The path to Perkbox

An insight into Perkbox’s past and future pursuits

Innovative co-founder and CMO of Perkbox, Chieu Cao, talks about his company’s ideas, the challenges it faces and what the future holds.

In our video, Chieu Cao talks about his company, about winning our Business Scale Up of the Year award, and about his plans for Perkbox’s future.

Tell us about Perkbox

Perkbox is an app-based, employee experience platform you can access any time – whether you’re working in the field or in the office.

We have over 200 available benefits. Having perks that employees relate to is really important to us – we want perks they can use daily, which actually improve their lives.

What’s your ethos and culture like?

We’re a mission-driven business. We believe every employee should have access to the very best tools and services to improve their work and personal lives.

I love our culture. We really practise what we preach – we believe every business deserves a great culture. We have a team of 270 people. They can bring their dogs to the office, we have parties and we have drinks, but that’s all in the spirit of great performance – work hard, play hard!

Tell us Perkbox’s story

Saurav and I started Perkbox in 2011. We were both raised in families of business-owners and we always wanted to have our own business. We met at a web service provider and stayed in touch over the years, and when we saw this opportunity to launch our own company, we knew we had to do it.

The interesting thing about Perkbox is we want to do great by doing good. We want to help businesses succeed by motivating their staff and providing the very best workplace.

How was the idea born?

The idea was born through marketplace demand. It wasn’t our first idea – originally we just wanted to help business owners, but we realised they were asking us to give their staff extra permissions.

We thought that was interesting – they wanted to motivate their staff with discounts. We knew we could help with that, so we changed the business. We developed by just focusing on employee engagement and motivation, and that’s how we took off.

How is Perkbox different from other businesses?

We’re different in many ways – we’re tech-focused (we’re a technology business), but we’re also very customer-centric. We build for employees and not necessarily for HR, or for the admins, which traditional business would focus on.

Perkbox resonates with employees and gives them exactly what they want. As we use technology to expand and scale, we’re creating something really special in the marketplace.

Would you say you’ve disrupted the market?

We believe we are very disruptive. We want to really help our users and we do everything we can to really focus on them. That means creating a brand they trust and care about, creating a product and service they would genuinely use and, I think, creating a technology that’s very scalable and allows anyone to plug in. The future is really, really big for us, and I think that’s exciting.

Did you ever imagine Perkbox would become this big?

No – absolutely not! It’s a dream come true. To have created a business of this size which has such a strong social impact, but also a monetary impact, is very exciting.

What challenges have you faced?

When we started the business, we didn’t know what we were doing, to be totally honest. We had to pivot three times, and every time we did we had to say goodbye to a business model and tell our colleagues and team ‘this is what we’re going to do next’. That was really hard.

Over the years it’s been managing cashflow, and managing the uncertainty of getting new customers. Those are the key challenges, and they’re not uncommon – these are things most business owners face, but we overcame them.

What tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

My tip is that it’s a long journey and you need to always be sure of yourself, because your environment will change.

You need to have resilience, because you’re going to have to overcome obstacles and setbacks. You need to be resourceful and find the answer when you don’t know what the answer is – that means asking the right people and finding a solution. Those are the two key things for success.

What made you choose us?

We started banking with Barclays at the very beginning, and they’ve always been our partner. When we needed extra support, going with them was a no-brainer. They’ve always been very friendly, their staff are amazing, and I couldn’t ask for a better guy as our Relationship Director.

Tell us about your Relationship Director

He really understands what we’re doing and how we’re growing. For a fast growth business like us, we need someone like that to be our internal spokesperson within Barclays.

We met at the very beginning and the relationship grew. He understood what we do and what drives us, which is really important. He’s a key link between us and Barclays. He gave us what we needed to know, supported us when we weren’t sure what to do next. When we needed to know how to connect with Barclays, he was always there. 

We’re constantly investing in many new and different areas, where we aren’t sure if we’ll succeed or not – to have support on this from our Relationship Director is really important.

What happened at the recent Barclays Entrepreneur Awards?

We won the Business Scale Up of the Year award. It was an absolute privilege and we were so thrilled, as much for my team as for myself – they really deserved it. When we got back with the trophy I walked round the office with it and got everyone to take a photo. We’re very proud of it.

We were thrilled to get that recognition from Barclays. We’ve worked so hard. The team’s put in so much effort to get to where we are now, and to have it shown to us through a trophy was amazing.

What does the future hold?

We’re just at the beginning of a very exciting journey. We’ve gone multi-national and multi-product recently– we’ve launched in France and Australia.

By working closely with employers, we want to be helping ten million employees by 2020 and 100 million by 2025 – that’s 100 times more than our current base.

Why are you expanding globally, and why France first?

We believe we have a solution and a proposition that can serve a global audience. We picked France because it’s legislation is really supportive of small businesses. The government mandates that if you have over 50 employees, you must spend 1% of their salary on perks and benefits.

How’s it been, moving to international trading?

What’s interesting right now, about the tests we did in France and Australia before launching, is that people are responding to our brand and our proposition. Perkbox, I believe, is coming into these markets with a fresh approach to employee engagement and they love it! They’re saying ‘yes’ by interacting with us.

What’s the secret to your success?

It really boils down to the people – hiring the right people and motivating them, providing a culture where success goes hand-in-hand with having fun. That’s our secret.

Barclays Entrepreneur Awards 2019

We’re celebrating entrepreneurs for their exceptional innovation, and for creating social change and growth that moves the UK forward.

Barclays Scale Up UK Programme

Fast forward your business

We’ve joined forces with the Cambridge Judge Business School to create the Barclays Scale Up UK Programme to support your high-growth business beyond your day-to-day banking needs.

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