Bumper Co-Founders: How to Be a Great Entrepreneur

Bumper Co-Founders: How to Be a Great Entrepreneur

Author: Niki Brown, People Team

Today is World Entrepreneurs’ Day, and in aid of this, we are celebrating our very own co-founders, James Jackson and Jack Allman!

I spent some time with James and Jack and picked their brains about how Bumper came to be, what they think makes a successful business, and the key traits someone would need to be a strong entrepreneur.

The idea for what is now Bumper, was first thought up by James when speaking with a contact in the industry who had crunched some numbers on repair costs, and had identified that Peugeot-Citroën were losing around £1 billion a year from identified repair work that wasn’t being sold. This led to James developing a Buy Now Pay Later solution for this type of work in the automotive industry, then called Auto Service Finance. 

After receiving some funding from friends and family, James was introduced to the Allmans – he pitched the business idea to them and they developed a deal to launch the product to their dealers. 

Guy Allman suggested Jack’s involvement, and then, in James’ words, he ‘realised how brilliant and energetic Jack was’, which was when Jack went from 1-2 days a week to being an integral part of Auto Service Finance.

James’ key piece of advice for being a budding entrepreneur would be to first work in a business that does the thing they want to create before setting up the business. This is when you meet key stakeholders in the industry and start to understand all the elements that you need to launch that kind of startup. James had previously worked at 3 tech startups before launching this product and Jack had been at an automotive tech startup. This is where they both gained key contacts in the industry, and the know-how on what to do, and what not to do. 

James said this is key when it comes to gaining funding. Investors are not only investing in an idea, but they are also investing in the people who are driving it. In the early days, James and Jack put together a team of people who they knew were credible and had been successful in working with previously. It seems there is some truth in the adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.

When discussing the key to getting a new business off the ground, James cites a Ted Talk that he recently sent to Jack. It was centred around 5 reasons startups succeed or fail – the idea, the team, funding, the business model, and timing. By far the biggest factor in the research was timing. Both Uber and Airbnb launched at the height of the financial crash in 2008; a time when people were more inclined to rent their rooms out for extra money or to drive strangers around in their cars when they had lost their job. 

James points out that the launch of Auto Service Finance was well-timed as the automotive sector was becoming more digital and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) was about to boom, just before Klarna gained traction. In fact, early funding rounds for Auto Service Finance happened at the same time as Klarna and BNPL were expanding. The Covid Pandemic, and subsequently dealers having to rely on digital solutions, was also a big help when pitching the product to dealers. 

It seems Bumper has managed to tick all boxes – it’s a sterling idea, we have a great team, it’s well-funded, it has a strong business model, and the launch was perfectly timed. (James also made sure to get in there that it would never have happened without its inspirational founders…). Jack adds that a huge amount of luck also helps, as well as the characteristics of the team you put in place. Persistence and tenacity are key – he says there were some pretty dark times in the early days of Bumper, where the team needed to band together and help each other get through it.

This leads us to talk about traits that best help a person become a successful entrepreneur. James reiterates Jack’s point – tenacity is needed on every level. He says that when it came to fundraising, there were so many knockbacks, and the same is true from a sales perspective too. He goes on to say that really they have spent their careers being rejected by everyone. James credits Jack for supporting him and being the person to cheer him up in those dark times. James says he would’ve hated to have done this alone and would’ve given up a long time ago. 

To that point, Jack says optimism is important too; even when certain markets don’t go as well as you’d hoped, you have to find the positives where you can. He says that he’d like to think that optimism is felt throughout the company, where we all have a glass-half-full attitude, nothing is impossible, and no matter how bad things get we find a way around it and persevere. This requires a level of adaptability too. Jack expresses that as much as you think this is how the business will run, or these are the markets you’ll launch in, or these are the products you’ll launch, it never works out that way. Bumper have had so many curve balls thrown at them, and being adaptable and flexible is essential.

James states that you also need to love every aspect of the job – James and Jack are clearly dedicated and are always thinking about the business in some form, and that’s because they love it and are energised by it. The money is not what drives them – it’s the joy of building the product and the company, having amazing customers, and building something that could be here and still be being used in 30 years’ time.

The final trait that Jack thinks is key to being successful, is the ability to get others to come along with you on the journey. Being able to inspire others to be as optimistic, energised, and excited by the product and the company as you are is important. Similarly to James’ earlier point, Jack says that one wouldn’t be able to do this alone and therefore you have to be able to get along with people and build a strong team around you. Being a good storyteller helps to get buy-in from others into your brand, both internally and externally. It is felt across Bumper that when a new starter joins the team, they are immediately bought into the product, the culture, and the company as a whole.

I was interested to see if either of them had glimmers of entrepreneurial traits when they were younger and asked what they both wanted to be when they were kids. After some thinking, Jack settled on either a professional sportsman or an architect. Interestingly, James also said an architect, before admitting that when he was 13 years old he wanted to be an investment banker, which frankly Jack and I could hardly believe.

Thankfully, James didn’t become an investment banker and instead created this amazing company we’re all working for - here’s to the entrepreneurs!

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