It started off as an idea between friends who jetted to Europe from Australia every year.
They wanted a tablet that could get them through the trip: one that provided minerals, vitamins and rehydration.
A year on, Phizz is a fully-fledged business, and a successful one too: it has shipped 400,000 units in its first 12 months.
We met co-founder Daniel Cray on Phizz’s first birthday to hear about why he rejects the ‘start-up’ label, why Phizz is more than just cool Berocca, and how social media is changing the way we do business.
Business Insider’s Thomas Colson: Tell me more about how you came to create Phizz.
Daniel Cray: It simply comes from three friends who used to meet up in Europe once a year for a trip. It was a 24 hour flight, and we found ourselves doing what we could to get an edge for it. So we’d take dioralyte, which we used for rehydration, as it allows you to absorb more water more quickly. And we’d also use a multivitamin.
The three of us who took these trips, there’s not a scratch of science between us. But we’d be using these products and saying — why can’t we combine all of this into one product?
We had basic high school chemistry, but it so happens that another good friend of ours is a PhD Oxford graduate in neuroscience, and a fellow at New York University. He was really surprised that they hadn’t been combined before. Then we found a laboratory in Switzerland, and over the first six months of last year they formulated it.
3. How did your partnership with brands like Uber and Emirates Airlines come about?
DC: We somehow got introduced to Uber’s marketing manager, and pitched the idea, even though we hadn’t actually made the product yet! But they loved the idea and the branding.
Emirates was definitely a case of us approaching them. It took a decent amount of time to set that up — they’re the world’s biggest airline — and we were lucky enough to be selected as part of their offering.
TC: Do you consider yourself part of the startup community, like Uber does?
DC: We are a startup, but sometimes I just hate that word. Because it becomes this buzzword. To me, it’s just starting a business – it works or it doesn’t. At what time period do you lose that startup name?
Sometimes I hate the word ‘start-up’ — it just becomes this buzzword
That’s especially relevant with us. When you’re talking about a health-conscious product that’s claiming to be in many respects a world-first, what we largely wanted to do was to bed down credibility.
For example, we didn’t talk about our business story widely in the press to begin with. When we first started we had a few people saying, “you should be pitching this, you’ve got to do that whole start-up thing.”
But we thought, what have we got to tell? When you’ve got a new concept you want to have some runs on the board first. When we had our first birthday last week we thought — there’s a business story to tell now.
TC: How do your partnerships with athletes and celebrities come about?
DC: Phizz has applications for sport as well as travel. We’ve just achieved Informed Sports accreditation — if you’re a professional athlete, and you’re taking a supplement that doesn’t have that accredication, you’ll end up like Maria Sharapova.
So we’ve had some cool high-profile athletes jump on. We have [snowboarder] Philip Kundratitz on board, who’s an Austrian pro. He flew on Emirates and just saw us and said, “this stuff’s amazing.” We’ve also got Yacht Week skippers, something we worked on over the summer. We send the product and if they like it, they like it, and if they don’t they don’t.
But sport’s a crowded space when it comes to supplements, whereas we think travel is not, so that remains our focus.
TC: So primarily you’ll carry on focusing on the travel market?
DC: Yes. The core comes from travel, and is found in travel. So as much as it’s a multi-use product, all those various applications all fall under that one banner of travel. Airlines will be a big play for us, as will lounges, and hotel resorts. We’ve just come back from some really good meetings in Dubai. So for the rest of this year, and the first part of next year, our core focus will be on travel.
TC: Is social media an important part of your strategy, then?
DC: The strongest approach, we’ve found, is to have somebody else using their own social media to talk about us. Social media has allowed us to have affordable advertising means, and given us great earned media space [media space gained through promotional efforts rather than advertising]. Go back twenty years, you’re not going to be getting that out of a MySpace page!
With Twitter, we don’t tweet a lot of content but it’s incredibly useful for getting in touch with somebody. We’re in Ocado because we tweeted them initially. We got into hotel chains because the first starting point was — OK, there’s no email, but we know the person’s name. So Twitter gives you access to somebody in a less formal environment.
Social media has given us great earned media space. Go back twenty years, you’re not going to be getting that out of a MySpace page
There’s no way we could have done what we’re doing what we’re doing 15 years ago. Maybe we could’ve, but it would have been a hell of a lot harder. We definitely wouldn’t be in the Middle East by now.
How important has branding been to the product?
As a product, we back it in being superior to anything else on the market. The trouble is, that’s an education process. It’s more than just a pretty, packaged Berocca, for instance. But if that was the misunderstanding, that this is a cooler-looking, branded Berocca, it’s still a win for us. It’s not the win we want, but it’s still a win!
So yes — how we look and how we brand ourselves is important. The whole effervescent category we’re in was a little stagnant in terms of branding.
TC: What are your plans for the next twelve months?
DC: Everyone asks, what does the next twelve months look like? What’s the five year plan? Those first twelve months, we had various business plans, but you throw them out the window when you get calls from various parts of the world wanting to be your distributor. It’s impossible to plan.
The Middle East, for example, was not somewhere that we were aiming to take the product in the next two years. But a large airline contract, and then other interest all of a sudden — well, soon it will be our biggest market!
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