“We’re a Tech Business with a Difference, Supporting Our Blue Light Community” – Interview with Steve Denny, Co-Founder of Blue Light Card

Blue Light Card is the UK’s largest discount service for the NHS, emergency services and social care workers. Currently with over 2 million members and 15,000 brands on board, the company has seen huge growth during covid-19.


How Did The Business Start?


Denny: I became a police officer after leaving school and occasionally, we’d be treated by coffee shops with discounts if they happened to see our badge.

“There was no official discount framework or mechanism at the time, and our lightbulb moment came around 2008. I mentioned to my friend whether we could actually label someone as being part of the ‘blue light community’ that was not just offered to the Police – and inspiration struck. We put a website together and initially started contacting companies asking them if they could offer discounts to the police force.

For individuals to join Blue Light Card, it costs £4.99 and the card is valid for two years. For that, they get access to a wide range of discounts from dining out, fashion, technology, day trips, opticians, home improvements and everything else in between.

Our philosophy was always to be free for small businesses to sign up, to encourage them to support those in the blue light community who are there for all of us.


Do You Recall Any Cool Start-up Moments?


Denny: Yes, I will never forget in the early days when Tom and I went around the country in a small van just handing out free cards to NHS workers at different hospitals. We would sometimes go all night, after all, hospitals never close. We would sleep in the van when we got tired and I recall us going as north as Dundee at one point.

I will also fondly recall the pop-ups we did in NHS trusts and also working out my home office, which was quite a difference to patrolling the streets as a police officer.

As with any start-up we encountered challenges in the early days, such as people selling fake NHS IDs on eBay, just so someone could buy a card and get access to our discounts. However, that has just been another reason to invest in our technology.

Today, we are continually building on our verification process, using machine learning to assist us in the process. This is an important measure to ensure we keep things special for our community and protect the partnerships with companies we work with.


The Blue Light Card is the main discount card for the NHS and public sector with over 2 million members and over 15,000 brands.


How Has The Business Grown?


Denny: Currently we have over 2 million members and Blue Light Card is a household name with around 60 staff. We are a top 30 app in shopping in the UK, we have over 15,000 brands and retailers registered with us, and members can use clever mapping tools to show local offers and discounts near them.

Today, our most popular discounts include New Look, KFC and Cineworld – but there is such a variety of brands available, whether that’s high street favourites, online retailers or independents.



How Did Covid Affect Your Business?


Denny: Over the last few months, it has been a time where people really wanted to show their support for the NHS – and our membership grew by over 700k between March and July!

We wanted to ramp up our support to the blue light community even more. For example, in the height of lockdown we teamed up with brands such as Heinz to launch a ‘Heinz to Home’ delivery service exclusively for Blue Light Card members, and ran weekly giveaways across our social media channels as a way to say ‘thank you’ to our blue light community.

We also co-ordinated donations to over 50 NHS Trusts through partnerships with big brands such as L’Oréal and Coca-Cola to deliver ‘pick-me-ups’ to frontline key workers – whether they were Blue Light Card holders or not.


What’s next for Blue Light Card?


Denny: We are proud to be in the process of launching our new native mobile application that has been fully built by our in-house tech team. We wanted to provide a big facelift and add new features that members find useful. We have gone as far as touch and face id, 2-factor authentication, and the ability to spin a 3D version of your card to show in store. We are in the process of welcoming new members to the team who have a pile of new projects and upgrades that we are going to be bringing to members very soon.    


Can you tell us a bit more about the technology behind Blue Light Card?


Denny: At Blue Light Card we like to manage everything ourselves, even the printing of our cards and we have two industrial machines spanning one floor to distribute the large output required to keep up with production.  One of these machines uses OCR to verify the quality and the accuracy of the cards we send out to members. 

Our servers are again maintained by our in-house team and are hosted in one of the UK’s most secure data centres (The Bunker), built for scale with load balancing throughout the system to continue to keep Blue Light Card available.


We are a business growing out of our community


Denny: We continue to grow our business not just through the consumer-side, but the corporate side too. With the high street under pressure, we can give exposure to deals and discounts on the high street and increase footfall for fledgling independent businesses too.

Today, we go beyond discounts and are always thinking of exciting ways to give back even more. This has included hiring out theme parks as part of Blue Light Card Service Days at places like Legoland and Alton Towers.

We are proud to have a commercial business that is balanced with community.


To find out more and register for a Blue Light Card, visit www.bluelightcard.co.uk.