Fraser Patterson – Founder and CEO of Bolster

[quote style=”boxed”]I have actually started over several times and each time I’ve done something differently and the truth is, I honestly can’t tell you if it has ever been better or worse – it’s just been different.[/quote]

Fraser Patterson is the founder and CEO of Bolster and is responsible for the overall direction and product strategy for the company. Prior to founding Bolster, Fraser designed and implemented Mexico’s first home remodeling insurance platform in partnership with Infonavit (Latin America´s largest mortgage lender), HSBC Mexico and Aserta. He has over 15 years of experience in the residential remodeling and small construction industries including over a decade in carpentry and general contracting. He was a guest lecturer at Mexico’s Architecture and Design University, Centro, and a mentor for Endeavor.

Where did the idea for Bolster come from?

My background is in construction and mathematics. A few years ago, I moved to Mexico to teach business classes at Centro, a design and architecture university. One day, I got a call from the Mexican government asking if I could help them solve the remodeling process. The country’s biggest mortgage institution, Infonavit, wanted to create a way to help clients remodel their homes without the very common occurrences of contractors running off with money, not performing, producing shoddy workmanship, etc.

The way Infonavit presented the challenge made me think about the problem differently than before — for the first time I stopped trying to solve things for the consumer and / or the contractor, and instead focused on designing the process so it produced an ideal project. I figured, if the project goes well, then all parties win. This led me to the core idea of aligning the financial interests of the homeowner and contractor and creating a way to compensate the homeowner if things went badly. And thus, the first remodeling project guarantee was born.

I won a contract with Infonavit to build the solution, and it worked. After the first few hundred projects were completed successfully, I moved to the U.S. to build Bolster.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up around 7 AM, read the news, go the gym then for a short walk in the park to think about the day ahead. I head into the office for meetings, talks with my team, product reviews, press interviews, investor calls, fundraising, etc. The afternoons are spent digging into the product and problem solving. I try to go home for lunch when my schedule permits – usually once a week. I leave the office around 8 PM and head out for dinner with friends or home. Weekends are thinking time, focused preparatory work.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I get my inspiration mostly while reading, be it magazines or books. When an idea starts to formulate, I write it down – sometimes that’s sending myself an email – or I doodle on my whiteboard. An idea percolates for a while and then I raise it with a team member or two. It’s after this screening that ideas usually start to take life or get killed off.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Solving big problems at scale, via innovations in technology. Nature is problem solving, as Carl Popper once said. What technology enables mankind to do is solve problems faster and for more people, at a lower cost. This trend will hopefully continue.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I delegate a lot. I learned early on in my career that surrounding yourself with bright, passionate, committed people and then doing everything you can to help them succeed in contributing to the goals of the company is the best way to be productive.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had many terrible jobs. I started working when I was very young. I’d say the worst was working in a steel factory during the nightshift because it was freezing cold, dark, miserable, and lonely. It was then that I learned that it’s best to work during the day and sleep at night, and if at all possible, do what you love!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I have actually started over several times and each time I’ve done something differently and the truth is, I honestly can’t tell you if it has ever been better or worse – it’s just been different.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Humans are story-telling machines and CEOs have to tell their story a million times a day. I like to test new ways of doing so and gauge the response I get. From there, I refine the story so that it’s more fun to tell and so other people can understand it more easily.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Forging partnerships. The adoption of something new happens concentrically and it starts with the core audience of believers who understand what you’re doing on a technical basis. If they are established and have credibility, they will accelerate the adoption of your product immensely.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In 2008, my first company failed and I lost everything. I took a teaching position at a university while I gathered my thoughts and started my second company, a better version of the first. Giving up is not an option for me, failure is temporary anyway – it’s the act of quitting that makes it permanent!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A new retirement model: live with your friends as you get older in the property of one of your group, and remodel and rent out the other properties of the group. That way, you are using your primary residence and social networks to create a sustainable lifestyle that increases your income, reduces your outgoings, enables you to live with people of your choosing, helps you afford care services and preserves your home equity so you can ultimately end your life in dignity.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I was very close to becoming a professional soccer player, a goalkeeper in fact. That dream got destroyed when I was sent to boarding school and the sporting curriculum was all rugby, cricket, and hockey, everything but soccer!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

SeamlessWeb for getting food to my belly direct without talking. Netflix and Google Chromecast as they together allow me to watch whatever takes my fancy on my big screen TV without any adverts.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I suggest This Explains Everything by John Brockman. It offers deep, beautiful, and elegant theories of how the world works. I have referred to it many times as a source of inspiration to give me a deeper understanding and perspective on what I’m doing and why I am doing it.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

My immediate team and advisors. Like I said before, I have surrounded myself with amazing people and I turn to them for advice – they influence my thinking every day.


Bolster on Twitter: @getbolster
Fraser Patterson on LinkedIn: