Charlie Spokes is the founder of Rbbl, an events marketplace for startups where users can find the best, most relevant events to help launch & grow their business and network with the right people at the right time.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Hi, I’m Charlie Spokes, founder of Rbbl, an events marketplace for the startup world. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new challenges and there’s never a dull day as a founder helping other startups!
I’ve had a really interesting career working across multiple industries and roles gaining experience which has proven invaluable to being a founder. I started out in sales and business development before returning to formal education.
After completing my masters in 2014, I moved into fx dealing (buying and selling foreign currencies for clients) and then product at a fintech firm and spent a few years really getting to understand how customers interact with tech and how to translate their needs and build that into a product.
Rbbl is a new business which launched in January this year. I’d been running an event tech startup in the dating industry since 2017 but covid put a spanner in the works. Whilst the market for that was recovering I spotted a gap in the market in a new sector – startups which built on all my experience and technical learnings.
Rbbl is growing steadily and there are some really interesting founders joining the platform as well as some great event providers. The aim is to replace Eventbrite for the startup ecosystem and provide a central place for the best startup events and founders to find each other. Our main USP is our networking feature for event attendees to connect with each other through the platform to ensure you never miss the right moment to connect!
I manage a team of five people, four of whom have come through the kickstart scheme – I really enjoy working with them and helping them start to develop their own unique skill sets get a head start in their careers
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I don’t really have a set routine as I find having a strict regime every day a bit claustrophobic. That’s why I love being a founder because no two days are the same. The only thing that never varies is making sure I have a coffee first thing in the morning!
I generally start by checking emails and slack to see if there’s anything urgent which needs dealing with. On Monday and Wednesday we have a team meeting where everyone gives an update on what they’re working on, what challenges they’ve come across and what wins they’ve had. I try to exercise most days – it’s too easy to get stuck into work and realise that you haven’t left the house all day so, if I can, I’ll go for a run/walk/gym after the team meeting.
I have anywhere between 1-6 meetings a day but I try really hard to limit this to 2 otherwise no work actually gets done. I always take time to eat lunch away from my laptop even if it’s just 15 minutes.
At the moment, I’m running a series of online events on Rbbl, helping founders with everything from preparing pitch decks, to answering questions about raising investment. These are an instrumental part of building meaningful partnerships between startups and I really enjoy running them and seeing what other founders are building.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I’ve been working from home for almost 6 years now as it gives me the flexibility to have an ever-changing routine and it’s great!
Rbbl doesn’t have an office and our employees are based up and down the country. We use slack as our main method of communication for the team but everyone has regular 1-2-1’s or small group calls via google meets to check in and collaborate. We’re a small team so everyone works extensively with each member of the team, regardless of department so it’s a great insight into other areas of business.
Everyone in the team works to a rough schedule but we all know life gets in the way sometimes so we shift working days around to suit that.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
When I first started my event tech business I found I worked almost all day every day and that I had no ability to switch off at all. Now I’m a bit further down the line and a little older and wiser, I’ve got a much more balanced view of running a business and know what will make the needle move the most. I’m far more careful with my time and how many meetings I say yes to as well now.
I do work in the evenings and weekends but I actively choose to do that and it’s often because I want to take some “me time” during a weekday. I’m far more productive by doing that and I can get more done in 1-2 evening or weekend hours than I could by sitting and forcing myself to work for 3-4 hours when I’m not feeling productive.
If I’m out with friends or family I put my phone away and take time to enjoy their company – it’s a real pet peeve of mine when people keep checking their phones when they’re socialising!
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes, I’ve worked from home for nearly 6 years now so I’m pretty disciplined with work but I do find that keeping that line between work/life can be challenging. A few months ago, I made the decision to remove my personal email from my laptop entirely as well as my personal social media logins so I can focus on work when my laptop is open.
I also remove my work email and Slack from my mobile at the end of the day and the weekend so I can’t “just check in” and it’s more of a conscious decision to do some effective work within a specified time frame. I’m far more productive because of this!
I also have all Slack and WhatsApp community groups on mute and check in on them once a week rather than having them ping me continuously and cause a distraction.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I really love reading but for pleasure more than work so try to avoid “work” books but I did really enjoy The Lean Startup and The E-Myth Revisited.
I’ve just subscribed to Marketing Example’s newsletter which has some brilliant marketing advice and is an easy read too! I definitely recommend those.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I have a terrible sense of direction so Google Maps and Citymapper are essential when I go pretty much anywhere.
Monday.com is where everything for work happens and where the team is delegated tasks to complete. It’s a great way to easily see who’s working on what and where bottlenecks are happening.
Also, my MacBook Air is something I can’t live without. I switched to Mac about 4 years ago and have never looked back!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Richard Branson. He’s hugely successful and like me he’s dyslexic so I’d love to hear more about how he manages that! He also looks like he has a lot of fun with his life as well – that’s definitely something we should all do more of!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I had a great bit of advice from a boss when I worked in finance. I was a junior dealer (buying and selling foreign exchange for clients) and was trying to focus on too many things at once (watching the market fluctuations for too many currency pairs) and he said pick the three you deal with the most, focus on them, get to know them inside out and make them your priority. Then when you need to look at the others you’ll already understand what information moves markets. It was really brilliant advice and I bring that into everything I do now.
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