Ambitious, Passionate and Young: Gaboom Founder wants to Learn Computer Programming and then make Tech History

jessica ratcliffeWith her user-to-user video game exchange, Jessica Ratcliffe has pitched on BBC Dragons' Den, having already won the NACUE National Varsity Pitch. Only 20, or 21 what's in a year, and last April 2010 she went into 'open beta' with her website, as it is known in the tech eco system when a company goes live. And we were approached by her PR, advisers and herself more than once. Now that's for a professional way to start. Indeed, time for an interview with

My dream is for GaBoom to be a largely successful business and one day, be one of the names people recall when they think of the most successful tech companies in history.

@20 and then already an entrepreneur? Why?

I have wanted to start my own business since I can remember and in particular, I have wanted to start GaBoom since I was 15, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this is what I should be doing J.  I have always been intrigued by the world of entrepreneurship and the thought that one day I could be a successful entrepreneur motivates me hugely!

Why this type of company, what is your passion?

I have always been a tomboy and I have always loved playing video games.  My passion is my business as well as playing video games, so the fact that my business is based around video games is perfect!

Shouldn't you start with an experienced entrepreneur or company and after that start on your own?

That is, of course, an option, but it was not something I looked in to doing.  In my opinion, the best way of learning is doing and I have learned so much about business since starting GaBoom and I wouldn’t have wanted to learn any other way.  I think that starting on your own or in a team is great and it gives you skills that you may not have picked up otherwise.

First the product, then the money, or other way around?

For me, GaBoom comes first.  I want to provide a website that gamers love and return to time after time as well as build a successful business.  I completely understand that, that takes time and development and I’m ready to put the hard work in.

With how much money did you start? How much funding are you looking for/have you raised?

To date, I have raised approximately £55,000.

How did you start with raising finance?

First of all, I analysed my business idea (with the help of Find Invest Grow) and then wrote a strong business plan.  I then presented my idea, plans and business plan to a handful of personal contacts and they came on board to help me make GaBoom not only a reality but (hopefully) a success.

I intend to expand GaBoom internationally as soon as we’re ready.  I have big plans for GaBoom including both international and vertical expansion.  When it comes to expanding internationally, I intend to first look at Europe and then Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada and Asia – but in which order I’m not sure just yet :)

Any skills you miss, that you want to learn? What's your best skill?

There is one skill in particular that I wish I had…and that is computer programming!  I wish I could build, code and develop websites more than anything and it is a skill I am trying to learn.

I’m not 100% sure what my best skill is yet, but I think I have a good instinct/gut feel about things, which helps me out massively in making decisions. If something does not feel right to me, I can make a decision about whether to pursue that avenue or not quite easily.  But that is probably a skill most people have!

And your team? Advisers? What are they bringing to the table?

My advisors (Eileen Burbidge, Julien Nicod, Michael O’Dell) have fantastic experience in starting, running and growing tech companies.  They provide me with brilliant advice and they are always there if I need to run something passed them or simply wish to check GaBoom is heading in the right direction.

How is the entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, or in university?

At my university (Royal Holloway) the entrepreneurial spirit was fantastic, thanks to the Royal Holloway Entrepreneurship Society, which hosts great speaker events and workshops to help students get started in business.

The entrepreneurial spirit in the UK seems brilliant also and I have had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic, passionate and determined young entrepreneurs since starting GaBoom.

What is your dream?

My dream is for GaBoom to be a largely successful business and one day, be one of the names people recall when they think of the most successful tech companies in history.

About Gaboom:

GaBoom wants to ensure that people can swap their games as quickly and simply as possible, so the process of swapping your games is completely hassle-free. Users simply enter the games they want and the games they have to swap into GaBoom and then use the unique and patent-pending “Match Me” feature to automatically pair them with people to swap.  To complete the process just as seamlessly, they also provide users with two secure postage
options, ‘GaBoom Escrow’ and ‘Secure Swap’, through which to post their games.

Various industry and market research studies indicate that there are 74 million video games sitting unused in UK homes. 55% of the UK population plays video games, and the average gamer has 10 unused games at home, with 22% of them owning 10 or more unused games.  To date there hasn’t been an easy, simple and fair way of exchanging those games or acquiring value from them post-play.

You go girl! That is what we need. Enthusiasm and vison. Everything else follows. Stay away from the " no-sayers". Speak up. Now.

Great ambition and enthusiasm from a young entrepreneur, well done Jess.

The future though of gaming is live streaming and downloads rather than physical discs of various sorts. With Gaboom's present model, the company has a limited life span.

Figuring out a way to share downloaded games (and getting a worldwide patent for that) as well as physical products is vital for Gaboom's future success.

The current model works for the time being and all the best in making your business a real success.

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