Tell us about yourself.
I am the president of E-Man Asset Management Ltd. and a serial entrepreneur in the field of technology. I have always been an inventor of ideas and a creator of products. I started creating board games at age 13 for major retailers and then created a music magazine at 17. I loved bringing ideas to life. In 2000, I founded E-Man, and by age 21, I had created the first real-time desktop news alert platform in the world, pre-RSS feeds.
Net Sorcerer was granted a patent and raised a six-figure investment from the Cambridge University Science Park, backed by the Department of Trade and Industry. Net Sorcerer provided the intellectual property for Sky Sports and News Alerts. 20 years later, I am now a mentor to Cambridge University academics and entrepreneurs as I strive to pay it forward.
An early innovator in the mobile space, I created one of the first five productivity apps ever to appear on the Android market in 2009 and, prior to Android, one of the first-ever location and photo/video capturing platforms, using a combination of Java ME and Flash Lite in 2008, running on Nokia N95 devices.
This became the prototype for the first photo and video-sharing mobile app, known as Zkatter. Zkatter partnered with Samsung Mobile innovator to launch and grow their native OS, “Bada,” through building a number of pioneering apps on the system.
I scaled E-Man to an internationally respected venture studio with offices on two continents, collaborating with founders to build the next big thing across Europe and America. I also built kids’ products for Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and Nickelodeon and spoke at major conferences such as Mobile World Congress.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Entrepreneurship is challenging. Perhaps it’s only the stars in our eyes and our naivety that get us in the Founder’s hot seat in the first place. We then immediately begin failing, and this is where we can truly begin to develop.
Embracing failure and knowing that it’s okay to stumble and fall, provided you can get up again, is so important. We must shake off the ego and get up and carry on. Failure is also great feedback if we listen.
The worst thing any founder can do is quit or fail to listen to and take advice from trusted mentors and advisors. I thought I knew everything as a 20-something entrepreneur, but looking back, of course, I didn’t.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
So many. Building a culture and belief system around your business is so important. I believe that every member of your team should feel empowered to align their gifts and talents with the mission of your business, and the business should deeply resonate with them.
I would put so much more emphasis on the team and nurturing the people to reach their dreams inside of the company. Your people will do their best work when they feel valued and have a sense that they are doing their life’s work.
I would also listen to and take far more advice from mentors and surround myself with people who deeply cared for me and the work.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
It can be challenging to balance, especially when things are going great and you are in the flow. As an entrepreneur, that feeling of momentum is incredible when you are in a growth period. You’ve worked so hard, and then things take off.
You really don’t want to take time off, and the adrenaline buzz is amazing. The tough times can be the opposite, and as someone who has experienced burnout, I can only say that experience is the only way to truly learn how to handle work-life balance.
But I will say that if you truly love what you do, work gets personal!
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company.
I love inventing things and coming up with ways to change how things are experienced in the world. I enjoy building products that people love to use.
E-Man was born out of a desire to test hypotheses or contrarian truths, as Peter Thiel likes to say, and simply send ideas into cyberspace to get feedback from humanity.
I have to say that my purpose is to help, encourage, and inspire people to set fire to their ideas as well as mine. I love founders.
They are whacky, terrestrial thinkers, and I just enjoy hanging around them and making things happen. The influences have certainly impacted the company and how we work.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Our magic sauce is creativity. I think our inventiveness, the positioning of new ideas, and our ability to turn abstract ideas into pixels and code are our superpowers.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you who are just starting out?
We are a venture studio that builds and invests in ideas. Our business model is to create value and extract capital from the value we created to reinvest in future ideas.
Keep iterating until you find the model that works for you!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Being a venture studio is very tough. You can’t please everybody, and often things don’t work out, or you cannot continue to support certain ventures.
The biggest challenge is making sure that you partner with the right team on day zero, which can enable the company to do its best work. It’s a matchmaking exercise.
We have had a few difficult moments where we may have misjudged a potential opportunity, and it has backfired. Do the necessary due diligence, and if unsure, ask advisors for their opinions.
What do you find to be the advantages of operating your business in London?
London is an incredible city full of talent and capital.
One of the greatest cities in the world, E-Man has tirelessly attempted to innovate all of our startups out of London, incorporating over 50 limited liability companies with founders who have collectively raised over £200 million and hired in excess of 1000 Londoners.
We are proud of our commitment and the impact we have had in London, and we appreciate London as the home of E-Man.
Are there any issues with having a London-based business? Have you experienced these?
I would never say a bad word about London! Sorry.
How has the higher-than-average cost of living in the UK impacted your ability to work and live in London, and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
The cost of living, rising inflation, and rising interest rates are issues.
But as entrepreneurs, we see downturns as an opportunity to innovate as the dust settles on the hype, and only the strongest can survive.
We have survived the 2008 market crash, and we will survive this, also. It’s time to build!
London is known to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world, the true definition of a “cosmopolitan city.” Has this had any impact on your business?
Absolutely. Our in-house product engineering team exceeded 20 salaried employees in 2017, and one day I entered our office in Fitzrovia and counted 12 different nationalities.
It’s wonderful to be able to hire a team from every corner of the world! London offers a wonderful opportunity to build a rich culture within your startup.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
That’s an interesting question. I think that Manchester or Bristol could be interesting alternatives due to the talent and lifestyle they offer.
How has Brexit impacted your business (if at all)?
Very little, if I am honest.
What is your vision for your company in the next five years?
To continue what we are doing but spending even more time, resources, and investment in nurturing our alumni.
Over the past 15 years, we have launched some great businesses with super-passionate founders. We now wish to help steer these businesses to even greater heights.
This is an area of focus for us over the next five years. We are not just a company creator through our venture labs; we are now a manager of assets that require help and assistance.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
We are looking for the best and brightest founders and the most ambitious team members who wish to help us continue to build extraordinary companies. E-mail me at [email protected].