[Founder Lessons] Interview with Xenios Thrasyvoulou, Founder & CEO of PeoplePerHour


Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week we have an exclusive interview with Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder & CEO of PeoplePerHour. PeoplePerHour (PPH) is a global online marketplace that connects businesses with freelance workers. Whether you need a logo done, a photo retouch, blog redesign, a video promo, or some copyediting, PPH is your  resource site where you can get any Job done. Xenios shares how PeoplePerHour started and lessons learned in the process.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou was initially an Engineer working for a FTSE 100 company.  Within 6 months he realized he was allergic to the bureaucracy of large corporations. Inexperienced and utterly unemployable, at the age of 23 he began creating a service that allowed time-starved individuals to outsource work to multi-skilled individuals on a ‘per hour’ basis. Three years later PeoplePerHour.com was born.

Responsible for the overall vision and direction of PeoplePerHour.com, Xenios’ passion for Product, relentless pursuit of innovation and deep obsession for customer service and user experience are very much defining points of the company’s culture and ethos.
Xenios holds an MA/MEng from Cambridge University and attended executive education at Harvard Business School.

When not working (which is not very often!) Xenios enjoys sport including martial arts, football, running and skiing, dabbles at cooking and doing art.

Brief Summary about PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour is a global online marketplace that connects businesses with freelance workers at a click of a button. Whether you need a logo done, a photo retouch, blog redesign, a video promo, or some copyediting, PPH is your  resource site where you can get any Job done fast, reliably and affordably.

PeoplePerHour now has more than 400,000 registered users. By registering on the site, freelancers can showcase their work and develop contacts with businesses keen to utilise their specialist skills. PeoplePerHour is headquartered in London, England, and has offices in Athens, Greece and New York City.

How Was PeoplePerHour Started?

Before I launched PPH I ran another business and I noticed how hard it was to hire freelance talent quickly and easily. It simply didn’t exist. I realised there was a huge gap in the market and PPH was born! We were initially called PAperHour as we started in the ‘personal assistance’ vertical. One day a client of ours said “ this system of yours is ingenious, but why do you limit it to admin work only?” That was the lightbulb moment. I had a brainstorm with my co-founder Simos, initially we thought of many different names like ITperHour, MarketingPerHour etc but then we realised it was going to be limiting. So then Simos said “why don’t we just call it PeoplePerHour”.  That was it.

What Lessons were Learned after Launch?
PeoplePerHour is a purpose-driven business… everything we do comes back to our purpose, which is to help people start and build their own businesses and live their dream of being independent. More than the what we do, and what we make, what defines us is the impact it has, why it matters to the world and how it makes a difference.  That’s what gets us out of bed every day. And much like those people whose dreams we make reality, our deep sense of purpose is rooted in our origins and the journey we followed to get here.

What were the biggest challenges after the launch of  PeoplePerHour and how did you solve them?

I guess the biggest stand out moment in my business career was when the financial meltdown happened in the UK. At the time we were at the final stages of raising Venture Capital money. We had about 2 months of runway, and then Lehman Brothers announced bankruptcy. The world ended. The VCs disappeared. And we needed to figure out how to survive and raise funds in just 8 weeks.  It wasn’t pretty.

But , what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think that experience was probably my highlight, it sounds a cliche but its so true, its what you do when you’re down that defines you and shapes you. I dropped everything, focused relentlessly on fundraising, persisting and persevered till we pulled off the impossible. Raising funds in the worst time in history with very little traction at the time. So the lesson was, regardless of everything else – stay focused and move forward not wavering from your goal.

What is Your Advice for Entrepreneurs Chasing the Startup Dream

My advice for someone who is thinking of setting up a their own business would be: fight for everything. If you believe in your business then don’t be disheartened if others don’t. However, don’t be blinkered if something isn’t working. Be willing to listen to advice and be agile enough to change direction if it makes sense. It doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch, but sometimes you might have to try a few different paths before you discover the right one. Learning from your mistakes and accepting when something isn’t working are vital components of being a successful entrepreneur. And when you do find the right path, then go all in!