HomeNEWSThe eternal start-up: Trade Me’s Trent Mankelow

The eternal start-up: Trade Me’s Trent Mankelow

While Trade Me is 15 years old, listed on the NZX, and commonly known as New Zealand’s leading online marketplace, we’ll still call it a disruptor.

Even though Trade Me isn’t a startup anymore, head of product Trent Mankelow  says one of its seven core values is still to “be entrepreneurial.”

“We’re not afraid to try things and fail, as we’re more concerned with learning than dishing out blame.”

Mankelow says one of the ways the company keeps growing is by recognising that any business that has the potential to connect with its customers online is an opportunity.

In its fifteen years of operation Trade Me has launched and acquired more than fifteen subsidiary businesses, including Trade Me Property and Trade Me Jobs.

“We have a lot of data around what people are searching for on the site but not finding.

“So, for example, when we saw that people are looking for new branded shoes at a good price, we found professional sellers on overseas auction sites and invited them to do the same here,” Mankelow says.

Similarly, Trade Me recently acquired property tool Viewing Tracker, payments portal Paystation and insurance business LifeDirect.

Trade Me has specific ideology in place to ensure fertile ground for innovation.

“While Trade Me is not a start-up anymore, we aim to run certain parts of our business as ‘start ups’ in their own right,” Mankelow says.

This includes creating small squads of developers rather than one large group (“Innovation comes from small teams”, Mankelow explains), allowing “pet project” time for its developers, and building an API that allows the Internet community to make their own developments to the Trade Me platform.

The mobile development squad puts 20 percent of its time into research and development, and Mankelow says the company ensures it maintains a positive culture which helps people feel safe to suggest things and take risks.

Mankelow says they’re perfectly aware that competition can come as equally from the big guys as from the small guys working out of Mum’s garage.

“It’s tough for us to know when new business models looking to shake up the industry are cooking up ideas in garages, but we also need to watch what large and well-resourced Internet companies are doing overseas.”

This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 736, March 2015.

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