Trending Startups: Interview With James Harrison, Founder of BillHub

BillHub is revolutionising the way housemates live together.  For even the most experienced, managing your utilities and collecting money from other housemates isn’t preferred extracurricular activity, but BillHub makes this process secure, transparent and user friendly, through features that help you stay in control of your costs, look after your money, reduce late payments, and intuitively share payments with other housemates or lodgers.

-= Purpose =-

What problem did you set out to fix in this world? How did you want to disrupt or disrupted your industry? What inspired you do this?

While at university I lived in large house shares, throughout my experience of house sharing one thing constantly caused problems – sharing household expenses. After rent, utility bills can be the second largest monthly expense whether you are sharing the bills or not, there aren’t many places you can keep track of it all, apart from stuffing letters in the kitchen draw or painstakingly keeping track of a complex spreadsheet. Which is madness in 2016! We believe the main cause of household fallouts – money – should be more transparent, secure and fair for every tenant, in doing so making shared living a better experience for everyone!

How did you make it happen? Did you write a business plan, had a clear strategy and a business model or did you just started doing it and then figured it out in the process. Has your initial vision changed since the launch?

In the very early days, we wrote a basic business plan to work out if it could be a viable business and made a landing page to test if anyone apart from us even wanted it. We got such a positive result that we decided to take the idea forward. Since then, the vision of BillHub has changed a lot. In the beginning, we thought it was all about splitting household bills, but it’s so much more than that, it’s about having a great experience living with your closest friends. Sharing a home isn’t always plain sailing and money-based arguments are the most likely cause of friction. So our vision now is to make shared living a great experience for every housemate by providing a range of tools that make it transparent, secure and fair.

What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Making the platform free to use was one of the hardest and easiest decisions we ever made. We want BillHub to be accessible to anyone, in order to do that we had to find a way to make it free. It’s surprising how much transaction fees add up.

-= Advice: From launch to funding=- 

What would be your tip for someone looking for an investment? How did you find your investors? 

Securing investment involves working with great people and making a great product. Working with great people starts with a great idea, making the product great was easy for us. We ask our community what they want. We have an incredibly engaged user base; they tell us what they want and what they don’t. Regular pizza and beer evenings hosted at our offices really help us connect with our users and listen to their needs, which in turn guides the product development.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to startup founders? What do founders need to focus on in order to be successful?

You have to be prepared to go to your lowest low and work harder than you ever thought you were capable of. After all, you get out what you put in. One, work smart but also be prepared to work hard. Two, take the time to celebrate the small victories. Three, believe in yourself.

-= Productivity & Constant Learning=- 

unnamedWhat are your favourite apps that make your live easier and media sites that you read every day to stay up to date?

My favourite convenience app at the moment has to be Deliveroo, although, I have a love-hate relationship with it…My waistline isn’t thanking me! Uber is a close second.

Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Who do you learn from how to grow your business?

In the early days, we received seed funding from Start-direct, a Government back startup program. They’ve been great with us and even helped us find a mentor and build the business. Obviously, Richard Branson is up there as one of the all-time great entrepreneurs, if we do progress to the final stages of VOOM it would be a dream come true to meet him and listen to what he has to say.

-= Future=-

Where do you see your company in a few years’ time and what are your thoughts on the future of your industry how is it changing?

In a world where rising property rental and purchase prices mean more people are sharing a home with others, and for longer periods of their life, a robust solution to shared finances is the only logical step forward for the sharing economy of today and tomorrow.

At BillHub, we want to be the go-to platform for shared finances. The design ethos from the start has been focused around scalability, so ultimately we are looking to expand into other territories.

What kinds of companies or particular technologies are you most excited about right now and what trends do you think are over-hyped?

The payments industry has a lot going on at the moment, especially in London. The current trend is toward products focused on underserved niche markets, areas banks and other traditional institutions have overlooked. It’s understandable that the big players would focus on big markets, but in reality niche markets in the payments industry are still multi-billion pound propositions.