Paul Wickers left his banking job to start tech business Huggg, a consumer app proposition that would allow people to ‘send’ someone a coffee using a digital voucher that could be redeemed locally to them. In the latest instalment of our e-commerce & payments industry executive interview series, we talked to Paul about his business, supporting vulnerable people in their communities, and the increasing adoption of AI…
Tell us about your company, products and services
Huggg operate a specialist platform that enables local authorities, charities and housing associations to send and manage retail vouchers at scale to those in need. The vouchers can be used to pay for groceries, clothing and essential household items and can be redeemed at a range of retailers.
We work with over 500 local authorities, councils, CABs, charities and housing associations simplifying and streamlining their internal processes and saving busy teams time and money.
What have been the biggest challenges your industry has faced over the past 12 months?
Funding uncertainties have been a real challenge for some of our customers. They have to plan in 6-12 month cycles instead of being able to make concrete longer-term plans.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
Innovation in the ‘payout space’ is enabling our customers to do more, with less. Getting support to vulnerable people in their communities faster.
What is the biggest priority for your industry in 2023?
Serving the changing needs of the customer remains the priority – it’s crucial that we listen to them and understand the challenges that they’re facing on a daily basis.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2023?
Earliest adopter organisations are starting to use AI to propel their businesses.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market next year?
AI and embedded finance products will have a huge impact on the market in 2024.
In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?
Which person in, or associated with, your industry would you most like to meet?
I would love to meet Reid Hoffman. He was the founder of Linkedin and on the founding team of Paypal. He’s widely regarded as being one of the foremost thinkers in the world of tech and is apparently a genuinely lovely person.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the sector?
It’s a small community! Quite ofter your customer can be your competitor and your supplier at the same time. There’s a strangely tangled loop in the world of payouts and incentives.
You go to the bar– what’s your tipple of choice?
Crisp, cold lager, ideally served in a glass from a chiller and with a 2cm+ head. My current favourite is Korev.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
The creative and intellectual challenge of running a company can feel like a very high stakes game of chess. It’s incredibly exciting and exhilarating!
And what’s the most challenging?
I think people management is my greatest challenge.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Nothing is ever as good, or as bad, as it first seems.
Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things?
I haven’t seen either. I don’t watch much TV but my favourite programme is West Wing.