How Shed Seven's Alan Leach built a business controlling pub quizzes across the globe

0
Have your say

He is best known as the man behind the drum kit with British indie band Shed Seven.

However, away from the stage and recording studio, Alan Leach is also running a highly successful tech company which is on track to become a £1m business within the next couple of years.

Alan Leach with his app  - Picture Tony Johnson

Alan Leach with his app - Picture Tony Johnson

Mr Leach’s firm, SpeedQuizzing, has revolutionised the pub quiz market by doing away with the old pen and paper model and instead allowing players to answer questions on a mobile phone app.

Read more: All today's Yorkshire business news
The process allows the process to more resemble a television game show and, owing to the strict time limits it imposes on players, eradicates the ability to cheat by searching the internet for answers.

SpeedQuizzing is now being used by venues across the world, with the app used in some 800 pubs a week in the UK as well as across America, Europe and parts of the Middle East.

Mr Leach runs the business in his native York alongside his brother John and employs nine people full-time.

Alan in action with the band.

Alan in action with the band.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post as Shed Seven prepares to embark on a 23-date UK tour, Mr Leach said: “It is my absolute passion outside of band. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking up ideas, I programme the database myself and write a lot of the quiz questions. It’s been good for me. I love that those guys can go off and write songs and I can focus on quiz questions and software.”

Mr Leach was inspired to create the business after growing disenchanted with the amount of cheating that mobile phones brought into the traditional pub quiz.

“People have always cheated at pub quizzes, even before mobile phones,” he said.

“You even heard stories of people who had encyclopedias in the boot of the car.”

SpeedQuizzing

SpeedQuizzing

The firm began more as a hobby in 2004 during a period in which Shed Seven had effectively ceased as a band. Mr Leach imported some quiz buzzing technology from the USA in order to put his rapid fire model into practice.

“I spent £2,000, which I didn’t really have at the time,” he said.

“Shed Seven was on hiatus. Fortunately, I had an understanding wife and I imported these things from America. But the software was very basic.

“My brother John and I thought we could do something better than this. Before we knew it we were inventing games that you could play with just one button.”

Alan Leach shows off the SpeedQuizzing app. Photo: Tony Johnson

Alan Leach shows off the SpeedQuizzing app. Photo: Tony Johnson

The watershed moment came when smartphones began to proliferate. Suddenly the need for expensive hardware was gone as the technology needed would be in everyone’s pocket.

He said: “It was a no-brainer to me that everyone was going to have one and that we could do an app on the phone. It was hard at first. In the first year of us making it a commercial thing I think we only had about five or six pubs a week, which was a lot less than we thought.

“It has just been a steady thing. It goes up between 30 per cent to 40 per cent growth every year. As soon as landlords saw a full pub on a Tuesday night the apprehension was all gone. There are not many landlords out there who do not know us.”

As well as 800 quizzes per week in the UK, SpeedQuizzing does 175 a week in the USA and another 50 around the world.

“You don’t expect to some up with an idea that catches on like this and that no-one has thought of it before,” he said.

“[This and music] are both things that I love, I have been very lucky.

“I actually get more butterflies doing a big corporate quiz to 500 people.

“Even though you get a good buzz from a gig I get as much adrenaline from doing a big quiz.”