Michael Hobson explains how his beard became his brand – and why there are so many beards in Shoreditch
Your company, 3beards, is famous in East London’s Tech City for running events like Digital Sizzle and Silicon Drinkabout. We’re assuming most people you talk to don’t want to talk about your actual beard.
You’d be surprised, actually! It’s usually the first thing people say – are you ever allowed to shave, what happens if you get a new employee…
Ha ha. *Crosses out next two questions* Well, your beards do seem to be central to the brand. How did that come about?
Me and the other co-founders – Bryce Keane and Ben Southworth – had been running events together for about a year and a half when we decided we needed a bit more of an identity. The three of us sat in a pub in silence, looking into the air, trying to think of names – all scratching our beards. It was obvious.
3beards has impressive social currency, considering it has only officially existed for 18 months or so. Are the beards the source of your power?
Nothing that good! It’s a bit of a badge though- it shows you’ve been working really hard. Lots of people who work on startups in Shoreditch have what I call a “project beard”, which is what you get when you’ve been working on something night and day for two weeks. Shaving it off can be quite cathartic.
So if lots of people in Shoreditch have beards, are yours still helping you to stand out?
We originally called ourselves “the three beards” because it was fun and quirky, but also because it made us really visible and approachable at our events. There were definitely fewer beards around back then. It’s tricky, because there now there are loads.
You must hang around with a lot of venture capitalists, who tend to be on the clean-shaven side. Have you ever felt out of place because of the beard, because of the brand?
Yes. In fact I had lunch today with a client – I was wearing a hoodie, and my beard, but 98 per cent of the people in there were wearing suits and were cleanly-shaven. I felt a little bit uncomfortable, almost like I was a bit of an eyesore. But when we’re on our home ground, Old Street, there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, you look out of place on Old Street if you wear a suit nowadays.
I have scissors to trim, and I go for the occasional trim at Huckle the Barber or Murdock in Shoreditch. Ben recommended I buy myself a tube of beard lube, which sounds dodgy, but is apparently conditioner. I use it quite sparingly.