The UK’s SportPursuit, a 1 million member-strong flash sales site for sports and outdoor gear, appears to have made somewhat of a hiring coup. It’s recruited Kath Smith, ex UK managing director for both Adidas and Rebook. She joins the London-based startup as Chief Sales Officer, charged with helping SportPursuit expand the number of brands it works with and, ultimately, shift more product.
Following the familiar flash sales model — and similar to U.S.-based The Clymb — DFJ Esprit-backed SportPursuit offers its members time-limited and “exclusive” offers, which usually expire after 7 days, for products from more than 600 leading sports brands such as Marmot, Helly Hansen, Canterbury, Garmin, GoPro and Icebreaker.
“At present the biggest challenge is having enough time to spend with all of our potential brand partners,” Smith tells TechCrunch. “To help solve this we are continuing to build the buying team in-house. In terms of conversations, we really focus on how we can support each brand partner. Ultimately, SportPursuit offers something really different providing brands with a complementary route to market that doesn’t cannibalise their existing retailers and that helps them inspire future brand advocates to trial and fall in love with their brand.”
The latter is in reference to the way in which SportPursuit — and flash sales sites in general — position their offering to the brands whose wares they want to put on sale. The pitch is that flash sales don’t eat into existing revenues since they are really a marketing and discovery channel designed to bring on new customers who might not otherwise know about the brand or product being put on sale. That’s the theory anyway.
Either way, it’s noteworthy that SportPursuit has been able to entice a proven executive like Smith to join the startup. Much is made of the difficulty in hiring top technical talent as startups hit the high growth stage. However, experienced non-technical executives, in areas such as business development and sales, are equally, if not more important, and remain just as difficult to recruit. To that end, Smith boasts 17 years working with the Adidas group, where she held the positions of Managing Director for Adidas in the UK and Ireland and Reebok in North Europe.
“I certainly never planned to switch to a startup, but as I found out more about the business and the team I became more and more excited about the prospect,” she says. “I felt this was a fantastic platform and one which really played to my strengths — I’m commercially driven, passionate about brands and like to build deep rooted relationships.”
Smith cites the biggest difference between a startup and a major corporate as “decision making, policy and process change”, comparing big businesses to an oil tanker versus SportPursuit’s turbo-charged speedboat-like decision-making.
“I can have a really big impact quickly, it’s not political and has a great culture,” she says, adding that the cons are a “compact office, less admin support and having to move to London!”.
As for what’s next for SportPursuit, Adam Pikett, CEO and co-founder, tells me European expansion is in motion, with a new Euro store launching later this year. We should also soon see the release of the startup’s first iOS app.