Photo by Brent Fuchs.
It took launching two successful businesses – one of which has revolutionized the online world of entertainment shopping and garnered national acclaim as both concept and workplace – but finally, Matt Beckham feels like an entrepreneur.
“That mindset has developed over time,” says Beckham, 31, founder and CEO of Oklahoma City-based QuiBids. “I never really said to myself that I’m going to be an entrepreneur. It’s not what I thought I was going to do. But when an opportunity presented itself, it seemed logical.”
Beckham says the entrepreneurial pathway was not something he necessarily learned from his parents. His father’s work, psychology; his mother’s, social work.
“There was never that kind of family interest,” Beckham says. “In the family, there was no one to really turn to for advice in what I was doing.”
But as a youngster, a budding capitalist might have taken shape. When he was 13 years old, Beckham says he enjoyed playing with graphics editing programs, which then extended to building web pages.
“The intent wasn’t to make money – when I was 13, there wasn’t much to the internet,” Beckham says. Still, “I was kind of doing web development for clients at 15 years old,” he adds.
Beckham earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with honors from the University of Oklahoma and then spent several years working as an online marketer and media buyer.
Beckham, though, says he learned a lot from that early work experience, which he described as being similar to a start-up. It wasn’t long before he launched his own small business, and thus came the next step in his evolution towards entrepreneurialism. “I felt it was something I could do myself, so I started the company, and it worked,” he says.
Still, it was with the 2009 launch of QuiBids and the tremendous success it has enjoyed subsequently that Beckham says really drove his entrepreneurial mindset.
“Confidence from success with two businesses was definitely part of the evolution,” he adds.
For the uninitiated, QuiBids (www.quibids.com) is a web-based entertainment shopping destination with an emphasis on “entertainment.” It’s a fun and often deeply strategic portal to what can be incredible savings on name-brand, top-of-the-line products. The appeal has been strong since its launch. Not only has a group of six friends expanded to a staff of 140 people in several areas of expertise, but the company has been lauded with numerous Interactive Media Awards, international news coverage and designation by several Oklahoma purveyors – including Oklahoma Magazine – as one of the great employers in the state.
So, it’s little wonder, presiding over such a successful company still in ascent, that Beckham finally began to feel that entrepreneurial spirit take hold. However, his path developing that spirit hasn’t followed the usual – if there is any usual path in today’s business environment.
“In 2009, a friend of mine and I were looking at online auction sites and looking for opportunities to start a business,” explains Beckham. “He found a website that was a spin on the eBay auction model, and we talked about something similar. We thought we could take the concept and revamp it, and then we decided to build QuiBids. That was mid-2009, and we launched in October 2009.”
At the time, Beckham was 26 years old, and his handful of business compatriots included his brother (working remotely) and long-time and college friends of Beckham and his brother.
It was in that environment of friends collaborating on a cutting-edge business that QuiBids’ company culture began to take shape.
“My [approach] is that work should be something you enjoy doing,” Beckham says. “You work hard and you play hard. You have to work hard to achieve your goals, but you can enjoy it along the way.”
The combination of unique product and contemporary work environment clearly buoyed QuiBids’ success. “By mid-2010, [in employment terms] we just started to blow up. At this point, we have roughly 130-140 employees, and we’re looking to hire for a new entertainment shopping brand we’re launching in a few months called Shoppie,” Beckham says.
QuiBids, which has gained huge commercial popularity, was obviously also a key to Beckham’s success.
“It really is an exciting model,” Beckham says. “QuiBids is one of the business models in which when you are on the site, you are just mesmerized by it. Not a lot of sites have all of the pizazz. Sure, you can get discounts on other sites, too, but not with the bells and whistles we have. QuiBids can also obviously be strategic, and this captivates people. Is there a best time of day to be on? What’s the best plan to win that item you really want? People also like that they can buy the big names out there. Traditional e-commerce can’t provide the level of entertainment and excitement. Entertainment shopping should be able to get you hooked.”
As the company grew, so too has its efforts to engage employees in a fun and productive environment. The ping pong can get intense around the office, but other uncommon pleasantries like massage Fridays and smoothie Wednesdays illustrate the kind of environment Beckham has always sought to foster.
“I don’t micromanage employees or watch if they’re on Facebook, how much time they play ping pong, when they come and go and things like that,” says Beckham. “Work hard; play hard. We encourage fun and want work to be a place where you have fun while doing something that you enjoy. We also have a lot of employees who are referrals, so there is a network of friends.”
Maintaining that atmosphere isn’t easy as the company continues to grow.
“It gets harder, with scale, to keep the work environment the same as it once was, and a lot of companies lose this when they scale, but there are ways to keep the great aspects,” Beckham says. “It’s hard for 150 people to all know each other well. It’s one of the challenges as we grow.”
Finding just the right employees for the particular work environment has been one of the keys to the company’s growth.
“There are so many reasons we’ve been successful, it’s hard to pin just a few down,” Beckham says. “It started with our initial team, a really exceptional team for a start-up or even a mid-size company. Once you get past that, it might be our ability to analyze data, our marketing efforts and merchandising efforts. I look at it like a puzzle – it won’t work without all the pieces fitting together. Every person is a puzzle piece.”
Great employers, Beckham feels, foster an environment such as the one he does at QuiBids – a place where work doesn’t feel like work.
“People show up and feel like they are there to have fun,” he says. “Not everyone is like that. You have to hire the right people and, hopefully, people who love what they do. Ideally, an employer offers the opportunity to the right employees to do work they like to do in an optimal setting – things like having a good supervisor and fun amenities.”
Beckham says the upcoming launch of Shoppie will expand the company’s offerings in entertainment shopping. “That’s how we see ourselves, as entertainment shopping, and Shoppie is the next step in that evolution. Ultimately, we want to expand our entertainment shopping presence, because there is a lot of room for growth there, and there is tremendous potential,” he says.
As for the personal satisfaction he’s gained with his QuiBids success, Beckham has a no-nonsense perspective.
“My personal satisfaction is not failing,” he says. “As an entrepreneur, you’re always worried about your worst day – the company fails. Succeeding has allowed me to continue to play, to build new businesses. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if we hadn’t been successful. Then Shoppie wouldn’t be possible. My biggest success is continuing to be able to do what I love.”