The ZuBlu platform

Exeter alumnus launches innovative dive travel platform

Hong Kong based Exeter alumnus, Adam Broadbent (Business and Accounting, 2014), has used his experience at University to set-up a new business.

He recently launched ZuBlu, a new dive travel platform focused on providing divers with a simple yet intuitive way to discover and book exciting dive experiences across Asia. The website allows users to search for diving destinations and eco-friendly resorts based on marine species that can be viewed and intended month of travel.

ZuBlu also showcases the incredible work of conservation organisations at the various destinations on its platform and actively looks to encourage guests to embark on eco-focused trips, provide volunteer hours, or donate directly.

We asked Adam what advice he would give recent alumni and/or current students looking to start their own businesses.


Adam’s advice:

Like you, I had my idea, my product or had spotted a gap in the market. Like you, I utilised all the various financial models and market research tools to craft my business plan. And like you, I took a while to build the confidence to take the plunge, put money on the line, and dive into starting my own business. Yet, for all that preparation, nothing prepared me for the enormity of becoming an entrepreneur. So, as an Exeter alumnus, I wanted to share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learnt, things I was lucky to get right and the mistakes I was glad I made.

1. Embrace failure

I want to get the cliché sounding bit of advice out of the way early, but failure and making mistakes is where the magic happens. It’s where you learn. And it’s something you can’t really be taught.

Just as we strive to reach failure when working out in the gym in our quest for gains, in business the same concept applies. The more of these you get out the way early on the more quickly you can adapt, improvise, and overcome. Obviously, I’m not referring to the cataclysmic failures where you destroy your £10,000 prototype but all the ‘smaller’ ones are valuable– from needing to reincorporate the company in a different country (guilty) to getting the initial branding wrong and having to start again (guilty) - so don’t get disheartened. Be glad you learnt the lesson and made the change when you did – it’s better than it happening 6 months later.

2. Difficult conversations are (usually) positive

One thing I shy away from is conflict and I don’t like disrupting the status quo. However, this also means things inevitably continue along the wrong track. Learning to have honest and open conversations the moment you spot something wrong or are unhappy about will likely reap huge rewards. More often than not, the other party has similar feelings and with everyone back on the same page you get back on the right track. And following on from that…

3. Be aware of yourself

If you can be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can go find the help where you need it most. I, for instance, am pretty good at writing content for our blogs but my grammar often lets me down so I make sure someone helps double-check my work. In the big scheme of things my grammar example is a fairly small weakness but there are plenty of others I am working on.

4. Choose the right third-parties and work hard at those relationships

If you take one thing away, it should be this. The third-parties you choose to help you build your dream – be they web developers, product manufacturers, or even your accountants  -  are arguably the most important cogs of your business. Since they are assisting you where you lack knowledge, resources or specialist skills, they are plugging the massive holes.

So when it comes to choosing partners, make sure you get on with them, that they understand your business inside out, as well as understand your ambitions. Then work hard to keep that relationship as positive as possible. When they are invested in your journey, it’s incredible how much extra they can bring to it. They can have your back and bring new ideas and continued energy. I’ve seen so many projects fail because the relationship with the third-party got tarnished or broke-down.

A key way to stop that happening is being well prepared when you first engage them. Take your website developer, for example, or any creative for that matter, the more accurate and structured your brief and wishes are the less chance for misunderstanding. And make sure you document what was agreed so that everyone has a continual reference point about the objectives and goals!

5. Marketing and PR

Finally, no-one knows your business better than you so you are always best placed to promote it. We looked at PR agencies to assist with increasing brand awareness, but at the end of the day, we decided the cost wasn’t worth it for our situation. Instead, we’ve been telling the world ourselves and the response and dialogue has been fantastic. Interacting directly, rather than via an intermediary, means conversations are much richer and often a whole host of other ideas and concepts are spawned. And this can only happen because you know your business inside out and what it is possible of achieving or offering. Plus, you are personally building relationships that can last well into the future.

I hope some of the above is of use and will help you on your own entrepreneurial ventures. I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing some pearls of wisdom that you learn and share in due course. One thing is for sure, we are always learning!


Adam Broadbent has over 3000 dives and over 6 years of experience photographing incredible dive destinations and luxurious resorts across Asia. After hanging up his dive gear, he returned to UK and studied Business and Accounting at Exeter. Following a few years in the financial services industry in London helping building bespoke trading platforms, he packed his bags, headed back to Asia and now lives with his wife in Hong Kong.

Date: 18 January 2018

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