Read how a teenage holiday to Egypt, a bad experience during a house sale and a twist of fate led Daniel Hall (MSc Management 2010) to set up Hubbite Ltd – a social review website. Here he discusses how the business idea came about and the challenges he has faced along the way:
What gave you the idea for your business?
I’ve had the idea for about 10 years now. I went to Sharm El Sheikh when I was 19 and stayed in the Ritz Carlton. The first review I read on TripAdvisor was by someone who said he had been to all the best 5 star hotels in the world and that this was never a 5 star hotel and not to stay there. Having now been to a lot of 5 star resorts myself it probably wasn’t 5 star, but at 19 it was a great hotel to stay in. If I had listened to his advice I wouldn’t have had the great holiday that I did.
I regularly have friends asking me for recommendations and often hear of people going to places after seeing another friend go there on Instagram. I then realised people frequently read reviews and make decisions based upon them, but they have no idea if:
1. They are real
2. The person who wrote the review is similar to them. Opinions are based on age, gender, religion, culture, social class, level of education, how much someone earns, life experiences and so on. Most reviews you read online are likely to be irrelevant if you have nothing in common with the person who has written it
The idea behind Hubbite is to create a space where friends can share and recommend places to visit. I was already building the site, but the need for it became more apparent in 2017. I was buying a house and the conveyancer we chose had mostly good reviews online. These hid the ‘real’ reviews however. Their service was the worst that I’ve ever experienced yet if I had read only real reviews I would never have hired them and would never have had to put up with such a bad service and a lot of stress as a result. Hubbite has been built as a place for discovery. There is no better marketing than word of mouth.
How did it feel when your business launched?
At the time of writing the site has only launched in Beta (the stage before a full roll out). People can use the site and we already have members using it regularly but it won’t be ‘officially’ launched until the end of 2018.
What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting out?
Actually getting started was the hardest thing. I’ve been running a very successful adwords management business for about 6 years now and spent roughly 70 hours per week on that, so finding the time to actually get the site built was hard, but I realised I was never going to achieve what I want to in life just through adwords management so I worked even longer hours to get the site designed and built.
Nearly everyone out there has ideas, but very few actually get started on them – whether this is because they don’t have the time, the money or the skill set, I don’t know. Every successful business was started by someone actually taking the time and the risk to launch it.
What have been the key lessons learned from the whole process?
Having a co-founder is a great move. I’ve always read that the best investors only invest in companies with at least 2 founders, but I have always gone it alone. This is where a twist of fate played a helping hand. I was approached by David, my now co-founder, who asked me to help him out on a different business. In passing I told him about an idea I was working on and he offered to join the project. We devoted our time and energy in to Hubbite rather than the original business (an ad tech start up). Before David approached me about his business I hadn’t met a good developer that I wanted to work with.
David has been great to bounce ideas off of and without him the site would not have several of the features that it currently has. As a technical co-founder he has also helped the site become a reality. We’ve made several big changes during development and that would have been hard to do had we hired someone to do the work instead. As co-founder, David has a vested interest in the success of the site so no change has been too big and he always finds a solution to problems.
What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Keep working hard and you’ll be successful regardless of your field. There are millions of geniuses out there who don’t follow their dreams. The successful people, more often than not, are the people that work hard.
If you fail, you fail. Get over it. It’s all a learning experience that you can take to your next venture. I’ve been running and launching businesses since I was 16 and have made every mistake along the way. Now that I’ve made all of those mistakes, with Hubbite I’ve yet to make any. There is no substitute for experience.
How did your time at the Business School prepare you for setting up your own business?
I took the Entrepreneurship and Innovation pathway (and won the award for being the best on it!). The major takeaway from that for me was the information I learned about trademarks and how to protect an idea. I had no idea about any of this before business school but this month (June 2018) Hubbite was awarded its Trademark in several classes. We are also hoping to gain first mover advantage through which we hope to build a big userbase before our competitors copy the idea. Watch this space!