My Week: Tom Allason of Shutl

The serial entrepreneur on the sexiness of Hull, ditching his smartphone and embargo-breaking journalists...

Last Updated: 16 Sep 2015
It has been quite a hectic week since we went live with our Argos trial last Wednesday. Argos is the first big customer to use our technology [to deliver products to its customers within 90 minutes]. Over the last week or so we’ve been slowly rolling out across the trial stores in central London and making sure that everything is working in the way that it’s supposed to.

Despite the launch, I managed to have a fairly relaxing weekend. I went to see a play that a mate of mine was directing on Friday, and then Saturday I went to Borough where I ate lots of food. That’s what everyone does in Borough, right? Then Sunday I went to Columbia road and then had lunch at Bistroteque with a bunch of mates. I do try to chill out at weekends, although I will inevitably end up working a bit.

I have recently got rid of my smartphone so I no longer do emails on the go, and I’ve gone back to using a brick. Originally I lost my BlackBerry, but then I decided not to replace it because I no longer have the attention span of a flea. I’d like to think that I’m slightly more engaged with people now I’m not constantly checking my phone and sending emails. And my girlfriend’s psyched, too, as seven hours sleep is now seven hours sleep. I used to have Blackberry on the bed and I would check it every couple of hours. Pathetic, really.

On Monday I had a very exciting trip up to Hull. The thing that dealing with retailers has taught me is that they live in really sexy places. Like Hull. And Stoke. I go to all kinds of really exciting towns and cities. This last week’s actually not been too bad, I’ve only had to do Harrow and Hull - although that’s bad enough. To make things worse, I had to get up at 5am to get there.

After my meeting I had to go straight into a conference call with Argos to see how things were progressing with the roll-out. Then it was to the train station to head back to London for a meeting with our marketing and PR agencies to work out what we’re going to do about a consumer campaign. PR has changed a bit since I launched my last venture, eCourier. There wasn’t really any of this social media malarkey so it was really just a case of picking up the phone and talking to journalists. This time we only sent out the embargoed release to a handful of journalists and before we knew it, it had gone nuts on Twitter and we got a ton of coverage we weren’t expecting. It’s much harder to channel PR than it used to be.

Tuesday was really exciting. I had a trip to Harrow to see another retailer and then I spent most of the rest of the day dealing with Virgin Media faults, who were trying to fix our fax line. Once that was sorted I had my daily call with Argos, before holding some interviews. We’re recruiting for two positions at the moment, a lead developer and an accountant.

Tuesday was also the day we approved the final releases with Argos and then sent them over to journalists that evening with an embargo of Wednesday afternoon, to give the retail press enough time to write something nice. But someone decided to break it – which is not uncommon, in my experience. So it ended up going out on Tuesday night and in the paper Wednesday morning. This means I spent a lot of time on Wednesday morning figuring out what to do about people breaking the embargo. The problem was that the nice people who hadn’t broken it were getting frustrated about when they could send it out, because they didn’t want their competitors posting it first. But it all worked out in the end.

I also had a meeting with a VC on Wednesday morning. Although we’re not raising capital at the moment, we’re expecting to do a VC round at the beginning of next year so I have to keep prepping a number of VCs, and keeping them excited about what we’re doing. Which shouldn’t be too difficult.

Tom Allason is the founder and CEO of Shutl, a service that allows retailers to deliver products to their customers within 90 minutes of placing an order. 

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