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Policy, Politics, Profit: Bridget Harris' Bootstrapping Success

From navigating politics to bootstrapping YouCanBookMe to $5M ARR, Bridget Harris' journey highlights her strategic foresight and steadfast approach to building a sustainable tech enterprise.

Bridget Harris' journey from working in TV and politics to running a $5 million ARR tech company, YouCanBookMe, shows there's no one way to succeed in tech. Born in the Scottish Highlands, Bridget's path took her through film sets and political offices before she landed in the world of technology.

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Beginnings in Television and Politics

Starting in TV, Bridget learned about hard work early. The film industry's long hours and no-nonsense approach taught her the value of dedication. Politics was similar. Long hours, tough jobs, and a lot of listening. But it was here, in the hustle of Westminster, that the seeds for YouCanBookMe were planted.

Bridget and her husband, Keith, a software developer, were a team. They worked on political projects, with Keith coding tools for Bridget's campaigns. By 2011, as Bridget advised on constitutional reform in the coalition government, the scheduling tools they'd built started gaining traction. Faced with the choice to stay in politics or focus on YouCanBookMe, Bridget chose tech.


Bootstrapping to Success

For Bridget, venture capital wasn't appealing. She'd spent enough time being told what to do. Taking VC money felt like trading one set of bosses for another. Plus, she had a conservative view of money. Venture capital felt like debt, and she didn't want to owe anyone. So, they chose to bootstrap, not because it was trendy, but because it felt right.

Bridget focused on building a business that supported her team's well-being. She wanted long-term relationships, not just contracts. That meant setting up structures that allowed her team to thrive, like proper employment contracts that made getting mortgages easier.

Bridget Harris and Husband Keith

Making an Impact

Now, with a successful company and a story to tell, Bridget is passionate about sharing her journey. She wrote a bootstrapping manual to help others. Bridget's story isn't just about building a profitable company; it's about creating a business that cares for its team and contributes positively to the world.

youcanbookme team

A Slow, Rewarding Journey

Starting YouCanBookMe wasn't about quick success. It was about building something lasting. Bridget's approach has paid off, slowly but surely. Her company's success is a testament to the power of a different path in the tech world—one that values control, team well-being, and slow, steady growth over quick wins.

Bridget Harris' story shows there's room in tech for different kinds of success stories. It's a reminder that with the right approach, you can build a business that's not only profitable but also makes a positive impact on your team and the world.

00:00:00:02 - 00:00:19:20

Bridget Harris

Venture capital doesn't give a shit if you actually lose 2 million because they want ten founders to all spend 2 million as fast as possible to work out which one of them is going to turn that 2 million into 200 million.

00:00:19:22 - 00:00:40:01

Bridget Harris

I'm Bridget Harris and I was born in Inverness in the highlands of Scotland. So the headline is, I've had three careers. I've worked in film and television, I've worked in politics and I've worked in technology. And I would like to say there was something of each of those careers that make sense, but at least they make sense for me.

00:00:40:03 - 00:01:01:16

Bridget Harris

It started off as an Aston operator where you put graphics on a on a live TV feed. And then I progressed to being a vision mixer. And then from then I progressed into being a runner and a production assistant on films, and I learned a lot about people and problem solving and, you know, the value of work essentially, because it's a very, very hard working industry, especially the film industry.

00:01:01:16 - 00:01:18:09

Bridget Harris

It's 12 hours a day. Nobody gives a shit what you think. So my second kind of proper career was in politics, and that's where, again, very similar to the film industry, you start as a researcher or you start as assistant, you work for MPs, you basically do whatever you're told to do. You work every hour that’s godsent.

00:01:18:09 - 00:01:36:05

Bridget Harris

You know, you don't get paid for a lot of it. You don't get to tell anybody what you really think. For a lot of it, you know, you have to basically do a lot of listening and learning. I graduated by this point. I was 25. I walked into Westminster and I just felt like I'm I'm here. This is where I want to be

00:01:36:07 - 00:01:38:23



00:01:39:00 - 00:01:59:15

Bridget Harris

I personally was very motivated by electoral reform and democracy, and I'd done that at university. And I was really passionate about democratic theory. So I was working for the Lib Dems because they were obviously the party of constitutional reform. And in the meantime, myself and my husband, Keith, you know, as a couple, we'd been working together on various political projects.

00:01:59:15 - 00:02:19:07

Bridget Harris

He's a software developer. And we, you know, we've done loads of things together. We'd worked on political campaigns together. He he'd written software for campaigns that I was running, that kind of thing. And then around 2010, 2011, the scheduling tools that we'd been building were picking up pace. Actually, it was a kind of the pinnacle, if you like, of my career at the time.

00:02:19:09 - 00:02:42:08

Bridget Harris

In 2011, I was working as a special adviser to Nick Clegg in the Lib Dem conservative Coalition. So I was a special adviser liaising with the House of Lords to try to further the Coalition agreement on constitutional reform. And I was doing that for a year. And at the same time YouCanBookMe was basically getting traction and it was getting all of that natural product market fit.

00:02:42:10 - 00:03:07:14

Bridget Harris

And so I had a choice really at the end of that year to either carry on, I guess, inside the coalition government. But I mean, we all saw what was going or leave and join Keith in running YouCanBookMe then. Politics, you realize it comes down to an awful lot of meetings, drinking tea, eating biscuits, talking people, talking, you know, and it's there's very little doing at that level.

