Blake Hutchison | Leveraging Relationships and Community To Build and Sell Businesses

Blake Hutchison is the CEO of Flippa, a leading marketplace for buying and selling online businesses, stores, and digital properties. With a team spread across North America, Australia, and Europe, the company supports entrepreneurs and empowers individuals and companies to take control of their businesses. Before joining Flippa, Blake was the Head of Strategic Partnerships at Xero and the Chief Revenue Officer at Luxury Escapes, one of the world’s fastest-growing online travel agencies.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Blake Hutchison, the CEO of Flippa, to talk about building and selling businesses by leveraging relationships. They also discuss the Tall Poppy Syndrome, the challenges Blake faced building a specialty food marketplace, and the history of Flippa.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:36] Blake Hutchison’s earliest entrepreneurial ventures
  • [03:12] The effects of the Tall Poppy Syndrome
  • [05:49] Blake’s experience working with Lonely Planet and building GOOD44 
  • [19:29] How Blake started working at Luxury Escapes
  • [22:37] The history and evolution of Flippa
  • [31:08] How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Flippa
  • [33:14] What excites Blake about the future?
  • [37:46] The peers Blake acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Chad Franzen 0:02

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:19

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, I am the host of this show. My guest today is Blake Hutchinson. He is the CEO of Flippa, which is the number one marketplace for buying and selling of online businesses. And so if you’re curious about that topic may be curious about buying a business or would be like to sell an online business. We’re going to dive deep into that has been with them for about five years and had a number of entrepreneurial endeavors before that, so you’ll definitely want to stick around for that. 

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, my company, where we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can go to our website,, and you can learn all about what we do there. All right, Blake, the pleasure to have you here. Now, first of all, a little bit of background about you, you’re CEO of Flippa. And it allows people to buy and sell online businesses. That but prior to that you were Chief Revenue Officer at Luxury Escapes, one of the world’s fastest growing online travel agencies. I grew up as the son of a travel agent, my mom was a travel agent, back in the old school days when you went marched down to the person on the corner and said I want a ticket to Las Vegas doesn’t really work that way anymore. So it’s kind of been interesting to see that industry change so much. And you also led strategic partnerships at Zero. But first, I love asking people about how they were as a kid and the little lumpy, you know, entrepreneurial endeavors, sometimes not so little that people engaged in. And you grew up in Australia, where you’re based now in Melbourne, and in a hilly area. And despite that, you convince your dad to let you have a paper route as a kid. Tell us about it.

Blake Hutchinson 1:57

Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t sound that impressive doesn’t to do a paper around but what was really interesting about it was just the negotiation between myself and my father, because we lived a long way away from my school. So we drove an hour and a half each day to get to school, which meant your paper round had to start exceptionally early in the morning. Yeah. Not only that, I lived in a regional area or more regional area of Victoria, which is the state that Melbourne is in anyone’s seen the Australian Open, you’ll know what Melbourne is. And so that was a very hilly area, a very difficult paper round. And there was no other kid in the area doing it. I convinced the news agency to let me do it. They had typically driven around and delivered the paper that way. So anyway, bit of fun bit of hard work. Actually, I did end up listening to my father, he convinced me to quit after about one year because I just couldn’t stay awake at school. I was starting that early in the morning.

John Corcoran 2:59

That’s rough. I think having a paper route at that age is incredibly impressive. So because I remember as a kid having friends that did it, and I wanted to sleep in so the fact that you even did it at all. I think it’s impressive. Now you end up moving to the United States moved to the San Francisco Bay area around age 25. My friend Rob Castaneda is, in my EEO group is also from Australia. I know a bit about what the kind of culturally with the entrepreneurial culture is like, there, there’s something called tall poppy syndrome, which is a thing maybe you can kind of explain a little bit about what it’s like growing up in that culture. And then going from Australia, as you know, looking for a place where there’s more of an entrepreneurial culture in the Bay Area.

Blake Hutchinson 3:46

Yeah, and I think the culture is shifting a little bit. And there’s been some fantastic on grown global tech startups coming out of Australia.

John Corcoran 3:59

Atlassian and others that are phenomenal, right?

