“WE HAD TOO MANY PLATES SPINNING…”

For the sibling founders of the Luckytrip travel app, family fortune means leaving politeness at the door

On the face of it, two entrepreneurs working alongside each other should mean double the output, but the opposite was true for brothers Tiff and Alex Burns. Here, the London-based founders of the LuckyTrip travel app explain how they learned to work together effectively – and took their idea from a kitchen table start-up to the front page of Apple’s App Store, picking up 12 full-time staff and hundreds of thousands of users in the process.

Alex – We both came from different professional backgrounds, with Tiff working in management consulting and me in the creative sector. I had founded a couple of recording studios and was enjoying running them, when Tiff and I started talking about how complicated it was to go away for a weekend and how there are so many steps in the process – selecting the destination, booking the accommodation, sorting the flights and so on. We thought there must be a better way of doing it and came up with LuckyTrip. You set your budget and tap the button, and it will provide a place to go, the best flights and hotels, and something to do when you get there.

Tiff –  The more we thought about the concept, the more we liked it, so we created a one-page website with an image showing how it might work. I was working for a big company back then and I pushed the link out to their entire email list, which very nearly got me fi red. However, lots of people got in touch; they really liked what we’d done and gave us feedback. Some people even signed up. We were sure we were on the right track.

We spent 1,000 hours on design and testing, and raising investment. This was all on our kitchen table on a shoestring budget and just to get to a ‘minimum viable product’ was exhausting, but we did it. We launched the app and we even went down to Liverpool Street station in London to hand out A4 pages to commuters, telling them to download the app. We got moved on pretty quickly.

Tiff – Back then, my main job was on one of the top graduate schemes in the UK, so I don’t think our parents really knew what I was doing when I gave it all up to work on LuckyTrip. But we two brothers had a really good relationship and a solid business idea, and I was convinced we could make a success of it.

Alex –  I’ve started businesses with friends before, but I know Tiff better than anyone and I completely trust his judgment. I know he’s going to be honest with me and not having that extra layer of politeness to contend with means that we can move on things quickly. So many start-ups fail because of a fall-out between the founders. We have a few heated discussions now and again, but if it ever gets too heated it’s probably just because I’m hungry…

Tiff –  When we first started working together, we didn’t split our time effectively at all. I guess that, given we’re brothers, you might assume we have similar skill sets. We used to work on everything together at the same time and we obsessed over the fi nest details. For example, we would labour over the filter we might put on an image for social media or spend hours on the exact phrase we were going to use in a small piece of marketing. It got a bit mad. After a while we realised we were just trying to spin too many plates and were moving too slowly because of that.

Alex – The business was getting busier and busier, but we weren’t keeping pace with the demands. We eventually realised that we have different things to offer and we should trust each other to just take care of the things that we’re each good at.

I started looking after one side of the business, Tiff the other and slowly, surely, we started gaining momentum. We took on our first hire – this was while we were still working at that kitchen table, which was a bit weird – and things started to fall into place.

Tiff –  Downloads really started going through the roof and we knew we had to hire a full team. We got a bit more funding, increased our team to seven and moved into a little studio office. Hiring people takes so much time and we spent so long obsessing over those first hires, but that was a very good move as pretty much everyone we’ve hired has stayed with us.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit:

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