From being a Stelios scholar to going into business with easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Blake Reddy (MSc Banking and International Finance, 2012) has now created a new platform – easyGuide – that enables tourists to plan their trips around their interests and book tickets for various activities and experiences.
Find out more about Blake and easyGuide here:
Can you tell me about your time at Cass?
As a Sir Stelios scholar I graduated from Cass Business School in 2012 with an MSc in Banking and International Finance. The experience was probably the most valuable year of education I have had, obtaining a significant amount of industry insight, vast practical knowledgeable versus just theoretical and excellent networking opportunities.
I had my mind set on working in finance and Cass certainly helped with enabling me to successfully pursue a career in the industry.
What happened after you graduated?
After graduating from Cass, I took an investment management role in the City, but found that the pace of where I was at was not as fast paced as I had hoped for or imagined.
Early on in my career I decided to start an investment management firm of my own, focusing on providing high-net-worth private clients with a holistic investment strategy. This decision was a reflection of my longer term goals of owning and building my own business(es).
After six years in finance, I began to see the emergence and growth of tourists enjoying “living like a local”. Airbnb really pioneered this with tourists choosing to stay in local accommodation versus hotels and more recently through Airbnb Experiences.
I ended up choosing to start a new venture with Sir Stelios called easyGuide; a platform that enables tourists to discover and book tickets instantly to hundreds of exciting in-destination activities and experiences.
How did easyGuide come about?
easyGuide was the result of finding a number of pain points when travelling to various cities in Europe and never having a reliable and simple solution to discover the best things to do and instantly book tickets from my phone.
This, combined with the sector as a whole beginning to grow exponentially, led me to pitch Sir Stelios the idea and when it became apparent I could use the easy brand it was an opportunity I felt passionate about and had to pursue.
Sir Stelios is now an investor and shareholder in easyGuide as we look to grow our presence across Europe.
What have been the biggest challenges?
As with all start-up companies, wearing many hats and managing all aspects of the business is very challenging, although it can also be the most exciting.
You have to be good with the numbers to ensure you manage the capital well and allocate resources correctly. You have to be good at sales and marketing to ensure you can raise capital when needed and actually sell your product to customers. You have to be a HR professional, ensuring you find and hire the best talent. You have to be the head of operations and make sure all your systems and controls never fail. The list goes on…
What has been the most rewarding experience?
I found the first six years of my career working in finance to be a mixture of highs and lows; when the sole objective is to generate a return on your client’s investment the actual sense of reward was fairly limited as it was purely monetary.
My most rewarding experience is therefore having the sense of building something with easyGuide which members of the public from around the world can experience and enjoy. When you receive a great review or recommendation from a customer from the other side of the world you know you have actually added enjoyment to someone’s trip.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
People often tell you to follow your passions. In the literal sense, this isn’t good advice, but it should be considered to a certain extent. Find what interests you and what makes you jump out of bed in the morning. If you’re not excited to start your day then what are you really doing…
Once you have identified those interests start doing your homework and really prepare. We live in a world now where you can reduce the risk to very low levels before embarking on a new journey.
You can test your ideas quicker than ever and at a very low cost, so manage the risk by understanding what works and what doesn’t as fast as possible and iterate quickly along the way.
Your biggest risk isn’t failing, but it’s in wasting time.
Thank you to Blake for sharing his story! If you’d like to find out more about easyGuide, visit: http://www.easyguide.biz