Nick Holzherr, founder and CEO of HR software company Air and Food-Tech company Whisk.com tells us his story.
Nick Holzherr, CEO of Air and Whisk.com talked with us
Nick Holzherr, founder and CEO of HR software company Air and Food-Tech company Whisk.com tells us his story from BBC’s The Apprentice to today – running multiple ventures with a globally distributed team under helium.vc. Nick also blogs at nickholzherr.com and is available on Twitter under @nickholzherr.
“My first mini-enterprise was selling lost golf balls at the age of 10. At 15 I was designing websites for local businesses (including an eCommerce shop – which at the time was still innovative). At 18 I was determined to become an investment banker until I spent a placement year at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. It was fun, well paid and taught me a huge amount but I was too impatient and I wanted to have more of an impact on something.
After university I turned down two job offers to set-up Co-Go – an idea I had whilst working at Deutsche Bank. The concept was to sell ethical coffee out of paper cups with advertising on the side, making money from coffee and advertising at the same time. Unfortunately, while the business made enough money to return a £20k loan to HSBC, I saw pretty quickly that it wouldn’t be a flying success.
I started working on the concept for Whisk.com with Craig, a friend that I met at Launch48 (a weekend hackathon). We both loved food, felt personal frustration with food shopping and felt we could build something to help. In 2011 the producers of BBC’s The Apprentice offered me an interview spot and asked me to submit a business plan. I submitted Whisk. I got to the final, pitched Whisk to a home audience of over 11m people in the UK – and that was really how Whisk got properly started.
Whisk links up existing recipes (now over 500,000) to the large eCommerce grocery stores where you can buy all the ingredients – creating a simple shopping list in the middle. We had serious investor interest and raised over £500,000 over 6 months and had a team of 15 people 6 months later. Today, the business is growing fast – we’re launching more and more publishers and retailers every few months and food brands are investing more and more in advertising within our platform. We’ve won quite a few industry and startup awards, raised another $1m, and have been written about in lots of global media outlets (which is always good for business). Two of the slightly more unusual opportunities were meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and Aston University awarding me an honorary doctorate.
From Helium.vc to Air
In 2016, having been fascinated in investing in a portfolio of businesses for a while – I decided to start Helium.vc. I had been reading a lot about venture builders and I realised that this model – where I can shape each venture and hire the team/founders – is much more appealing to me than simply investing in them. Last month, we launched Air. Air is simple, connected and extendable HR software to manage the people side of businesses. Our mission is to help businesses create better workplaces where people are happier and more productive, and help businesses grow faster as a result. We’re helping people build better businesses and saving them lots of time – I really believe in what we’re doing which makes it really exciting. We launched on ProductHunt a few weeks ago and had an amazing response to over 400 upvotes.
I’m super excited about our future – we have an amazing team that’s working together really well. Observing how the team is highly productive and achieving great results makes me really happy.