Andrew Needham is a serial entrepreneur whose innovative and disruptive thinking has led to three successful ventures. The latest, Headbox, a company born from frustration, scribbled on the back of a post-it note, is changing the way people think about and find event space/s. Find out how the “Airbnb of event spaces” was started, why asking “why” is so important and what it is like to work for Andrew.
Where did the idea for HeadBox come from?
Before HeadBox I was CEO and Founder of Face, a global tech driven insight consultancy, working with large corporate clients such as Unilever, Nokia and Coca Cola. HeadBox was born from frustration and the need to find yet another amazing space at very short notice for one of my largest clients to deliver an important stakeholder workshop. Within half an hour I was surrounded by post it notes taking down different bits of information from different spaces. The whole process was alarmingly out of date, too slow, very inefficient and incredibly time consuming.
Eventually I found a venue that met all the criteria I was looking for. But not where I was expecting to find it. The space I settled on was a very cool private cinema that was sitting empty during the day. The client loved it and I got an idea. Scribbled on one of my post-its, in a frenzied scrawl, was my vision for a company. A company that would do this very job – unlock thousands of under-utilised spaces, opening them up to being used for meetings, off-sites and events. A company that opened up people’s imagination to the different uses and applications of space; that would change the way we think about space; what we do and what we create in a space. And crucially, it would be a website where it made the whole process much, easier, simpler and faster.
Is this your first venture?
HeadBox is my third venture. My first was Student Pages, which I founded at Edinburgh University in 1989. My second was Face from 2003- 2014.
Marc Andreessen’s famous article from 2011 “Why Software is eating the World?” is true. Every company is a software company or has to become one. We’ve seen across multiple sectors not just how technology is disrupting established business models but re-defining them. According to Forbes, by 2025 over half of the global work force will be made up of millennials. This hyper connected, technology savvy generation expect a faster, simpler, easy, personal and relevant customer experience that requires technology to deliver. So companies need to be digitally agile to stay ahead of today’s customer.
Who has been the most important person to your business?
I’m very proud of the whole HeadBox team who make brilliant things happen daily. There are many people along the way who have had a huge positive effect on our journey so far. As Steve Jobs said, “great things in business are never done by one person they’re done by a team of people”.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
The best piece of business advice I’ve received is from Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’. All great companies start by defining their “why” and then focus on how they are going to deliver it. We’re very clear that we’re here to change the events industry through technology, so every decision we make is guided by that fundamental purpose. If you start with “why” you also never stop asking “why”. Both are key to solving problems and continuous innovation.
What is the hardest lesson you have had to learn?
Always keep looking forward and not to dwell on past mistakes. You must have the ability to let go of that negativity and channel all your energy into what’s ahead of you.
Are you more emotional or rational?
Emotional. I believe that emotions can fuel very rational important decision making, if directed in the right way. I often think that sailing, something I love, is a great analogy for this. The sail captures the winds of emotion that drives the boat forward with purpose. The same could be said in business, if you apply your emotions in a positive way and with a sense of purpose then you can often achieve more than you initially thought.
How many times have you been told no?
I think anyone who has started their own business has been told no on more than one occasion. The more I’m told no, the more I’m determined to prove that person wrong.
What is it like to work for you?
During all of my ventures I’ve always tried to lead by example to inspire my team. There’s certainly never a dull moment in the HeadBox office. We work at a very fast and intense pace, so I’d say energising and dynamic. I have high expectations so I imagine the team would say it’s hard work at times but hopefully very rewarding.
If you could go back 5 years, is there a decision you would make differently?
If I could go back in time, I would have another child to add to the Needham clan.
Who has influenced you the most professionally?
A quote that has stayed with me since my early twenties is, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’ Said by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
What’s your first thought when you wake up?
If you were guaranteed the answer to one question, what would it be?
Will the England football team win another world cup in my lifetime?