Harry Hugo

HOF Entrepreneurs Harry Hugo 1920X1080

Published: 14/03/2021

How it started

He and his co-founders started The Goat Agency in 2015, when he was just 20. He was already an established entrepreneur, having founded a football blogging business at just 16 and helped build Sportlobster just a few years later. At Sportlobster, they’d raised $25m to help brands build awareness across TV, radio and sports sponsorship.

However, while at the business, Harry, Arron and Nick started to notice an odd phenomenon. There were a bunch of non-celebrities that wielded such influence on social media that paying them to endorse products could generate better results than via any other marketing channel.

He says: “We had Cristiano Ronaldo as an ambassador and he had 100m followers at the time. He drove the same amount of downloads when he posted about our app as someone with 100,000 followers on Twitter. We thought ‘there’s something in this’ – it’s about engagement, loyalty and credibility, the things that you can’t touch. We realised it was much deeper than simply followers on a page.
Harry Hugo

They gathered data to support their idea, and became so convinced in its efficacy that they co-founded and set up The Goat Agency. They knew that the industry needed to be professionalised, and that it needed data to prove the concept. However, the opportunity was vast: “Brands were simply not investing in social in a way that correlated to the time people spent on social media. There was a huge gap between investment on the channel and attention on the channel,” says Harry.

How it’s going

There was plenty of trial and error in the early days. Their data showed that up to 80% of influencers won’t perform to the level needed, but the remaining 20% overperform to such an extent that it’s an incredibly effective look for brands. “It’s about finding those people that provide value,” he says.

The team also needed to do a lot of education with their clients on the concept. They had worked with too many agencies that over-promised and under-delivered and they were clear that, for the concept to work, they had to do the opposite. They gathered data to prove the concept and then guaranteed the results upfront.

Goat now has over 200 employees across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific and influencing is now a well-established concept. Harry adds: “We’ve got a lot of well-known blue-chip clients. Big brands are spending real dollars on this.” The group has always worked with a flat structure: “We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Arron was very much sales and strategy. Nick was client relations. I was delivery, making it happen. We’re a team, there’s never been a requirement for a CEO. If we felt the business needed a CEO, we’d do it, but as it stands, no-one needs to be the guy in charge.”

The future

We are three incredibly ambitious entrepreneurs. We want to grow the biggest agency in the world. We love the space and it’s still in its infancy. The concept has only kicked off over the past three years so there’s a lot of headroom. We don’t compete against the influencer agencies, but against the big four advertising agencies. That’s who we want to take on.
Harry Hugo
I’m not particularly money driven. For me, it was about building something and once we’d built something, it was about creating legacy and experiences. We have to make the most of our time on the planet.
Harry Hugo

He credits the business’s success with being able to recruit and retain some talented people, some of whom may become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. This remains the biggest challenge, particularly during the pandemic. “It’s very hard to run a global team and in the pandemic, it was tough and we needed to be empathetic.”

Today, The Goat Agency is the market leader in its area. Harry says the key is to keep pushing and not stagnate as many larger agencies have done. “Ultimately, we’ve been pretty blessed through our growth. It helps that there are three of us. We can always check each other through the difficult times. The dynamic between us has helped sustain our innovation and growth.