Today we are joined by Pol Sancho, the founder of the online motorsport marketplace, The GPBox. A former Formula 1 Senior Stress Engineer, with stints at Manor, Force India and Renault, Pol is bringing his F1 excellence and competitive spirit to the world of e-commerce.
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Less than two years after coming up with the idea, The GPBox has grown to the world’s leading marketplace for motorsport memorabilia, models and artwork, with 42,000 products listed by sellers in more than 20 countries.
Currently splitting his time between his home in Oxford and Barcelona, where he is completing an EMBA, Pol is one of motorsport’s rising entrepreneurs, and one to watch in 2021.
What is The GPBox?
The GPBox is an online marketplace that brings together motorsport sellers from around the world and provides a platform for them to sell their products to a motorsport-focussed audience.
The GPBox is an easy-to-use platform for setting up an online store, for sellers who might not be especially tech-savvy. We provide a simple way for people to sell their products harnessing the collective power of a large and focused marketplace, specifically designed to help them reach motorsport fans. We have a really positive and direct relationship with our sellers and they have been so receptive to our ideas and generous with their productive feedback and I am so proud of the result.
What path took you from the paddock to the world of e-commerce?
After graduating with a double MEng in Mechanical design and Automotive engineering from the School of Industrial Engineering of Barcelona, I moved to the UK to study at Oxford Brookes University and complete my MSc in Motorsport engineering. It was not up until the end of the masters that I got the opportunity to move into F1.
I got my first opportunity in motorsport at Marussia / Manor Racing, during the rebuilding of the team, trying to make a year-old car legal within the current regulations. Unfortunately, the team collapsed, and after a short stint at Force India, I ended up as a Senior Stress Engineer for Renault F1 Team in January 2018.
As the Senior Stress Engineer, I was responsible for the front of the F1 car, which comprises over 11,000 parts. One of the things I loved most about my time there was the feeling of ownership. There is no better feeling than seeing your parts getting made and assembled.
However, I knew from very early on in my career that I thrive best when working for myself on a project I am passionate about, and the rapid success of The GPBox has allowed me to do that. Our team has all the skills we need to continue the growth of the site and to optimise the experience for sellers and customers.
Where did the idea for The GPBox come from?
The idea actually came from a conversation with my partner Georgina who was finding it very frustrating to find a motorsport-themed gift for me for Christmas. There are many disparate sectors of motorsport memorabilia – from model cars to high-end, race-used parts and furniture, plus the growing market for so many incredibly talented artists. We quickly realised that there was a need to bring these together on a single platform, not just to provide a much-needed service for motorsport fans, but also for all the sellers to benefit from building a one-stop-shop for motorsport fans to come and find almost anything they can think of.
You are very hands-on with The GPBox, and in fact, built the first version of the site yourself?
I am a firm believer in further education, whether that is by completing my EMBA or the small ways I can create opportunities myself to learn a new skill. The GPBox started out as the latter. I had to learn to code from scratch, in order to build the first version of The GPBox. I knew what I wanted to create, but I was effectively learning a whole new language. I remember sitting on the living room carpet writing (and rewriting) my first lines of code. It was an exciting time of discovery, although my partner recalls quite a lot of swearing too!
Learning to code has been one of the most liberating and rewarding experiences of my life outside of F1. Not only does it give you the fundamental tools to build almost anything, but unlike motorsport, you don’t have to wait for the weekend for feedback on what you have created. The feedback, one way or the other, is instant, and that is what has helped us to grow so rapidly.
On March 6 2018, we launched The GPBox and had 374 visitors on that first day, which was very exciting. Within 18 months, that has grown to over 1 million product views and customers in over 40 countries.
What is the biggest way that life in Formula One has influenced your approach to business?
One of the biggest things I realised working in Formula One is that whether you are competing for wins, or racing at the back, the engineering problems are the same. It is the resourcing available to solve those problems that is the differentiator.
There is a common rule in the world of engineering, known as the 80-20 principle, which essentially asserts that 80% of the performance comes from the first 20% of the time you input. The real difficulty after that point is how to decide when the part or the product is good enough. I hate to waste time, so the challenge is identifying inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority.
As an engineer by training, I really enjoy bringing my work with The GPBox back to first principles and really examining how we can improve and refine the platform for our sellers and our customers in the most efficient way. I am a very motivated and competitive person, which ultimately helped me to achieve my dream of working in the world of Formula One, and now I am bringing that same mentality to The GPBox.
Tell us more about the team behind The GPBox.
The GPBox is managed by a small team of very creative people. I believe in finding people who have the skill and motivation to learn and to create. It is very important to provide an environment for people to take ownership of key roles and enjoy creative problem-solving.
As many people came to realise in 2020, remote working offers so many opportunities for creativity and for collaborating with new people around the world. We have had this principle from day one, finding people who are talented and excited by the idea and collaborating from a number of different countries across Europe.
In addition to Georgina and myself, our core team includes Andrew Myles, our Creative Director and Dennis Schmidt, our Product Designer. Together they have taken The GPBox to a platform with a strong brand and high quality, easy-to-use site for our sellers and our customers and we have a lot more on the way.
Growth and the future
We are in the lucky position to be playing catch-up to the rapid growth of interest in the site. The GPBox has been catapulted into the mainstream motorsport audience over the last year and that has encouraged us to look for investment to continue to grow. In November, we saw over 6,500 new products added to The GPBox – the absolute record of new products per day. Combined with the high level of interest from investors so far, this sort of organic growth shows a huge interest in what we are doing for both sellers and motorsport fans.