14 Minutes of SaaS

14 Minutes of SaaS

E59: Bridget Harris, Co-founder and CEO of YouCanBook.me – 1 of 2 – My VC is Viral Cycling

Bridget Harris, CEO & Co-founder of YouCanBook.me in conversation with Stephen Cummins for the 14 Minutes of SaaS podcast. Part 1 of 2. #14MoS

E59: Bridget Harris, Co-founder and CEO of YouCanBook.me – 1 of 2 – My VC is Viral Cycling

Episode 59: 1 of 2. In this, the first of two episodes, we have CEO & Co-founder of YouCanBook.me Bridget Harris chatting with Stephen Cummins. She chats about her history and colourful CV – from Covent Garden busker to film and television to a very successful career in politics to serial product creator with her husband and co-founder Keith, to bootstrapping YouCanBook.me – appointment scheduling SaaS that has scaled to well over 40 million bookings and is on a current run rate of about 1 million bookings a month. It’s a fully distributed company of 15 with management and design in the UK, Engineering in Spain and Customer Success in the US. It’s in the leadership quadrant for online appointment scheduling in G2.
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Bridget Harris part 1 – SaaStock 2018 14MoS – 14 Minutes of SaaS Transcript
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Bridget Harris

And when I was 14, living in London, it was one of the most obvious things to do ..is you go busking. I mean nowadays busking is a lot more heavily regulated, but those days (like 30 years ago), you could just literally walk into anywhere in the underground or Covent Garden and put your case down. The thing about it is that you open up your case – and people walking by didn’t ask you to play – they don’t know what you’re going to play – and that’s a bit like launching a product. You know you’re launching something out into the into the world hoping somebody is going to notice you. And to this day that feeling of somebody putting their money into my fiddle case – and I just aren’t some money – and I could earn good money busking – always makes me feel like ‘well that’s my fallback’ … you know and if YouCanBook.me and everything else goes to the ground, my fallback will be busking.

Bridget Harris

Stephen Cummins

You can book me but you can’t VC me! Why did you bootstrap all the way?

Bridget Harris

Online scheduling has this natural viral loop. So as a result we could see a natural and very organic growth rate that was kind of presented in front of us. That allowed us to grow and make mistakes more slowly. So bootstrapping definitely stretches stuff out for longer than VC funded experiences and it just suited us better. So after a while we just doubled down on that choice.

Stephen Cummins

Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS, the show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable ScaleUps.

Stephen Cummins

In this, the first of a chat spanning two episodes, we have CEO and co-founder of YouCanBook.me Bridget Harris chatting with me Stephen Cummins. She chats about her history and colourful CV from Covent Garden busker to film and television to a very successful career in politics to serial product creator with her husband and co-founder Keith to bootstrapping YouCanBook.me – appointment scheduling SaaS that’s scaled to well over 40 million bookings on a current run rate of about one million bookings a month. It’s a fully distributed company of 15 with management designed in the UK, engineering in Spain and customer success in the US … and it’s consistently in the leadership quadrant in the G2 grid for online appointment scheduling.

Okay for the live audience here ancestor I’m with the wonderful Brigitte Harris CEO and co-founder. YouCanBook.me here on the SaaStock podcast stage – and this is for 40 minutes as SaaS. Welcome Bridget!

Bridget Harris

Hello Stephen. Thank you.

Stephen Cummins

So tell me. Give me the 90 second version of who is Brigitte Harris … prior to you setting out on your entrepreneurial journey.

Bridget Harris

I’ve had actually lots of different careers Stephen and I had one of those portfolio careers which is a polite way of saying you know … trying to figure out what you want to do in life. But I started off actually working in film and television … so my first career was working as a vision mixer and an operator for live TV, and then I worked in film as a runner, and for adverts and things and so I drifted took me through university. And after that I got a real hold over my interest in politics.

So I went into politics. Ran an MPs’ office in Westminster. And then kind of made my way up a political ladder in the UK parliament, and then after that local governments. So I’ve done 15 years of work around political engagement, democratic theory, representation, all sorts of good stuff like that. I worked for Lib Dem ministers and others. My interest really is in constitutional change. And at the same time latterly myself and my husband Keith had always been working on web projects. And basically if you work in politics your first your first and only real purpose is to try to get people to agree with you and vote for you and do all of those sorts of things. So Keith and I had been working together for a long time. He’s a developer and we’d worked a long time on our web campaigns, political database, voter contact type things.

And so we basically proved that we could work together, and in the meantime Keith had started to … we’d started to build and develop products together. So SaaS products essentially. We built quite a few of them. Had quite a lot of starts and failures. And actually I did a presentation a few years ago about the 10 products that we built before YouCanBook.me.

Stephen Cummins

10!

Bridget Harris

So YouCanBook.me is our first company, but it’s not our first product. And so 6 years ago, almost to the day … I did one of those really big major things an entrepreneur has to do to run their companies. You give up your full time job and you start running your company and expression I think is that ‘you go all in’.

So I sort of took my experience of working in these different industries as a professional and I basically started to learn the ropes again of how to build up a company.

Stephen Cummins

Now before we talk about the amazing achievement that is you can book me. You busked, and I believe the first time you did that was in Victoria Station. How did it feel? … that first coin … was it like the first sale for YouCanBook.me?

