At Tech City News, we’re always keen to shine a light on those who make up the UK’s thriving technology community.
This week, we spoke with Glenn Shoosmith, founder and CEO of BookingBug, an online booking and reservation system. He shares his views on raising venture capital funding, the importance of having a good team in place and his advice on how best to scale a business.
Tech vertical: PaaS (Platform-as-a-service)
Funding: £5m to date
Staff count: 95
Location: London, Boston, Los Angeles and Sydney
Notable partnerships: PayPal, Stripe, Salesforce, Oracle, Xero & many more.
Q: Tell me about yourself and your background.
After graduating in 1997 with a degree in computer science I spent 10 years working in a wide variety of industries, as a developer, consultant, team and project manager .I ended up writing trading systems for some of the world’s biggest investment banks before starting work on BookingBug in 2008.
I founded BookingBug with the not-so-simple objective of building a platform through which time could be treated as if it were a stock inventory item. Since then, our clients now include almost all the biggest high street retailers and a growing number of banks.
Q: What challenges have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Years and years ago when we started, the initial users of BookingBug were often smaller businesses and SMBs. Then, in the last few years, we suddenly found the largest retailers and retail banks knocking on our door.
In a world where online and mobile options are so compelling, these businesses have realised they need to double down on the experience in their stores to grow their share of the market.
For us, this demand meant we quickly had to refactor many elements of the business to serve these new customers as well as the previous audience. At the same time, you must retain some sense of focus and not try to be all things to all people.
The real trick that made this work: the team. We hired one of the best enterprise sales leads I’ve ever seen, who has transformed the business. We fleshed out areas from HR to marketing to support and project management and have been incredibly fortunate with the calibre of the team.
Q: What do you think of the online booking space? Is it getting over-saturated?
Basic bookings for basic needs are a relatively easy challenge now.
Where we really have something unique is with the world’s biggest banks and retailers, where they want to build bridges between their online and offline understanding of their customers across hundreds of branches.
It’s not just about bookings, it’s about filling that gap in understanding with an experience that customers will actually want to use.
A lot of the companies entering the booking space now are going to spend a lot of years learning the lessons that we progressed through years ago.
Q: What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs in terms of scaling their business?
One of the key pieces of advice is to always focus on keeping your culture and staying true to your roots. As you scale your business there’s a risk of things becoming more corporate and losing the personal touch that helped you attract your early customers.
When you start to go global, one way to keep this culture intact is to seed some of your original staff into new offices around the world. Think about it like this: It was these people who helped you get this far and their personalities that have helped create your culture. So it makes sense that they are the ones to help it spread.
Then when things seem to be going smoothly, make sure you don’t rest on your laurels. Support and celebrate staff success and ensure everyone in the organisation knows you’re all in it together.
Q: What’s your stance on venture capital funding?
We have raised money on a couple of occasions. However, I do think it can cause an issue for young businesses if they see it as a necessity or a box to tick.
If we had rushed and capitulated too much of our business to the wrong investors, we may have found ourselves going all in on the SMB product and unable to capitalise on the incredible opportunities that have come up in Enterprise as a result.
Our current investors and current board have brought an experience to the table that has made them every part as important as the rest of the team. And that’s value beyond what you can get in a cheque.
Q: If you had the chance, would you do it all over again? If so, why?
Once you have developed a business to a certain stage, you have learned so much in so many areas that any entrepreneur would wish they could go back and do it again. I think that’s why so many do.