Start me up: James Roy Poulter, CEO and co-founder at Pronto

How do you start a business from your bedroom? How do you move to the next level? We speak to James Roy Poulter, CEO and co-founder of Pronto, to give us an insight into the rapidly changing world of startups.

Pronto JamesPronto is on a mission to change the food industry for the better by creating delicious, affordable, quality meals that are healthy enough to eat every day and available at the touch of a button.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I was in Italy with the guys who went on to become my co-founders, eating delicious food and drinking great wine and I questioned why the same experience was so inaccessible in London. Sure, we have some great-quality food around but for the day-to-day; lunch on the go, dinner with no time to cook, there was nothing accessible and cost effective. Personally, I’m time poor – and I need things to be convenient and work around my life. I was spending lots of money on dull, unhealthy food that left me feeling not only guilty but also unsatisfied and I thought there had to be a better way.

Where did you start your business?

The idea for Pronto was born in Trento, Italy in Spring 2014. We started trialling it out around London before my co-founders and I moved to London 18 months ago to bring Pronto to life and see if we could make our vision a reality in a city such as London.

What has MassChallenge done to help you and your business?

The support we’ve received from MassChallenge has been absolutely fantastic. The network we’ve had access to and opportunities we’ve been able to partake in have really helped us while starting out and trying to grow our business.

Is there anyone you look up to as a business? Who inspires you?

I think supermarkets are absolutely incredible organisations that have brought the world to everyone’s fingertips for an incredibly low price. I think they are broken; but still incredible.

Otherwise, I respect The Against Malaria Foundation and their founder/CEO Rob Mather for building the world’s most effective charity. At Pronto we are trying to create the world’s most effective food infrastructure so I feel there’s a lot we can learn from The Against Malaria Foundation and the work they’ve achieved.

In general, I admire larger corporations that leverage their power for positive impact.

How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?

It was always the intention, so I don’t think anyone close was surprised. Just a lot of people that definitely thought there was a crazy amount being given up.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

Optimized-16-04-29 Pronto10136Finding good people is tough. Early stage businesses are far more about the people than the business – so first, finding the right co-founders was very tough, and I feel lucky every day to have found Simone and Lukas.

Following that, all the further hires you make are so important. Every problem our business has ever had normally comes down to a problem with an individual person. Get the people right, and the rest flows far more easily.

How we’ve solved this has been different in different situations; our default is to move fast – hire fast, but be prepared to accept a mistake was made and fire fast off the back of it. It is better for everyone.

And now, we hire far ahead of need where we can. We are lucky to have an incredible inbound candidate pool that makes this easier for us. We keep conversations alive with individuals we believe in, and would love to have come work with us at some point in the future.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

Just get on with it. Honestly, just start now. You should probably stop reading this…


Where do you expect to be in a year?

Leading a Pronto running many cities across multiple countries. A Pronto that our entire team can be proud of not just having built together but of the positive impact we have every day as we continue building.