Did you know that in 2015 £5.6 billion was spent on gift cards in the UK, and £360 million were left to expire or go unused? When money is tight it seems wrong that 44% of the adult population is sitting on £60 (on average) of unused gift cards. In an attempt to claw back the pounds, Mike Hayman started Cardyard – the UK’s first gift card exchange site that allows people to sell their unwanted gift cards for cash, or buy discounted gift cards to save money.

Mike tells us, “Having already built and sold a successful tech company in London, I saw an opportunity with the rise of employee reward schemes where people were receiving gift cards and vouchers, but wanted or needed the cash instead.”

“Exeter has its own tech scene and a burgeoning startup culture”

 

Now based in Exeter Science Park – a facility for encouraging enterprise, science and research and development, TechSPARK caught up with tech entrepreneur Mike to find out more about his journey from the business district of Fleet Street to the high street.

TechSPARK: What have been some of your biggest successes to date?

 Mike-Hayman-Founder-CardyardMike Hayman: We’re really proud that we’ve managed to solve a problem for people with unwanted gift cards, and people who are prepared to pre-pay for a discount.

“There were no other gift card exchanges in the UK when we started”

 

Through building the website we have created a robust and secure payment platform. Gift cards are a money product that need close monitoring through a sophisticated and traceable payment platform, and we’ve built a great one. There were no other gift card exchanges in the UK when we started, and we’ve managed to build an easy-to-use website that works, and people are buying and selling gift cards on there right now.

TS: What challenges have you faced since starting up, and how have you overcome them?

MH: When we started we were met with a lot of scepticism from payment providers and the gift card industry. I was able to call on my previous 20 years’ experience of running a company to convince the payment providers to work with us. I was also lucky enough to get some introductions to key people in the gift card and payment industry who were equally enthusiastic about what we are trying to do, and, as a result, they have been incredibly helpful.

“People don’t realise they can get cash for their unwanted gift cards”

 

Also, educating the market. People don’t realise they can get cash for their unwanted gift cards and haven’t worked out that they can save money by buying and self-spending discount gift cards. Best of all, unlike discount codes, savings through discount gift cards can be used in conjunction with other sale offers. People who come to the website seem to understand the advantages, but we are still struggling to educate everybody else.

Regent-Street-Mike Hayman Cardyard

Mike Hayman: Regent Street doesn’t have to be so expensive!

TS: How has being based in the South West helped turn your concept into a reality?

MH: The business community in the South West is very supportive. As an example, I contacted Securious who are a local cyber security company, as I needed advice on getting compliance.

“‘Because we’re West Country, and together we can create the UK’s best businesses'”

 

They were incredibly helpful and generous, and when I asked, ‘Why are you doing this for me?’, they replied, ‘Because we’re West Country, and together we can create the UK’s best businesses’.

While designing the user experience I had a lot of help from Bristol-based shipping software company Zenstores who have a top-notch UX expert, and in return I was able to offer help with a customer acquisition strategy.

“Bath happens to have some of the best RoR developers in Europe”

 

Eros Statue Mike Hayman CardyardWe use Ruby on Rails, and Bath happens to have some of the best RoR developers in Europe. They hold regular evening meetups where they offer free yet priceless advice. Exeter has its own tech scene and a burgeoning startup culture based on a combination of the University, Innovation Centre, Science Park and a host of seasoned developers and investors.

TS: What advice do you have for others thinking about starting their own tech business?

MH: Find people who challenge your thinking – people who you trust and respect. Unchecked, you will probably go down a cul-de-sac, or not properly think through the consequences of your decisions.

“Live with slight irritations and fix the big stuff”

 

By their very nature, startups are partly experiments, so work out how to test your ideas, and benefit from others who have gone before. Don’t try to fix things that are not problems, instead, live with slight irritations and fix the big stuff.

TS: How can people get involved?

MH: We have a very open culture at Cardyard and we welcome all opinions and love hearing what people think. Most of all we want people to use the service then tell us what they like and what they don’t like. Even better – we’d like them to tell their friends and family about the service we offer at Cardyard. We’ve had some great contributions and feedback – and we would love to have more. We’re convinced we have a great product and provide top-notch customer service – and we want to tell the world we are here.

So if you have dead plastic in your wallet, why not check out Cardyard’s website. You can keep up with Cardyard on social media, on Twitter and on Facebook

Natasha Baer