Don’t give up

February 2015

ClimberMark Pearson is the founder of the website myvouchercodes.co.uk, which he outsourced for £300 and recently sold for £55 million. He still works on the site but also advises, and invests in, new companies. He spoke to Henry Tucker MBCS about it.

You are taking your expertise and helping other companies get started, could you expand on this a bit more?
A few years ago I really got interested in investing and partnering with other entrepreneurs. I found that I was spreading my time way too thin, on too many projects, and I wasn’t happy with what I was delivering. Someone said to me you need to focus and deliver on a core product, if you do too much then you will deliver bad quality.

They were right and I reluctantly didn’t want to believe them as I wanted to have a few fingers in a few pies; I wanted to be in new areas and new exciting opportunities. How I solved the problem was to find, mostly young, entrepreneurs who were up and coming, looking for the opportunity, who I could work with. I realised I couldn’t give it 100 per cent of my time on a product, but I could help.

With my years of experience and everything that I’ve been through, not just the bad, I’ve come to realise as long as you win more than you lose, you’ve got a better chance of winning. Even though I can’t recall all the mistakes I’ve made, as long as you get over a few more hurdles in the future, that’s the biggest value that I can bring; along with some investment cash as well.

I’ve found a new recipe and formula to work with young (not always though, but they tend to be) entrepreneurs who are hungry and driven and want to run a business. They are often in similar B2C sectors as me. I’ll partner with them or work with them; some of them I work with virtually and they get on with the business and are very capable.

Some of them want the advice, so I find it’s best if we work together. We agree that early on, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses? These are my strengths and weaknesses. If you can combine that it can be a powerful combination.

How do you find the environment for startups in the UK, is it a good place to be?
I’m so excited about the opportunities worldwide, but specifically in the UK. There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. What I love is going against the big corporates of the world. Young companies, startups, individual people can take chunks of the market because they can be innovative and they can do things that big corporates are afraid to do. They do it faster; innovation is the key word.

I think the space is interesting. You still have to go out there and do it, no one hands you anything on a plate. The opportunities are there, tech is cheaper than ever. The hardest thing is finding great techies. Techies are expensive, especially when you have the likes of Facebook in London as well as Google and lots of other big companies here, which is all helping to rack up the price of technology.

The challenge is finding great people. For me as an entrepreneur, I’m great with ideas, marketing and products, but I can’t build it. So finding those key techies, if you can find a technical entrepreneur who can develop the business you are in is a win-win. As long as they are focussed and willing to work hard.

What are your thoughts on government initiatives to help small businesses?
I’ve never really got involved with any of the initiatives that the government are offering but I have heard of some of them. I’ve witnessed some people who have gone into them. I feel they are a bit too small to make a difference. Off the top of my head, I think it’s up to £10,000. The ones that I have seen, £10,000 can’t really do very much for someone.

What I’d prefer, and I think it would be a very good thing, for the government to do, is to probably put up to £100,000 into businesses that are actually gaining a little bit of traction. It’s not hard to start up on your own and gain some traction and build a product.

I started my business with £300, I outsourced it. If I had come to the table with some users and started to make some revenue, £100,000 could have got me an office, got me a team, allowed me to go international, that’s where I think the government can really help. I’m not saying that the government aren’t helping startups, but they are going to have a lot higher failure rate, nothing is perfect. I am happy that they are doing something, I just think they could do it better.

You display all the attributes often associated with an entrepreneur, do you think you can learn those skills or are you born with them?
I’ve always been motivated and thought of myself as a bit different. I struggled for years to find where to channel that energy. In school I wasn’t very good academically, I was pretty disruptive because I wasn’t very good. I didn’t want to be there. I chose my career, at the time I was going to be a chef.

Once I started channelling my energy into something I’d chosen to do I started to excel. I won a student chef of the year competition and from then on it was baby steps up the ladder until what I do today. I didn’t ever know that I would be running a tech business and selling it for X price.

What frustrates me are people who don’t want to get up and work hard. I wake up at 5am, I’m the first one in the office, I get home 10/11 o’clock and I think what a day. But I love it. I love the opportunity that I’m in. I look out for people like that. I think you need to work hard. If you don’t put in the hours and you’ve got a competitor who is putting in the hours, then you’re going to lose straight away.

I can’t forgive someone who doesn’t put in the hours. If you work from 9-5, then you won’t work well with someone like me.

What is the core bit of advice you give to people starting out in a new business?
I love giving advice, whether it’s valuable or if anyone listens is a different story. I can’t change how someone is. I think a lot of people have a plan and a direction for what they want to do for themselves, but it simply boils down to finding an idea that you think is scalable.

I’m not that brave guy who is going to launch something like Twitter, because Twitter took a lot of money and if someone else wasn’t going to throw that money at that big investment further on, it would have been game over.

I’m not that brave, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be; try and put something in where you can see steps of how you can progress, because you don’t want to put your whole life into something if you can’t see how you’re going to make it progress.

Put in the hours, don’t stop, night and day. You don’t have to conform to 9-5. If you’re in a current job, look at all the extra hours, your weekends. There is no rule to say that you should switch off ; constantly work at it. If it fails first time then don’t give up.

Innovate, be passionate, keep going for it. I did multiple businesses before I got to where I am today, not all of them worked out, but I didn’t give up and I think that’s a really important point.

Image: iStock/519046987

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  • 1
    Lahiru wrote on 20th Feb 2015

    Thanx a lot sir.. Truly it's mesmerising..

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