Blake Hutchinson 4:01

Yeah, Atlassian and Canva and 99designs and those types of businesses, you know, clearly have a global footprint. But I would say that tall poppy syndrome and culture still exists today. So for everyone out there, who has not heard of that before, all it really means is to cut down the best and not not celebrate that kind of crazy, ambitious, entrepreneurial, winning mentality that Americans have in their blood and do so well. And so that can be quite off putting for entrepreneurs because instead of celebrating failure, it’s very much that Yeah, I told you so. And once you’re the best if you’re at the top of your league, bad sport, bad business, but what Never, instead of celebrating that there tends to be some kind of aversion to that. I would say that I believe that that still exists today. I’ve certainly witnessed that. But for me, yeah, I mean, I certainly love the thrill of the chase. I love how almost almost the crazy ambition that is highly unlikely to succeed right in the US and, and, and I certainly got a lot out of that having moved there. And you know, whilst I was probably a bigger risk taker than most, I learned, having moved to the valley, how big some risks were that were being taken by others.

John Corcoran 5:49

And I love that one of your first stops, I think one of your first stops there was with Lonely Planet, which I backpacked around Europe after college, and with a Lonely Planet Guide in my backpack, which by the way, talking about that is like your guide back for going out and having a guidebook for going out and having adventures. So it’s a a business as well. But in addition to it, it also is something that helps people to go out and expand their horizons. What was it like for you going to work for that company in the Bay Area?

Blake Hutchinson 6:24

Yeah, it was really cool. I mean, that was West Oakland, and that was West Oakland in 2005. So you know, West Oakland 2005 is not as gentrified as he is now property prices certainly aren’t what they are, they’re now and you know, for a young guy moving countries and, and rocking up to the docks of West Oakland to help a global publisher license, digitize the travel content and license that travel content to travel portals. And those interested in travel content around the world was super interesting for me. And when we undertook some wonderfully ambitious initiatives, we had a an initiative called National passport month, at that stage, only 13% of Americans had a passport. We lobbied Congress, and we’re and we’re able to work with the local Congresswoman Barbara Lee was her name, you know, colonial there to still there to, to pass a bill and declare a particular month, national passport month, I’m trying to build some momentum around the importance of travel, how it can change people and benefit people. So a wonderful experience for a young guy. And at that stage, TripAdvisor was still early, Yelp was still early. So so lonely planet was a was a Maven Lonely Planet was very much considered innovative. Although did get left behind. So that gave me great exposure. I remember as a young guy going to the Apple offices and finding out about the the first iPhone and then recruiting their first publishers to deliver the first suite of apps. And now of course, the App Store’s doing hundreds of billions of dollars a quarter for it for their developer community. So you get awesome exposure as a young guy sitting in a business that has got great credibility. And you learn a lot from those experiences. And of course, we were doing something brand new, I was licensing their travel content. So I was kind of a disliked individual within the organization, because publishers ran that business. And all of a sudden, you’re saying, well, you’re sitting on 30 years worth of great travel content, let’s monetize and commercialize that

John Corcoran 8:37

on this new device that no one’s heard of before.

Blake Hutchinson 8:41

Yeah. First, our first. I remember the YouTube for Lonely Planet first Youtube Travel Channel was a little bit controversial. It was hard to get that contract done. But a lot of fun for a young guy. Spending time with some of those early stage tech businesses.

John Corcoran 8:57

There’s a lot of fear for these traditional media companies that had this content that was used to selling it for 30 bucks a pop in a book form, that if we’re going to give away all this stuff that we put all this money into, through whether it’s up YouTube or an app or on the web or something that we’re not going to, we’re going to completely cannibalize our own business.

Blake Hutchinson 9:19

Yep, exactly. I mean, that discussion had every day and ultimately, Lonely Planet did end up getting cannibalized by not itself, and its own initiatives, but by so many other innovative travel companies out there. So yeah, super interesting experience. And then, of course, I went to work for a startup just prior to the GFC. We raised $13 million from what was Lehman Brothers partners, then became tonight capital. And I was on the early stage team, they’re building building a trip planner, so you know, unique experiences and the valley gave me a lot of great learnings.

John Corcoran 9:55

Now what brought you from that which is kind of more in the travel space? In the Bay Area to founding good 44, which was a venture capital backed, specialty foods, I guess distribution company kind of like a good eggs, which we have it here in the Bay Area that delivers better foods that are better grocery items. So people.

Blake Hutchinson 10:17

Yes, the short answer that question is I had to continue to innovate my way through concepts to pay for a roof over my head. So I moved from San Francisco back to Melbourne, Australia, when I moved to Melbourne, Australia and 2010 Americans will laugh at this, but there was a grand total of $17 million in venture capital

John Corcoran 10:42

17 177070. In in in Australia. Yep. And yeah, that’s not a lot by US standards, ya