October 1, 2013
This week, we are introducing Graham Hobson, who is not only PhotoBox’s founder, but as importantly, our Chief Technology Officer. Graham is responsible for much of the ongoing technological innovation here at PhotoBox that you are likely to encounter whenever you access PhotoBox’s products and services. Being both founder and innovator, we have asked Graham to answer six questions relating to PhotoBox’s birth, evolution and how it has developed into the brand that we all know and love… Tell us the story of how you came up with the idea of setting up PhotoBox? Back in 1999, I had two young children, aged three and one years old. We took lots and lots of photos of them. It felt like every week we developed a full roll of 36 photos, yet only a few of those were any good. Digital cameras then appeared onto the scene, and we bought our very first digital camera in October 1999. Unfortunately, we could not find a company anywhere to print these digital photos. Since my wife wanted to have physical copies of these photos, I struck upon the idea of starting my own digital photo printing company. Previously, I had created order systems for banks, so I thought that such a task wouldn’t be too different. All I wanted to do was to create an order system, plugged into a mini lab – how difficult could it be? To get started, I wrote a business plan every day whilst on the train, and in November 1999, I revealed to my friends my plans to start PhotoBox. A short while later, during a business trip, I wrote the final detailed plan. PhotoBox finally went live on 11th May 2000. Our first day of orders amounted to £2.70, and that very same customer is still ours today, 13 years later! What motivated you from the very beginning? I was in my mid 30s, had some professional confidence, but decided I wanted to strike out in a new direction. I had been in the banking industry for quite a while, and I was looking for a change in the existing world of internet startups. For the first three years, we were in unknown territory; it was nothing like what I expected a dot com to be. We were a small company (less than 5 employees for the first 3 years) and we had to do everything ourselves. Being a service that started out from personal need also motivated me tremendously. Along the way, we just listened to what customers wanted, and we accommodated it. We very quickly realized that customers also wanted to make more than prints with their photos, and diversified into personalised products (Photo books, canvases, mugs, calendars, etc.), and so we adapted. Who said dot com startups are glamorous?… What made you take a leap of faith into the digital photo printing industry? Was your family supportive from the start? To be honest, my family thought I was a bit crazy.