Big business is broken

Upon request form my PR folks I recently sat down to write ‘my story’ so they can use it in the company’s collateral.  In writing it I realised the irony in the story, of how a journey of ten years brings me back to serving a purpose for others much the same as that which drove me to go down this path.  Life, it seems, is not without a sense of humour.

Here’s the full recount:

“In 2003 – a fresh graduate from university, and refusing to follow the paths of my colleagues into Banking and management consulting,  I got  what i thought was a ‘real job’ in a  big Engineering firm to do one of those 18-month management trainee programmes.

Six months in, and to the dismay of my parents, I quit. I realised that I would never make a difference in a big company, and that the bureaucracy, slow-pace, the red tape and lack of passion would kill my drive and hunger to mark my own little dent in the universe. I decided to start my own business.

The idea: an outsourcing service to allow the time-starved to get their stuff done efficiently and quickly and only pay for the time they use, per-hour. It was a simple service, much needed and some simple math showed me that with 70% utilisation of every hire I’d make a profit.

Three years in, struggling to scale the business up as fast as I’d liked, I started thinking how I could use the internet to do that.  So I started an experiment:  I put a simple one-pager on the url ‘’  asking Buyers to submit their request online. Mean time Sellers could sign up as service providers with a short brief of their skills which got dumped in an excel-like data base.

The early beginnings of a marketplace was born. Every Buyer request came to my inbox and I would frantically make calls and  send emails to create a ‘match’, taking a 10% cut on jobs that I would manually invoice on a spreadsheet, averaging ca. £250.  My accountant was convinced I was insane. He was probably right!

Those early days formed the DNA of our company. The grassroots tactics, the scrappiness, the follow-your-gut mindset, the fail fast, pick yourself up and try again attitude…never give up and and never be afraid to cannibalise your own business. These are the values that are rooted deep in our company and follow us to date.

In those early days I brought in a dear friend, schoolmate and colleague from University, and one of the smartest people I knew – Simos – to act as CTO and help me build the platform to automate what I was doing manually. Being the exact antithesis to me – yet sharing the same core values –  I thought to myself ‘this is my first real test’. If I can convince this guy to quit a job at Accenture and join my insanity (with the worst bit having me as his boss)  then I’m surely onto something. And sure as hell that early validation was probably the most important in our company’s history to date.

So began an amazing  journey that saw us go through thick and thin, from investors pulling out and leaving us hanging a mere few weeks away from missing payroll, to selling deskspace to make an extra buck, to having bailiffs come in twice to shut us down, to doing an overnight runner with a dodgy man-in-a-van who only just made it before the bailiffs turned up, to people telling us (including some big name VCs) that this market is ‘too small’ and that we should find another idea…to our dearest supporters turning our back on us when we needed them the most.

We ignored them all. We never let it put us down and we never gave up. What kept us going day in and day out is sticking to those core values and a deep belief in the great purpose we serve as a business: how we help people realise their dream of being independent, working for themselves, being ‘free’ as they keep telling us. Starting their own business and building it up project by project, hour by hour through PeoplePerHour. What we do is so profound and game-changing, I often can’t believe I actually get paid to do this. Its a privilege to be able to do something that impacts so many people across the world in ways that are creating change for the longer term. And which is so much fun.

We help people realise their dreams. We are empowering ‘citizen entrepreneur.’ And we strongly believe that some time in the not so distant future, more people will be working on PPH than for the worlds largest governments or for the largest FTSE companies just like the one I started my career in and in an very ironic way set off to ‘free myself’ from. And in doing so brought the movement to hundreds of thousands of others just like me.

Big business is broken. And we are here to prove it”

Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published.