Saving money via internet deals can be an exhausting business. There are so many places out there offering ‘the best deal’ on products and services that it’s hard to work out where the best deal really can be had. And that’s where Bristol-based entrepreneur John Hardy comes in, with his startup Smug Deals. He wants to cut through the noise and show you where the best money-saving bargains can be found.

“There are so many sites now that finding the best deals has become tedious”


We caught up with John to find out how Smug Deals works, where he got the idea, and what it’s like starting an online business in Bristol.

TechSPARK: What is and where did you get the idea from?

smug-deals-logoJohn Hardy: Smug Deals is the UK’s first deal engine, and the vision is to become the “Google of deals”.

When I was around 10 we carved Halloween pumpkins in the scouts. My mum bemoaned the price of pumpkins, and so my memory is a table full of glorious carved pumpkins with my rather sad looking but reasonably priced turnip on the end! I suspect this frugal upbringing is what has led to my own devotion to bargain hunting, and I believe whatever your income you can achieve a higher standard of living simply by shopping around. I also love technology, and so combining these passions is how the idea was spawned.

TS: What differentiates you from other deals sites

JH: There are so many sites now that finding the best deals has become tedious. Recognising that technology could fix this, I set about creating a deals engine to collect every deal in one place. As we grow we’ll be adding deals from more sources and exclusives of our own.

“The community spirit in Bristol is great, there are many meetup groups, and everyone is very encouraging”


In addition to the all deals engine we’ve developed a dedicated mobile phone deal engine. Price comparison services have changed little in over a decade, and consumers recognise the cheapest deal isn’t always the best. With the deals engine we look for social signals and other factors that indicate a good deal, rather than just price.

TS: What is your background?

JH: I studied business and marketing at University, worked for a finance company, as an outdoor educator in the US, and as a web developer for the last 7 years. So a bit of a mix!

TS: What are your biggest successes to date?

JH: I’m really proud of the mobile phone deals engine. Downloading millions of deals of data from multiple sources, in multiple data formats, multiple times a day seemed an insurmountable tech challenge at times.

“Everyone says how hard creating a startup is, and they’re not kidding”


It’s the first service to use the phone value to calculate the cost of the tariff itself which is incredibly useful for comparing deals. When I first ran the algorithm I couldn’t believe how well it worked and the sort of deals it was finding.

TS: Is there an advantage to being based in Bristol for people creating tech startups?

smug-deals-appJH: Absolutely! There’s a real optimism in the city and an abundance of talent. The community spirit is great, there are many meetup groups, and everyone is very encouraging. We’re also very fortunate to have a resource like TechSPARK, which highlights the strength of the industry here.

TS: You are part of the Entrepreneurial Spark business acceleration programme, has this helped you to get where you are today?

I was in the last 6-month intake and found it a fantastic experience. It helped me focus more on the journey. It’s so easy to get caught up with the day-to-day challenges of a business and lose sight of the bigger picture – where you’re trying to go and what you need to do to get there.

TS: Would you recommend it to others?

JH: Definitely. The program and staff are geared towards growth, and whatever stage you’re at you’re surrounded by others in the same situation or who have already been there. Everyone is incredibly supportive and inspirational.

TS: What would you say is the most important quality you need to have to create a tech start-up?

JH: Determination. Everyone says how hard creating a startup is, and they’re not kidding. You have to accept that development takes way longer and costs way more than you would like, but if you have the right product you’ve got to back it no matter how hard it gets.

Thanks to John for taking the time to talk to us. You can check out Smug Deals’ search engine to find the best deals on those last minute Christmas gifts! To keep up with Smug Deals’ latest news, follow them on Twitter: @smugdeals.

Jamie Middleton