00:03:07:14 - 00:03:27:00

Bridget Harris

There's a lot of meetings and a lot of people kind of peacocking. Like I've got a very fancy job title. So it must be the what I think is valid and is important. And I just I didn't see that. I didn't see people being good enough. So I handed in my job and I went into for another year of consulting.

00:03:27:00 - 00:03:55:20

Bridget Harris

But basically to run, YouCanBookMe. I can see the threads of why we made decisions, and I think it comes down mostly to control, actually. Well, control and experience. I mean, Keith and I, neither of us had worked in software companies before, really understood or knew what the context was. Very different. Ten years later, looking back, we wanted to control as many things about our life that we could whilst we were dealing with almost

00:03:55:21 - 00:04:14:20

Bridget Harris

An uncontrollable growth rate coming out of YouCanBookMe in the scheduling tool. So money for me. Like the first conversation I had with angels, which was in 2011, I got and they were interested and they wanted to talk to us and they, you know, they kind of had follow up meetings and things. I got this very strong sense that if we took money from the angels, they'd be telling me what to do.

00:04:14:21 - 00:04:29:09

Bridget Harris

Now, of course, I'd just come from a whole world of people telling me what to do. I don't I don't know necessarily whether I've got all the right answers or I haven't exactly got a plan, but I don't think I want to be told what to do. And that's I think that's a very, very strong thing inside me and Keith.

00:04:29:09 - 00:04:49:16

Bridget Harris

And and it's something I've recognized in lots of entrepreneurs and founders. Is it highly opinionated, basically quite cocky, just like I can probably could probably brazen my way through that. Like we can pretty much do anything. I'm also quite conservative about money, so for me, venture funding would be like debt. You know, it's like taking money off somebody. That means I owe them.

00:04:49:18 - 00:05:09:04

Bridget Harris

Now, we didn't know about the phrase bootstrapping. We didn't sit there and go, We're going to bootstrap. It wasn't a thing at all. In fact, what we felt was like, Well, we're just going to be a business and try to do this normally. And if you take on VC or investors or angels, that's what the the fancy startups in America do.

00:05:09:06 - 00:05:28:12

Bridget Harris

And this is a perfectly good thing. Like I'm not saying this, this is a good this is really fun thing to do. I've got no problem with people, let's say, you know, in their twenties taking on two or £3 million of investment to see if they can essentially get something out of the stocks, grow really fast, pay everybody for a couple of years because that's what 2 million quid would do.

00:05:28:14 - 00:05:46:18

Bridget Harris

Hire loads of people get loads of experience and then maybe crash and burn? That's what venture capital is about. Venture capital doesn't give a shit if you actually lose that 2 million because they want ten founders to all spend 2 million as fast as possible to work out which one of them is going to turn that 2 million into 200 million.

00:05:46:20 - 00:06:12:22

Bridget Harris

So I've always said that I'd rather make £1,000,000 slowly than lose £1,000,000 fast. It wasn't really let's bootstrap, it was more let's not take funding and let's see how we let's see how we get on. Bootstrapping is quite a good option because you can you can go more slowly, but you can build up your business acumen slowly. You are the one that knows what could go wrong or what could go right in your business.

00:06:12:24 - 00:06:35:19

Bridget Harris

You also know what you're prepared to give up if it doesn't work. And everybody else who's potentially going to invest in your business is trying to work that out. But you know, it. Very early on we formalized employment contracts and benefits and security and support. You know, at the time people were saying to me, why are you setting up registration in Spain to hire your engineer?

00:06:35:23 - 00:06:55:12

Bridget Harris

And I said, Well, because he wants to get a mortgage. And if you're a contractor, you can't get a mortgage. And I want to incentivize a long term relationship with my company. And, you know, if your team members can't thrive in their own lives and you are just expecting them to be be available for you, then long term, I think you're going to lose out.

00:06:55:12 - 00:07:28:18

Bridget Harris

And again, I think for some companies that's perfectly valid. Whereas I went for 5 to 10 year, you know, working relationships with people, I always believe that you have to invest at the beginning as you mean to go on, so you have to think strategically. As a technology company, I think we've made an impact. I have genuinely been energized in the last couple of years to talk more about our journey as a bootstrapping company and as a remote company and actually as a female-led company as well, because those are those are topics that are really important that everybody needs to talk about.

00:07:28:23 - 00:07:48:18

Bridget Harris

You know, I wrote that bootstrapping manual because I want people to read it all and go, okay, great, so I can just skip to the end and just do this. Like if I can help people to say, Look, just do that, just use those guys or just go over there and do this or just do this. It. I feel like I'm making the world slightly more efficient and I like that building YouCanBookMe over for a very long time and bootstrapping it.

00:07:48:18 - 00:08:06:10

Bridget Harris

And we're now about $5 million ARR and we're profitable has meant that it's not just been my life, but it's also been everybody we've ever employed. It's also been the the wealth that we've created inside YouCanBookMe has been redistributed economically one way or another. You know, we've we've done a lot inside YouCanBookMe and we can still go on.

00:08:06:10 - 00:08:11:24

Bridget Harris

You know, that that risk that we took early on, we have got the benefits from it very slowly over time.