'I was a double for Neville Longbottom' - Bertie Stephens, Flubit

20 QUESTIONS: The founder of the Amazon price-beating site talks Robot Wars, freezing on film sets and filming Elon Musk's wedding.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 26 Sep 2014

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

Before this, I wanted to be a film producer. It has all the same elements around it - putting together teams of people, not knowing what the final product will look like, but having a good idea of what you want to achieve. If you’ve never run a business, putting together a short film is incredibly useful.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

People say ‘Flubbit’ or ‘Floobit’, so I would name it something people know how to pronounce cleanly and crisply. I’ve often had a debate with myself whether I would name it something where you know exactly what it is from the name – so, for example, Create A Lower Price or something like that. The only alternative I ever had was Hapsie, which was the idea of using the site makes you happy, because you’re saving money. We went with Flubit in the end, because it’s a noun and a verb.

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

Berlin. The choice would be between the US or Germany, and right now the German tech scene is growing at the same rate as London is and Germany is the second biggest ecommerce market in Europe.

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

First it was friends of friends. My co-founder Adel knew someone who was looking to start investing in young companies. He put in the initial £50,000, and then he knew someone else, and within first four months we’d raised £550,000. We’ve raised around £8.5m since we were founded in May 2011.

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

The  team that I’ve built with Adel and not holding onto ideas that aren’t working. I’ve always been a reasonably creative person who has ideas. The one thing that’s been so strong about the team is they tell me when my ideas aren’t good and show me the data to support their facts.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

Relying too much on emotion and not being pragmatic during the beginning. And that includes whether to hire or to remove a member of staff. There is definitely a part for empathy and emotion to play within business, but I think my biggest mistake was not understanding where the line was drawn.

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

One of the problems the world has right now is we’re generating so much waste and no one knows what to do with it at all. The fact that we bury it is ludicrous. All matter turns into different forms of energy, so turning that waste into actual energy that we could then we could reuse.

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

One way is walking. London looks like a busy city, but there’s so much green. The other way is just trying to sit back and be pragmatic about things – will what you’re stressing about actually matter in five years time? If not then, ok, it’s a big problem right now, but you can solve it right now.

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I’ve had a rather odd employment history, in the sense that I’ve never actually been actively employed. I set up my own website and got involved in online radio, which was booming around 2005-2006. I started off doing free voiceovers and then people started paying me for them. When I went to university, I got on the sets of films - I was a double for Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

The worse film set I’ve ever been on was Children of Men. I was a soldier. It was the middle of winter and a lot of the film is grim and set outside. I don’t know if they were trying to do it for effect, but they kept us outside all day in the freezing cold. They didn’t feed us and we were wearing the thinnest clothing in the world. And it was day after day after day – I think we did three or four weeks in a row.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

If not this one, it would be my last company. I was one of founders of a video and marketing creative agency - we were making advertisements for Coca Cola and Intuit and some films. That was a completely different skill set. Budgets were different too: one month of Flubit could fund two and half years of that company.

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

I’ve never watched The Apprentice. I’ve tried to watch both The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den, but they’re just too close to home. Over the last 16 months we’ve been raising money, and you sit in those rooms with angel investors and VCs… Why would you want to relive that?

13. WHAT COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

Green energy or virtual currency. Virtual currency has a ridiculously long way to go before it’s useful to the general public, but it’s interesting. Green energy is actually trying to solve a big problem, which is that human beings are ultimately harming the world more than any other being. It’s the challenge we have to overcome as a race, rather than a company.

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

My Sony FX1, the first HD camera released by Sony for consumers. I shot my first movie on it and someone broke it on the first day of filming. As a kid, my most expensive item was an electric wheelchair. I was fanatical about trying to get a robot into Robot Wars. The extent of my robot was remote controlling an electric wheelchair around my close.

15. SUIT OR JEANS?

Jeans all the time.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

Flexible working, definitely. We believe everyone has a personal life - and should have a personal life - and that includes having kids, family and all the rest. Generally 9-5s don’t work for most people.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE OFFICE?

The telescope that looks out onto the Thames and Canary Wharf.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

I lost my iPhone two-and-a-half weeks ago. The only point I felt I suffered was when I couldn’t use Google Maps when I was going to a meeting. Everything else turns out you don’t really need - you’re in front of your computer enough hours of the day. And your personal life really benefits as well.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

It would be Elon Musk. In my video days, I filmed Elon Musk’s wedding to Tallulah Riley. That was in the post-PayPal days, but just starting SpaceX, before he became the household name in the tech industry that he is. He’s got brains about him, but a bit of charisma and just does things.

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

There has to be high speed internet in all of London. I think younger businesses are struggling, as the UK doesn’t have that infrastructure.

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