20 QUESTIONS: Glenn Shoosmith, BookingBug

The founder of the online booking system talks beer, Bitcoin and his fear of going back to work for a bank.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 14 Feb 2014

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

When I was studying computer science at university I wanted to do movie special effects with Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’ firm. Then I went for an interview with a special effects company in Soho and realised there were a lot of geeks in dark rooms who never see the light of day, so I decided to take another path.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

I sometimes wish I’d picked a more generic name that didn’t actually have the word ‘booking’ in it, so that if we want to expand into different things we’re not saddled with a name that identifies us in a certain way.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY WHERE WOULD IT BE?

London is a fantastic place to live and I’ve never really found another city I like quite as much. If you could move London down towards Barcelona where the weather was better and there were fewer strikes I think that would be about right.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

I squirreled money away for a year by saving very hard while working at a bank. My Dad also helped me out quite a lot. That really got us through the first couple of years before we did an external angel investor round, which was about £250,000 in 2011.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

When I started the company in 2008 the focus was on small businesses. I wanted to make it easier for tennis coaches, wedding photographers and dance classes to have online booking systems. About a year ago we decided to focus instead on bigger enterprises - our clients now include Vodafone, Pets at Home and Waitrose. It was quite a big decision for us to refocus the company, but one I’m very glad we’ve taken.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Before I started BookingBug, I had worked my entire life for corporates and banks and my lack of experience was really held against me when it came to raising investment. I wish I’d started another business first and had it either succeed or fail fairly quickly.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

Ideas are cheap and execution is everything: Facebook wasn’t the first social media site and Google wasn’t the first search engine. The kinds of things Elon Musk is trying to do are fantastic - but again it’s not just the idea, it’s his ability to execute it.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

What calms me is to make something - I’m a programmer at heart. I think that’s what I love about building my own business, because whenever I’m stressed about something I feel it’s in my power to do something about it.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I started my first paper round on the day I was legally old enough to get one: my 13th birthday. I have a very American attitude - I very much believe in the ‘American Dream’ of hard work.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

I had a terrible job at Merrill Lynch, with an unpleasant boss. It was so stressful, to the point I wasn’t sleeping. I was walking to work one day and started having heart pains, and I thought, ‘My health is not worth this job.’ So I turned around and went home. It made me extra determined to succeed in my own business, that fear of not wanting to return to that job.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

For two years I worked at CNBC, running the on-air financial data for all their European channels. I loved the responsibility and seeing the results of my work on screen. I was on call 24-7, it was a case of, ‘If this goes off air, we’ll get you wherever you are to get it fixed.’

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE WOULD YOUR TEAM BE NAMED?

You couldn’t pay me enough money to go on The Apprentice. My friends say, ‘When are we going to see you on Dragon’s Den?’ You will never see me on Dragon’s Den, either as a dragon or as a contestant. The problem is TV is more interesting when they make people into caricatures. It gives industries a bad name.

13. WHAT COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

What’s happening in the world of payments with Bitcoin is very interesting. I’ve no idea where it’s going and there’ll be a lot of money both won and lost in the next couple of years. If you find the right company you could do very well, but picking that one is tough.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

I bought a TVR when I was working at banks. It’s an eccentric British sports car and I’d always wanted to own one since I was a kid. Sadly, I now own a beaten-up Mazda 6. I set aside my younger years of bachelorhood, although my wife was very sad we sold it. She’s from Michigan, so she completely understands love affairs with cars.

15. SUIT OR JEANS?

I wear jeans day-to-day in the office, but in a meeting I’m actually much more comfortable in a suit and conforming a bit. I can’t pull off a hoody and plimsoles like Mark Zuckerberg - too many years working in consultancies and banks.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

We try to keep reasonable office hours. It’s nicer to have the team together for a good solid chunk of the day, especially when you get to the end. We are a start up, so we obviously have a beer fridge and sit around the office having a beer.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE OFFICE?

We all sit quite close together, which is fun and a really good team bonding experience. I’m going to miss that as we expand.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

Google Now – it’s so clever. It alerts you when you have a meeting, and tells you when to leave and how to get there. With all the NSA stuff, people say it’s a bit creepy. But people trade their data for convenience and I find it wonderfully convenient to synch everything together. I’m very disorganised.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

It has to be Bill Gates. If you look at other successful businessmen who are continually trying to make more money, you’ve got to admire him. He hasn’t retired - he’s working harder than ever saving the world.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINSTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

It’s a job in which you can never make the right decision - someone will always hate you for it. Right now though, I’d sort immigration out. I’ve been struggling to get my co-founder a visa for a long time. It’s crazy. He’d have a much easier time escaping from some other country.

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