Meet the MD: James Harrison of BillHub

Meet the MD: James Harrison of BillHub

After falling out of love with life in the City, James Harrison decided to quit his job and put all of his energy into BillHub. BQ caught up with the commodities trader turned entrepreneur to find out more about his business journey so far...

What is it the company does?

BillHub provides a platform to coordinate shared payments among students and young professional house sharers.

We’re the only payments platform for house sharers to send, spend and manage their money between housemates - like PayPal, for shared finances.

We are built on the latest e-money technology which enables us to move money around in ways some banks can’t even do right now.

The transparency and simplicity of our technology means that no house sharer ever has to be in the dark about their shared finances ever again, and more than that, the relationships in the house aren’t strained by money based arguments (the biggest cause of arguments in a house share).

 

What does your role include?

I am responsible for the running of the company on a day-to-day basis.

I communicate daily with our investors, while looking for further opportunities and oversee the various departments that we have at the company.

Another large part of my role is being the face of BillHub and interacting with various media in order to drive the brand’s exposure.

 

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I attended Bristol UWE University where I obtained a Business Enterprise degree – it was here where I first had the idea of BillHub after living a nine-bed house share.

After graduating, I got a job working in commodities trading in London but soon became disillusioned with that career and knew another path would be a more beneficial and enjoyable.

I decided to quit my job and put all my energy into BillHub, a decision that I have never regretted.

 

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think a great leader should never ask anything of one of their team that they wouldn’t be prepared to do themselves.

Respect is a huge thing for a leader to possess and simply barking order or assigning tasks is no way to build this.

A great leader also has to trust their gut instinct when it comes to making decisions. Of course you will take on board considered advice and even seek it but you have to possess the courage of your convictions. 

 

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

The biggest challenge so far has been developing the systems behind the product. It’s sounds easy to split a payment by four people and then send the money onto a provider.

A lot of our competition do it with people and excel (which is concerning in itself) instead of technology.

However, building a scalable platform to process payments in the volumes we are aiming at means it has to be robust enough to work in a variety of scenarios, adding complexity and cost.

 

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I like to exercise and go to the gym, I find that is helps take my mind off work and anything which I may be potentially worrying about.

I also do my upmost to find time to socialise with friends – I’m fortunate that a good percentage of them have migrated to London, which makes life easier.

 

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was younger, all I knew was I liked making things and solving problems. I don’t think I could ever feel like I was married to a certain job or industry.

I like that in 5 years’ time I could be part of a new project working on something completely different, in another area of the world. 

 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

It might sound a little trivial but I hate it when people leave used tea bags in the sink – it doesn’t take much effort to put them in the bin!

 

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, I envisage BillHub being used by hundreds of thousands of people across house shares in the UK.

I also believe that we would have made sufficient inroads across Europe and the USA.

In terms of personnel at the company, we would have also made huge strides and will have moved offices to accommodate this.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Don’t be afraid to follow what you believe in. If you sense yourself going down a path that isn’t inspiring or challenging you, then you have to do something about it.

Many of those closest to me doubted my decision to quit my job and pursue BillHub full-time but I knew that it would bring out the best in me.