What do you currently do?
I am CEO of Manything, but I also sit on the board of a number of other exciting tech companies like Alamy and Updata Infrastructure.
Manything is a tech startup where our average age is, well a number larger than we would all like! In various ways we have all worked together before and so whilst it says CEO on my business card in fact we all run the business.
Amongst others we have Mike Fischer who was co-founder of RM and Alamy; Dan Germain who is Innocent’s Creative Director; and an outstanding CTO in Mike Edge (although his undying support for Aston Villa means he obviously has questionable judgement!)
Manything is a new app that turns any iOS device in to a clever video monitoring device and since launching earlier in the summer, it’s been really well received.
What is your inspiration in business?
I like making things work and solving problems – seeing things work in business or technology (or both) is a fantastic motivator.
I also believe that businesses (especially those with a good heart) are vital for our society to work well and that successful businesses should be celebrated as much as the best hospital or charity.
Mainstream media often paints business as selfish – how often do you watch a drama or film where the baddies work at a nasty corporation? In reality most businesses are not like that and creating one is both difficult and risky and requires creativity and tenacity.
Who do you admire?
The list is probably too long to fit in a nice neat paragraph. It’s hard not to admire Elon Musk for his boldness of vision and the technical and business challenges he sets himself, but perhaps the person who I admire most is the late Govindappa Venkataswamy – if you don’t know who he is then I’d recommend you Google him! He had a great business model and helped several million people out of blindness without a penny in government aid or charitable donation.
Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
Of course. Lots and lots of things, but you can’t get hung up on them. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you don’t drive well by focussing on the rear-view mirror!
What defines your way of doing business?
Pretty much anything that isn’t shown as the way to do business on ‘The Apprentice’!
Sure, some people get successful by playing politics and disrespecting their co-workers and customers – but who wants to be like that?
I was lucky enough to attend Harvard Business School AMP in 2003 and it completely changed my outlook on the business world. One of the things it made absolutely clear was that the central casting ‘charismatic business leader’ is baloney (lucky for me!). People want to believe in you so it’s important to have integrity and be able to offer a clear vision and be yourself. Those are the common characteristics of leadership and the ones I chose to focus on.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
If you pick a team of people to work with who you trust and who are excellent at what they do (ideally better than you!), and have an idea that you all believe in, then you will give yourself a great chance.
Business history is full of people who, with limited resources, overturned industries full of much better resourced incumbents. So don’t be intimidated by the size of your competitors and enjoy the benefits of starting a new business; no boss, no boring inter-departmental meetings, and no dress code.