How gift app Huggg scaled to Bristol, Bath and beyond

Posted: Thu 10th Oct 2019

In the Scale-up Series, we interview entrepreneurs to understand how they've achieved growth. The series is supported by O2.

This second episode features Zoe Hominick, head of business marketing at O2, in conversation with Paul Wickers, co-founder and CEO of Huggg. The interview was recorded at The O2.

"A massive pull from corporate life to start-up life"

Paul Wickers came up with the idea for Huggg, an app which allows you to send treats such as coffee, cake and cinema tickets to friends, family, customers and colleagues, while working as a banker. He ran the business as a side hustle before deciding to go full time.

"I had a growing conviction over time that my business idea was really viable and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I started acting on it the day I had it and continued working on it every day until it had turned into something.

"It became a business that I had to start and I this massive pull away from corporate life to start-up life."

Paul has built a strong team around the business, which now has thousands of customers using the app in cities including Bristol, Bath, London and Brighton.

His advice for finding the perfect staff is:

"The best people are almost never looking for a job, there's always in some sort of job that's very well paid, retained and incentivised, so you've got to go looking for them. You've got to find a really good reason why they would want to join you and you've got to get yourself in front of them.

"Focus time on making actual structured interviews work. We have sometimes gone with some gut feel but we haven't always done the structured interview process due to time constraints and that has been an error."

How to raise funding

Huggg has raised several rounds of funding; first from angel investors and then from venture capitalists. How does Paul advise you should find investors?

"Make a list of all the investors you want to reach, take the ones you really want to get money from and ask them last. Your early ones are your burners. You'll screw it up in front of the 10 you don't money from so you do really well in front of the 10 you do want money from."

But he advises founders to not let a lack of money hold you back.

"Many people think 'I can't do X-Y-Z next step because I haven't raised any money', but there's almost always something you can do without money or on very low money. Don't let it be the barrier.

"20 venture capitalists turned down Airbnb's first funding round and almost all of them did it in a later round at a more expensive rate.

"Everyone gets nos, each no has to make you stronger. If it doesn't make you stronger, you're probably not cut out for start-up life."

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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