My Creative Life: Paul Wickers, CEO, Huggg
Creative Business News regularly gives a prominent member of the region’s creative sector the chance to reflect on their career, their work and their ambitions by answering 10 questions about themselves.
Job title: CEO
Current company: Huggg
My big break: I wish I were more idealistic about life, I really do, but I don’t really believe in big breaks. I think that the amount of breaks you get in life are broadly in proportion to how hard you work, because the more you put yourself out there, the more likely the break is to happen. I really subscribe to ‘the harder I work, the luckier I seem to be’ mentality.
My first job: My first job was as a waiter in the Blackburn Rovers hospitality boxes. It was really hard work and I’d go home smelling like broccoli. I actually fluffed the first interview for this because in the section of the application marked ‘referee’, I left it blank because I thought it had something to do with my skills as a football referee! My first real proper job was straight from university onto a corporate banking scheme graduate scheme for RBS. This is every bit as boring as it sounds, initially, and about as far removed from a creative life as it is possible to get. But I then found my feet in an area of banking called leveraged finance and went on to have a 13-year banking career that I loved and was an incredible learning experience in all things business. It ultimately gave me the platform to go and start a business from scratch.
My current role: I’m the founder/CEO of Huggg. Huggg is an app that enables a person to make their messages edible. So imagine a friend is having a bad day, instead of just texting you can instead send him or her a coffee ‘huggg’ and they can walk into a partner store to turn that message into real coffee in their hands. Download and try it here, it has an amazing impact on the soul.
My typical day: This is a complete misnomer, as there isn’t a typical day. So let me describe today: Up at 6.30am due to various children jumping on our bed (we have four little ones so don’t bother with an alarm). Out by 7.30am and this morning I had to travel to London to meet a potential future investor. To Bristol Temple Meads station and on the train by 8.30am, spent the journey finalising some pitch deck slides and answering the morning’s email queries. Had a 90-minute meeting with the potential investor – this is a good sign, as time is money and it would otherwise have been only 10 minutes. Found a quiet spot to eat and catch up with more emails and then set about a task for the rest of the afternoon to look into our conversion funnelling, because we need to brief developers on any feature enhancements that it would entail. Tonight I will stay with a friend in London, so that I can get to an 8am breakfast meeting with another potential investor. But that part is very unusual and more normally I’d try to be home to help with the children at bedtime, before carrying on with work until midnight or often beyond.
My proudest moment/project: In working life this would probably be what we have done with Huggg so far. In personal life, it’d be the day I got to show off our first little baby to my family.
My best piece of advice: If you are thinking about starting a business, then do not underestimate just how hard it will be, and the completely overwhelming impact that it will have on your life. The highs are higher than having a job, but the lows are also most certainly lower and you need to have somebody around you to scrape you up off the floor now and again.
My ambition (that I haven’t yet achieved): I like to think big, so I want to create a business that becomes a household name around the world, an ‘I can’t believe this didn’t always exist’ kind of household name, so that my kids can see it every day and tell people that their daddy made it. I’m starting to sound like a X Factor sob story show reel now, but that’s just the truth.
My favourite creative work/campaign (that I haven’t worked on): This is easy. An advert that came out of Thailand that is a beautiful example of how marketing can alter a state of mind in a couple of short minutes. Here’s the link, I guarantee it will hit you: This is karma
My predictions for the creative sector: I have been working in the creative (well, creative technology) arena for a relatively short amount of time, so I feel somewhat underqualified to answer this. But what I can comment on is a more macro view on the importance of creative design, especially in tech. Even software created for FTSE 250 enterprise clients, such as email clients and even expenses software, needs to look beautiful these days, because it’s become more widely recognised that a person in a suit is still a person, and that we should all get joy even from the mundane. Everything disruptive starts with the principle that it should be a joy to use (and look at) and carry no friction, and as everything in the world is being disrupted by technology, the creative industry will see huge and sustained growth for the foreseeable. Y’know the three founders of AirBnB (tech’s hottest property) are designers by background.
My inspiration: It’s no one person but I do turn to the collective mental capacity of Silicon Valley’s best thinkers, the content of which can be easily found online. Search for Peter Thiel, Paul Graham, Brian Chesky, Reid Hoffman etc. for business guidance. Oh, and download Huggg here.