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Chris’s Postcode Lottery hits jackpot

Investment firm ploughs £1m into website started in his bedroom by IT worker who quit City

10 February, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Website founder Chris Holbrook: ‘At first I just thought I’d make a bit of extra beer money’

WALK into Dragons’ Den and say you want investment in your website which gives away free money and you’d probably be laughed at.

But that is almost exactly what a Holloway man has done. Zeal Investments (ZI) has ploughed £1m into the Free Postcode Lottery website, valuing the business at £10m in the process.

Quite an achievement, given Chris Holbrook started the website, which gives away £750 to punters every day, in his bedroom in Widdenham Road just five years ago, on a budget of £10 a day.

Surely his idea must include an element of gambling? But the lottery is free to play and Chris doesn’t like gambling.

“I don’t like the social implications of it,” he said.

Neither does the website harvest user data and sell it to big companies for cash – all that is required is your email address and postcode, and Chris guards his users’ data fiercely.

He moved from Birmingham to London to pursue a career in IT, but became disillusioned with his City job. It was “the kind of place they don’t have windows that open so people can’t jump out,” he said. He quit to go freelance, despite just having taken on a mortgage, and was cycling to work one day when the idea hit him.

Listening to his beloved Radio 4, he heard presenter James Naughtie discuss the so-called NHS “postcode lottery” around receiving cancer drugs, and came up with an idea where you are rewarded for where you live, not punished.

The website works by randomly selecting a postcode each day, with anyone signed up in that area sharing the cash. Users must log onto the site to see if they have won and the business makes money purely through advertising.

“At first I just thought I’d make a bit of extra beer money,” said Chris. “But now it’s enough to support me and my family, eight employees and an office in Finsbury Park.”

The website has had many imitators, but Chris said they have all been “disappointing”. He has grand ambitions – he hopes to give away £20,000 a day by 2020 and to have one-fifth of the population signed up. In essence, he wants to be as big as the National Lottery.

“The investment feels great,” Chris added. “The money is not going to me of course, but into the business. It’s a validation of my idea.”

James Oakes, director of ZI, which has bought a 10 per cent stake in the business, said: “Chris has done to lotteries what the freesheet did with newspaper publishing. He is a genuine pioneer disrupting the lottery status quo.

“We cannot wait to work together”.

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