Racing ahead in the online marketplace

A London-based entrepreneur says that south-west Donegal will always hold a special place in his heart.
Samuel Hunt (28) is co-founder and CEO at Materials Market whose creative solution to ease supply chain issues sparked the interest of seed venture capitalist fund, Fuel Ventures, which invested £1.5m in the new tech start-up last month.
Born in Wales, Samuel moved to Ardara with his mother Jo when he was five. He attended national school before going to St Columba’s Comprehensive School in Glenties. He completed his secondary school education at a boarding school in England before going to university.
“I only lasted (university) a year before I dropped out. I found it sterile and boring and preferred to work,” he said.
Samuel’s mother Jo, whose late brother James Hunt won the Formula One World Championship in 1976, still has a house in Ardara.
“Mum’s there (Ardara) this week. I don’t get over as often as I would like but Ardara has played an important role in my life and it holds a special place in my heart,” he said.
Speaking to the Donegal News from his office in London, Samuel said that Materials Market was launched in November 2020, following a pre-seed funding round of £130k from angel investors.
“That money gave us some breathing space but this further funding (£1.5m from Fuel Ventures in a seed funding round last month) allows us to move on to the next level,” he said.
Following launch of the online marketplace last November, Materials Market’s quick and easy service cuts out the usual ‘middle men’ by connecting buyers and sellers directly in one simple online marketplace.
The site showcases a huge range of products suitable for both the commercial and DIY market, from insulation materials to timber, blocks and plasterboard on which customers can save on average 20% compared to bricks-and-mortar stores due to its innovative structure.
“The sector has been slower than others to move to a digital-first approach and so when we mapped out what Materials Market should represent to both suppliers and customers, it was clear we needed to deliver value for both parties. We knew that if we could create a true free market environment, where everyone got a fair chance of winning an order, it would allocate resources much more efficiently than any of the existing models operating in this space,” he explained.
Having worked in the construction industry for the past number of years, Samuel said that he was only too aware of the daily struggle of contacting supplier after supplier, looking for the best price and delivery time for materials.
“The last 18 months hasn’t been without its challenges, particularly in the building materials market with product supply presenting obstacles for both suppliers’ stock and customers’ deliveries.
“The investment in our vision has allowed us to support more of the UK’s building materials supply chain to refine and evolve their offering post pandemic, creating a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers. Collectively we are changing the way the market works, and we’re looking forward to continuing to scale our digital solution and transform how products are traded with new initiatives over the next 12 months and beyond,” he said.
Expansion into mainland Europe and Ireland remains very much on the cards.
“Once we have established a really strong foothold over the next twelve to eighteen months we will look at expanding into Europe. It’s the only way to keep growing.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working in Dublin and Ireland is a smaller market with less players and I’ve have to think strategically how best we can grow our brand in Ireland,” he said.

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