Episode 24: Ruslan Kogan, Kogan.com

In this week’s episode, we hear from Ruslan Kogan, the founder of Kogan.com. While we hear a lot of founders talk about their inspirations in starting their companies, not many stories draw that inspiration from mini-fridges, McDonalds, and rap music, to name a few – but Ruslan’s does. Listen in to hear how these inspirations came about, how Ruslan picked a public media fight with one of Australia’s biggest retailers in a real-life David and Goliath situation, and Ruslan’s thoughts on where e-commerce is headed in the future.

Time Stamps 

  • 2:07- Introduction to Ruslan’s childhood and immigration experience 

  • 2:58- The differences between immigrants and non-immigrants and how certain things are taken for granted 

  • 4:20- Ruslan reflects on how he feels as if he’s assimilated into Australian culture and feels comfortable with where he’s at

  • 4:47- How the immigrant work ethic has shaped Ruslan’s own values in building and creating Kogan 

  • 5:37- Often times those who aren’t considered to be the ‘best students’ have talents in other areas such as leadership and innovation 

  • 6:30- The motivators in Ruslan’s life

  • 7:10- ‘Yes you can’- the push and driving message behind Ruslan’s early years

  • 7:58- Where the idea for Kogan came from 

  • 9:36- How attempting to buy a flatscreen TV inspired the model for an online direct to consumer retailer 

  • 11:08- The biggest question Ruslan had was would be people even buy online? 

  • 12:19- Ruslan decided to launch a pre-sale on his website to gage how the online model would work 

  • 13:06- Once the model was cracked; the relationship with manufacturers needed to be established. So Ruslan went to China

  • 14:15- Selling a business model is one of the toughest parts of being a founder, hear how Kogan.com was able to be marketed 

  • 15:41- The quality of electronics sold over the internet is constantly questioned- how do you overcome this? 

  • 16:14- Listing specifications, reviews- just some of the ways Kogan.com was able to establish itself 

  • 16:53- Hear Ruslan’s side on the David and Goliath battle between him and Jerry Harvey 

  • 17:44- How Eminem’s diss tracks against Jarrel inspired the desire to take on Harvey Norman 

  • 20:20- Kogan was making around $10 million in sales, Harvey Norman was making $5 billion in sales- so why was Jerry so riled up? 

  • 21:28- Big bucks tv ads? Are they still worth it? And why do companies invest so much in them? 

  • 22:12- The importance of building a company based around data and redefining the sales process 

  • 23:43- Creating a company involves scientific processes which are often overlooked- which is what led Ruslan to apply for a job at McDonalds 

  • 25:17- Spoiler alert- he got rejected. 

  • 26:02- At the cornerstone of the  growth story of Kogan.com is the efficiency of their pricing and customer experience 

  • 27:16- There’s no doubt that customer relationships are vital- so how do you build them in an e-commerce store?

  • 27:52- How Ruslan was able to tailor Kogan.com to each customer

  • 29:10- Kogan’s mammoth $50 million IPO and the process of listing the business 

  • 30:50- Life for Kogan.com as a public company 

  • 31:45- How to keep your team focused on the macro goals of the company 

  • 32:38- Being a sole founder is so different to working in a team- how do you adjust? 

  • 34:08- Where will the bricks and mortar be in ten years? 

  • 35:22- How does a business keep thriving? What questions should a founder be asking themselves? 

  • 35:36- It all comes down to continually innovating. Easier said than done of course 

  • 36:22- What Ruslan is looking for in a founder 

  • 39:16- Business is just about profits and growth- it’s about people and relationships, something new founders can often overlook 

  • 41:01- Ruslan’s biggest takeaway- stay grounded and always be prepared to learn

Guest Info

Ruslan Kogan is an Australian entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Kogan.com. His entrepreneurial spirit can be traced back to his parents, who came to Australia in 1989 with just $90, working multiple jobs to provide for their family. During his teen years, he launched a string of businesses including a car wash service, mobile phone repair business, and a web design agency. Ruslan continued to show a keen interest in technology throughout high school and finished top of the state in Information Processing and Management with a perfect study score in Year 12. 

After graduating, he attended Monash University, where he studied while working full time. Before founding Kogan.com he held positions in the IT departments of Bosch and General Electric (GE Money) and was a consultant at Accenture. He founded Kogan.com at the age of 23.

Podcast Notes

The Kogan name is now synonymous with pushing the boundaries (in the best possible way) and the smart and savvy way it continues to innovate and succeed. 2020 has been a particularly strong year for this true ‘disrupter’, with the COVID-19 pandemic driving record site traffic, transaction numbers and revenue. Kogan.com lists products across a large number of categories including consumer electronics, appliances, homewares, hardware and toys, and in 2019, launched the Kogan.com Marketplace.

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