Diary of a start-up: HeadBox’s Andrew Needham on “founding moments”

Having just launched his 'Airbnb for meeting spaces' with £1.2m funding, Startups' new diary blogger discusses the key steps to starting a business

Taking the baton from previous Startups.co.uk diary bloggers, creative meeting space booking platform founder Andrew Needham is going to be detailing his start-up journey with you over the following months. From securing partnerships with top brands, million pound investment rounds, and taking a new concept to market, Needham will share what life is really like as a start-up founder. In his first blog, he explains the steps taken to launch the business this month, ‘founding moments’, and why you should pursue Facebook’s mantra… 

It was Jack Dorsey; Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, who coined the phrase “founding moments” and spoke often of the importance for a company to have more than just one.

Last December while I was still the CEO at Face, the tech driven consumer research consultancy I founded in 2007, I noticed how my team were struggling to book creative spaces for a range of our blue chip clients such as Unilever.

The process was extremely time consuming because it was not possible to book and pay for a space directly. It required going through traditional venue-listing sites that acted as a “middle-man” between the spaces and my team generating paper-mountains, endless phone calls, emails, forms and contracts to fill in and multiple trips to the scanner and photocopier.

There had to be a better, simpler, faster way of doing this and that’s when the idea of building an ‘Airbnb for creative and inspiring spaces’ was born and with it our first “founding moment”. Just nine months later HeadBox was launched.

HeadBox is the UK’s first online marketplace for inspiring, creative and off-site spaces that links the guests (corporate and small and medium enterprise bookers) with the hosts (owners of those creative, inspiring and off-site spaces) directly through the platform. This cuts out the middle-man and allows guests to search, book and pay in an easy and seamless way solving many of the current pain points people face when it comes to booking and paying for a work related event.

HeadBox (1)

Failing to plan is planning to fail

In order to be in a position to launch HeadBox within just six months of leaving my job,  I knew I needed a plan of how I was going to get there.

So I started with a planning workshop that covered five core streams: value proposition, brand, product & customer experience, technology and delivery. The outputs from this meant that within just four days I had thought through all the key components to write my pitch deck and business plan; the product roadmap which included detailed user journeys for the minimum viable product (MVP) and a delivery plan.

One of the most useful exercises within this planning process was working through and prioritising the ‘jobs’, ‘gains’ and ‘pains’ of our potential customers so that we really focused on what our guests and hosts cared the most about. We then created a value map of how our platform was going to alleviate these pains while creating gains before setting out to test the fit with our value proposition directly with guests and hosts.

Done is better than perfect

Whilst I knew having a business plan was important, I had to move quickly and responsively. Using the “lean start up” approach, one I was familiar with from my days at Face and Pulsar, we translated the user journeys into a series of two-week sprints broken down into relevant epics, stories and feature tasks.

This agile approach to our product development meant we could iterate as we went, testing the product with our guests and hosts before each incremental part of the MVP was released.

Our goal now is to continue to make everything users do on the platform easy, seamless and effortless while at the same time pursuing Facebook’s mantra that “done is better than perfect”.

Building a business not just launching a product

I am keenly aware that getting HeadBox to market is only just the beginning to having and building a business.

One important area here has been creating a strong team of HeadBoxers around me. Having a clear mission, sense of purpose and set of values to support a strong idea has helped me to attract a set of really good people with relevant experience.

Another important area has been attracting a close group of experienced and supportive investors who had either invested in me before, or had worked with me during the last 10 years. The most prominent and a big endorsement to what we have achieved so far has been the support of Quintessentially.com and it’s founder and CEO; Aaron Simpson. He is now an investor and joins my board alongside HeadBox chairman Ralph Kugler; former main board director of Unilever Plc, Martin McCourt; former CEO of Dyson and Andy Cosslett, former CEO of InterContinental Hotels.

We launched HeadBox on Tuesday 13 October at Banking Hall with over 350 people attending and created our biggest “founding moment” so far. Here’s to creating some more!

For future updates about HeadBox’s journey (and content from previous diary bloggers), check out our Diary of a Start-up channel.

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