Please take us through your childhood, any fond memories.
I won’t bore you with the details. I had a fun childhood growing up in a sleepy village about 50 miles of London. When I was 7 I was sent to prep school. I was no where near as academic as some of the boys there but hustled my way through. I ended up being known as the guy to go to for football stickers, doughnuts, t-shirts etc!
Lessons that stayed with you as you grew up.
Always give people respect. I guess it’s easy to be rude and give people the cold shoulder but i’ll always do my best to give people the time that I was given by people when I was young.
What got you started as an entrepreneur?
Both my parents are entrepreneurs so I guess in my case it’s in the blood. I liked that they spent a lot of time with me as a child and I want that flexibility throughout my life. I also don’t think I am employable so entrepreneurship is my only real option!
Did you ever face pressure from family earlier in life, to do something different than what you were doing?
My parents wanted me to get a steady job once I was out of uni so I could learn about business for a bit in an environment that was slightly more secure that running your own business. I did work for about 6 months at a bank before deciding I wanted to start up my own company.
How did your life change after FitFinder, with increased attention?
My life changed massively. FitFinder was my break I guess. It came as a massive surprise as it was built as a bit of a joke and then went viral. From just sitting in the library revising I was being driven to Sky News to do interviews!
How do you decide on the names of your ventures?
It’s a mix really. I like to create cool brands. Sometimes it’s good to pick a name that pretty much says what it does (e.g. FitFinder) but the problem nowadays is that scarcity of domain names available. I still find picking names difficult but end of covering my wall in about 100 post it notes with random words and try and make something out of that.
Do you have any hacks to share, for students who want to build their own projects while at school? How to balance class workload with one’s passion? How to balance relationships with work?
I am a big believer in the philosophy of ‘work smart’. When you are at uni you have plenty of time to do what you want and fit in ‘side projects’. When I was at UCL I probably worked on 4-5 different projects a year. Most failed, all but one didn’t make money, but I learnt a lot from them.
How do you choose your projects? Instincts, research or a bit of both? Elsewhere you have talked about your ventures being born out of your frustrations? How do you decide that doing it makes business sense?
The ideas for projects are born out of instinct and frustration. I have a long list in my notebook called ‘Someday Maybe’ which is a long list of possible ideas for businesses. Some are small ideas, some are big ideas. When I want to move onto something I will then start to do proper research into a few of the ideas. A lot of emphasis is put on timing. You can build a brilliant product and be to early to market and fail. You need to hit that sweet spot.
I loved your 10 things founders can learn from running the marathon post. Do you have a message to share with Y&S readers, about importance of sports in life?
There are two aspects to sport that I love; discipline & persistence. I love having a programme to work to and being strict about it. The same is true in business. It’s much harder when you don’t have a boss to do the hard bits. You have to have the discipline to get it done. Likewise, you need to be in it for the long game. I like to draw comparisons from the feeling you get when you are on a long run and want to give up to the same feeling of giving up when things are tough in business.
What’s a day in your life like?
Busy, usually! I get up between 5:30 and 6. I spend the first hour or so eating breakfast, stretching and checking emails that have come in overnight. I then cycle into the office for 7am and go to the gym until 8. My day then properly starts at 8:30 and is usually a mix of meetings, team introductions, brainstorming sessions etc. I usually leave the office at around 8 and grab dinner with friends or just got home and continue to work lightly until about 11 when it’s lights out!
If you were an investor, what will you look for before investing in company.
80% team, 20% idea. I know if the team is good they can make something work – or I can give them a better idea! If the team is awful then it’s always going to be harder.
Does writing help entrepreneurs? If yes, how?
I think writing helps get your thoughts out clearly. I go in phases where I like writing and some where I just find it so hard to. Whenever I have a tough decision to make I will always write out the options in full and then sleep on it.
If not an entrepreneur what will you be?
That’s a hard one. Probably forever unemployed!
I love going to Saas-Fee in the Swiss Alps and spending a week at a time there. When I’m away i’ll spend half a day working and then half a day walking/treking.
Where can readers of Y&S send you fan mail?
Where can they contact you generally and which is your favorite mode of communication? Phone, email or twitter.
I’m on twitter quite a lot but email is probably the second best option – firstname.lastname@example.org