Ex-investment banker turned entrepreneur talks to us exclusively about his startup with a charitable twist!
Andrew O’Brien’s startup taps into the 167,000 charities registered in the UK, which collectively receive over £10 billion annually in donations. GoodBox provides a range of contactless payment solutions for charities in a bid to modernise the coin-collection box.
GoodBox has managed to incredibly raise over £2.5 million on Seedrs – the equity crowdfunding platform. Read Andrew’s story and tips explaining his journey to success!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Did you always know you wanted to be self-employed?
I have always wanted to feel self-employed. In my previous career with externally imposed working schedules, I didn’t feel as empowered as I might otherwise have done. I think we are witnessing a societal workplace revolution here in the UK. Employers are coming to find that the best people for their businesses thrive with freedom. In my opinion, empowering team members with an ownership and flexibility to fulfil their functions brings out the best in them. The key lies in finding the right people.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Married with two beautiful little children. Irish/Australian heritage. I broke family tradition and pursued a career away from horse racing (both my father and grandfather trained horses). I grew up in France, studied in Boston, USA and have since lived in London, Johannesburg and Manchester. Post studies I spent a decade working in investment banking at Credit Suisse and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China. In 2016, along with my Co-Founder, Francesca, I decided to throw in the towel and take the plunge into entrepreneurialism!
How are things going at the moment for Goodbox?
Momentum is great, engagement is strong and excitement is high.
What is the best thing about Goodbox and what is the USP?
Purpose built will always trump generic offerings from a product perspective. We do not need to worry about the generic implications of a tweak to our solutions, instead in each instance, we ask ourselves the question: do these benefit charities and donor engagement? If yes, we do it. If no, we move on.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
Helping tens of thousands of charities globally engage with their donor bases.
Are you scared of failure?
Yes, but not overly so. A business decision cannot be well reasoned without an adequate awareness of the downside.
What are the main risks facing the business?
Balancing growth with stability will be key. In addition, ensuring that we as a team can evolve our skillsets as the company grows is important. Finally, hardware + platform stability and reliability are absolutely crucial to our continued existence.
“nobody has a monopoly of wisdom”
What would you say to somebody who is thinking to go self-employed but isn’t sure?
Be candid about what you are not good at and find the right people to plug those gaps. To steal a quote from Obama, “nobody has a monopoly of wisdom”. Complacency is the biggest inherent risk to a manager.
What’s the first bit of advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of starting their own business?
Focus on the idea and the team that will make it great.
What characteristics does a startup entrepreneur require to succeed?
I think it varies. For me, the right balance is struck between curiosity, commitment and attention to detail.
One of the biggest themes in our space at the moment is having the right online presence. How crucial is it to have a website designed well and it’s accompanying online presence?
I find the UX and UI of websites to be fascinating. Slick and appealing is important, but how is it then that Amazon and Booking.com do not look the prettiest yet dominate their sectors? I would argue that Alibaba falls into the same category. Balancing the aesthetic with functionality and output is crucial, and we are very much focused on this.
“There is no need to quit a career to pursue a dream on a whim. Instead, I suggest extra-curricular work to understand an idea, verify its potential…”
Is the risk of starting your own business worth it–no matter the outcome?
I don’t necessarily think a leap of faith is required. A step of confidence is just fine! There is no need to quit a career to pursue a dream on a whim. Instead, I suggest extra-curricular work to understand an idea, verify its potential, and ensure that you have adequate runway (even if small) to maintain your basic needs. Be ready for doubt and tough times, these are the greatest tests of one’s willpower. An investor once told me that you are not a true entrepreneur until you have slept on your friend’s floor and cried in a bathtub!
What’s an unexpected way to grow your customer base?
I feel that traditional models used to propagate an idea are fast becoming stale in the idea of an investor. They need to see evidence of organic traction rather than a budget that consists of 50% marketing. Our model self-promotes, thereby allowing us to shift much of our focus to continuing to improve and evolve our products.
If you would like to invest in GoodBox, you can do so for a limited time, by visiting their Seeds crowdfunding page.
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