Founder in Five: Q&A with Blink’s Sean Nolan

Blink founder Image credit: Blink

Sean Nolan is the founder and CEO of Blink, an enterprise IT platform for frontline workers.

Nolan founded Blink in 2014 after he saw a gap in the market for an HR and employee engagement system designed for non-office workers, such as bus drivers and health workers.

It has hundreds of customers across healthcare, logistics, transport and retail including the likes of the NHS, Stagecoach and Network Rail.

The London-headquartered company most recently raised $20m in a Series A, bringing its total funding to more than $30m.

In the latest Founder in Five Q&A, Nolan recommends his best early hire at Blink for scaling, explains how founders can avoid false summits and recalls the time he accidentally took all of Sky’s networks off-air.

1) What was the most important early hire you made?

Sean Nolan: When it comes to scaling, hiring well is always the biggest challenge. That’s why we brought our talent team in-house early on, including our awesome head of talent acquisition.

That was key in enabling us to scale effectively and bring in lots more talented people. I’d recommend making this hire within the first dozen or so people – but only when you’re ready to scale.

2) What funding advice would you give to a first-time founder?

SN: Look out for false signs of product-market fit. It means you’re nearly there – but don’t start cracking open the champagne just yet.

Early on, we had a couple of false summits. With hindsight, we should have waited longer to fully understand our market before scaling. This cost us dearly.

3) Who’s a leader you admire in your industry?

SN: Abakar Saidov, the CEO and co-founder of Beamery. He’s managed to lead the company to insane levels of success in a short period of time while maintaining a pretty low-key life – I admire that.

Beamery is tackling similar problems to us – employee retention and engagement at scale – and I think there’s a lot we can learn from them from a product perspective, as well as how consistently they’ve managed their growth and maintained their culture.

4) Tell us about a time you screwed up?

SN: I’ve screwed up more times than I remember! One time that stands out was during my time at Sky, where I worked as a network manager back in the day. Well, I didn’t manage those networks very well, because I accidentally took them all off-air.

Not my finest hour.

5) Excluding your own, what’s a sector that’s ripe for disruption?

SN: Passwords, authentication, and online payments. Despite all the progress made, going through the motions still drives me mad. Every step adds so much friction to getting stuff done online.

There MUST be a better way! I’ll invest in whoever finds out what that way is.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and tech companies – is published every Friday.