Women In The Spotlight: Charlotte Bruce, Co-Founder of Quandoo
Name: Charlotte Bruce
Company Name: Quandoo
Designation: VP APAC
Tell us about what you do today and how you got to this position.
I launched, built and run Quandoo in the Asia Pacific region. Quandoo is the fastest growing commerce platform for restaurants. We exited to Recruit Holdings, Japan in March last year. After two years on the trading floor in London at Goldman Sachs, I went to study a PhD in Neuroscience at Cambridge University. I looked at how neural stem cells repair the brain, and why they fail to in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. My first entrepreneurial exposure was in the Cambridge-MIT iTeams initiative, where I was part of a team working on the commercialization of lab technologies.
It was just after my PhD that I happened to come across a new start-up in London called Groupon, which I joined in 2010 as Entrepreneur in Residence. During my time at Groupon I was promoted to Regional Director, Regional VP (I was the only female), and finally to the Head of City Planning, EMEA in Berlin (initially the only female in the central HQ team).
The founders of Quandoo were colleagues in the early days of Groupon, and they saw a big opportunity in the O2O restaurant space. If you look at companies like Booking.com and Agoda in the hotel arena, it’s easy to see the opportunity ahead of us and I was excited to build it with them.
What was your biggest business challenge and how did you overcome it?
I think turning up by myself at Changi to launch Quandoo in Asia! We had proven the business model in Europe, but many companies have come to Asia and not been successful. This was my first time founding a business from scratch, and our first venture outside Europe, so the pressure was really on to show that I could do it, and that Quandoo could be a Global company.
Our first months were a learning process focussed on localization and adapting to the new culture. Building a superstar team was the first challenge as the market works very differently to Europe.
We then put a laser focus on our B2B business, and were able to establish ourselves as market leader in terms of connected partner restaurants in both Singapore and Hong Kong within one year of launching the Quandoo platform, going up against competition that has been operating in these markets for 5 to 10 years (Chope, OpenRice, HungryGoWhere). We are also seeing similar success in Australia where 1.250 restaurants have been acquired in 8 months, amounting to half the restaurant base of Quandoo’s key competitor Dimmi (founded in 2009 and acquired by TripAdvisor in May 2015).
Have you faced challenges as a woman in your industry?
I’ve often been the only female at my level in a particular role, but it’s never really something I’ve thought about. I’ve not really faced challenges or felt different because I’m female.
Tell us about balancing life and work?
Especially when you are starting a business, this can be very challenging. Even if there are weeks without rest, I always try to take a weekend or even a day doing something in an open landscape; nature puts everything into perspective. I’ve also got into kitesurfing since I’ve moved to Asia. Learning something new (and focussing your mind well outside the office!) is also incredibly refreshing.
I’ve launched three countries in Asia now, so always moving around makes it difficult to set down any roots. It’s important to build a good network of friends for support.
What’s your best advice for women starting out on their career path?
All the companies I’ve worked for are very merit-driven. Commitment and hard work will drive your success.