#187 - "When your back is up against the wall, that's when you do your most creative work"

An interview with Paul Wickers, Founder and CEO Huggg.me

This podcast interview focuses on the journey and the big resilience lessons learned by a startup as it moved from start, to launch, various pivots towards ultimate success. My guest is Paul Wickers, Founder, and CEO of Huggg.me

Paul spent 14 years in the Structured Finance team at RBS and then Santander. During this time he came to study the social economics of the greetings card industry. He realized that the success of physically sending a greeting card in the offline world had never been achieved in the online world. This helped him develop the insight that the principles of giving and receiving emotionally impactful gifts could be applied in a digital way – it just had to be done in a different way. 

This became the launch of Huggg in 2015. Paul build the platform in his spare time, left his job in 2016, and the platform was first launched in July 2017. But the journey of his company wasn’t an instant success from the start. And it’s the story of business resilience that really caught my attention – and inspired me to invite Paul to my podcast. 

Listening to this interview will feel like watching a movie trailer unfold. We explore the lessons Paul learned as he took his product to market. Initially towards Consumers, later towards Business to Business. We discuss the importance of product-market fit. We discuss his lessons learned when it comes to allocating funding to the right levers in the business. We go through what happened when COVID hit the world – the rationalization that followed, then the hibernation, then the rebirth, and finally how sheer perseverance and focusing on the problem, not the product helped him succeed. 

Here are some of his quotes:

At the start, any startup idea, especially if it’s novel, is a great big bag of all the things that are likely to go wrong. Because in all likelihood, it won’t be a success, it’s just statistically unlikely for you to actually succeed. 

So on day one, you’ve got a great big bag of problems that you’re going to have to overcome. And your job over time is to make that bag lighter before you take it to an investor. Because the more of those risks you’ve gotten rid of, and you’ve got a lighter bag, when you go forward to raise the next round of money, the better your proposition is because you don’t want to prove it. 

Now what I spent was too long on like creating the first product and not enough time just knocking over those barriers. Actually, because I underestimated I was confident that the idea would work. And I didn’t realize how hard product-market fit is. 

During this interview, you will learn four things:

  1. That if you can create a constant feeling of genuine urgency around the mission you’ll get the best out of people longer term.
  2. That your company will become stronger by being plain honest about what’s the real situation in a crisis situation. It helps create great bonding
  3. That nothing is ever as bad or as good as it first seems. 
  4. That when one thing goes away, other things will open up. So focus on the positive things that you can do, rather than the negative 

For more information about the guest from this week:


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About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.