Bridget Harris

I think there’s a lot of parallels here Stephen. Yeah. I’m an Irish and Scottish folk fiddle player. And when I was 14, living in London, it was one of the most obvious things to do ..is you go busking. I mean nowadays busking is a lot more heavily regulated, but those days (like 30 years ago), you could just literally walk into anywhere in the underground or Covent Garden and put your case down. The thing about it is that you open up your case – and people walking by didn’t ask you to play – they don’t know what you’re going to play – and that’s a bit like launching a product. You know you’re launching something out into the into the world hoping somebody is going to notice you. And to this day that feeling of somebody putting their money into my fiddle case – and I just aren’t some money – and I could earn good money busking – always makes me feel like ‘well that’s my fallback’ … you know and if YouCanBook.me and everything else goes to the ground, my fallback will be busking.

Because what you can do is that you can generate basically business right there – just by playing your instrument. And I tell this to, you know, to people who are learning instruments right now. It’s a great way to make money, but it also – you know I didn’t know at that point I was gonna become an entrepreneur – but t I think you need the same sort of gumption to stand there and start playing. You know you launch your product into the world – you say ‘look I’ve decided that this is a problem that I’m going to solve this way and I you know I want you to pay attention to me’ – and you’re not entitled for them to pay attention to you, just like you can’t force people in Victoria Station to like what you play. But if you do it well, then yes you can make some money.

Stephen Cummins

Brilliant! So you always had that entrepreneurial itch. And maybe that ability to get over the fear to do this.

Bridget Harris

Yes!

Stephen Cummins

Harold Wilson once said a week is a long time in politics. Now that you’ve left politics … Bridget …  Would you agree that a week is never long enough in StartUp Land?

Bridget Harris

Oh my goodness! You know we we’ve gone for like a one week sprint to a two week sprint to a seven months sprint to a five year sprint. No I mean … one week is … right now I am trying to … we’re trying to retrain our team to basically land on Friday afternoon having roughly achieved maybe 80 per cent of what we set out to do on a Monday. And there’s always more to do and in fact actually here at SaaStock …

Patrick Campbell did an amazing talk this morning-  from Profitwell – around founder work-life expectations and founder mental health and management and essentially understanding what you’re trying to achieve. And I think that we do ourselves a disservice if we say you know you can get it all done in hyperventilation of growth. Actually it can be very stressful. I think founders and any entrepreneurs need to understand the context. And one of the advantages of being a vision mixer for a live television show is that in the middle of an outbreak you have five minutes – and actually sitting there for five minutes waiting to come back online again is a very long time when you’re sat there in the gallery.

And it also if something goes wrong and you’ve only got two minutes, you start to know how much you can achieve in two minutes. Equally in politics, as you said … a week … the press officer that I used to work with used to say you know today’s paper is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers. You know like … it’s like whatever news is happening today you have to be able to cut through that. And it’s the same really in the business that we’re in.

Stephen Cummins

I actually interviewed Patrick yesterday – and what I loved about interviewing is how open he was about about his struggles as a founder – and it takes a bit of courage.

Bridget Harris

Very raw! Very raw! … It does!

Stephen Cummins

A very, very human person. Gave me a big hug after interviewing him. Just the type of guy he is.

Bridget Harris

 

Stephen Cummins

 

A very, very human person. Gave me a big hug after interviewing him. Just the type of guy he is.

 

 

Harold Wilson once said a week is a long time in politics. Now that you’ve left politics … Bridget …  Would you agree that a week is never long enough in StartUp Land?

Bridget Harris

 

Stephen Cummins

 

Harold Wilson once said a week is a long time in politics. Now that you’ve left politics … Bridget …  Would you agree that a week is never long enough in StartUp Land?

Bridget Harris

 

Stephen Cummins

You can book me but you can’t VC me! Why did you bootstrap all the way?

 

Bridget Harris

We did it through … partly inexperience … like everybody we were told that’s the way to go. And we had conversations and we talked to people. But we didn’t do it very seriously. I think we did a couple of pitches to VCs, but I would look back in embarrassment about them now. I think now I know what a real pitch to VC actually needs to include. I think our pitches were kind of awful.

 

 

But I also think there was a part of intuition as to what kind of business did we want to build. It’s a bit like asking me why was I a busker and not a concert violin player? Why wasn’t I going to play in an orchestra? Why was I basically you know jobbing around Covent Garden? And it’s just … it’s in a way what you have to do what naturally feels right. YouCanBook.me with the products that we’d built earlier … it was obvious to us we weren’t gonna be able to succeed in growing them without external investment. Basically the whole job of finding customers and finding growth and product market fit would have required funding.

 

Where as with YouCanBook.me online scheduling has this natural viral loop. So as a result we could see a natural and very organic growth rate that was kind of presented in front of us. That allowed us to grow and make mistakes more slowly. So bootstrapping definitely stretches stuff out for longer than VC funded experiences and it just suited us better. So after a while we just doubled down on that choice.

 

Stephen Cummins

 

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills. And to Ketsu for the music. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoyed the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.

 

 

In the concluding episode of our chat, Bridget talks hiring remote first people. And when it comes to founders … she says they need to be alive, intentional, patient and prepared to land planes in the dark – over and over again.

14 Minutes of SaaS