The best startup advice in the UK. We explore what it's really like to be a top entrepreneur and how to get there. Founders of startups like Monzo, BrewDog, Slack and Jo Malone tell us about their biggest challenges, key decisions and life-defining moments. How would you respond if you arrived in the UK as a penniless refugee? Or had to fire your Mum? Or had a billion dollar deal fall through your hands at the last minute? Learn how to lead from business greats.
Killing Kittens - the world famous sex party turning into a tech business, with Founder & CEO Emma Sayle
48:14“Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten, and I went ‘right, that's it, that's what I'm calling my business.’” This is the story of Killing Kittens, the cult-like sex party, founded by Emma Sayle. “Everyone starts talking to each other and mingling and then you'll see maybe a few couples disappear off into a room, or you know a group of girls go off. One minute you've got a packed bar and the next minute it's only 10 people in the bar and everyone's gone off into different rooms, getting naked, having sex, doing whatever. It’s like Dante's Inferno, limbs everywhere.” Killing Kittens begun life in 2005 as a series of monthly hedonistic parties led by empowered women in London, but it has since grown into a global movement including apps like the most private of private messaging platforms. In this latest episode, Emma shares where the idea for Killing Kittens came from, why women today are much better at owning their sexuality, sexual double standards, what to expect at a KK party, and how to turn something like this into a big business. “I need to raise money because we need to go big or go home on the whole platform side of it. And to make it fly before some Silicon Valley upstart with millions in the bank comes in claiming to own the female digital sex space.” Sponsor links: www.smithandwilliamson.com/secretleaders www.netsuite.com/secretleaders www.linkedin.com/secretleaders vanta.com/secretleaders
When and why to pivot your life, with doctor-turned-YouTuber Ali Abdaal
45:38How do you live a happier, healthier, more productive life? This is the question that doctor-turned-YouTuber Ali Abdaal is obsessed with. “Most of my childhood was spent chasing this dream of making magical internet money that mostly didn't work out. And it was like a string of failures. But when I did end up making magical internet money, I felt that a lot of the failures from childhood had been worth it.” Ali’s first business, 6Med, which he started in university in 2013, helps people get into medical schools and has been used by over 10,000 prospective doctors. But recently his career took an interesting turn when, having paused being a doctor to focus on becoming a YouTuber, he realised that his real love was teaching. With over two million subscribers and videos that have racked up over 145 million views, Ali has definitely found his niche. “I started seriously asking myself the question like, what the hell do I want to do with my life? One exercise I found really helpful was thinking about what do I want written on my gravestone? I ended up landing on some combination of good dad, good husband, and inspirational teacher.” Find out how to be more productive, why having fun with your work is so important, and how to tell your mum that you’re packing in medicine for a career on YouTube (eek). Links: Ali Abdaal Dr. Grace Lordan - Think Big Daniel Pink - Drive Tim Ferriss - 4 Hour Work Week Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
The startup that all other startups will want to succeed - MicroAcquire, with Founder & CEO Andrew Gazdecki
46:13“It’s really hard for companies to get acquired. I was shocked at how many entrepreneurs reached out to me after we announced the acquisition [of Bizness Apps], like ‘how did you get acquired?’” With a couple of exits already under his belt, Andrew Gazdecki saw first-hand how broken the process of selling a company was. He used that experience to start MicroAcquire in January 2020, a platform that helps startups get acquired by connecting them with buyers within 30 days. The goal is to give startups an alternative to brokers that’s easier, cheaper and more likely to succeed - and it’s working. In this episode, Andrew discusses the cut-throat world of clarinet playing, graduating Chico State with 2.07 - the lowest GPA of any student in their history; starting and exiting Bizness Apps and Altcoin.io; diagnosing the problems between private equity and entrepreneurs, and why he would support any of his employees who quit MicroAcquire to start their own company. “Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. It's about understanding who you are as a person. But what I think about a lot is just, the fear of regret is so much heavier than the fear of failure.” Download and listen today.
Lora DiCarlo - the sex tech startup that made Cara Delevingne orgasm three times in six minutes and got banned for being ‘obscene’ at CES 2019
47:17“When I was about 28 or 29 I had a squirting orgasm, I completely lost my mind. I couldn't tell if I was having a religious moment or a seizure, or maybe both or neither. As I lay there on the cold tile floor staring at the ceiling, all I could think was, oh my god, how do I do that again? And more importantly, how do I do that again by myself?” Lora DiCarlo is the founder of the sex tech startup also called Lora DiCarlo, and is determined to change the face of sex products. Having won an award for their first prototype at the world famous Consumer Electronics Show in 2019, the award was subsequently revoked for being ‘obsence, profane and immoral’, prompting outrage over the double-standards on women’s sexuality. Lora’s is a story of orgasms, scandals, celebrity power, the patriarchy, and a sprinkling of robotics engineering. Oh and find out how to bring on board Cara Delevingne as a co-owner…
Saved from the Nazis, she started a unicorn software company in the 1960s staffed with only women and just £6 - Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley
48:43Dame Stephanie Shirley, known as ‘Steve’ for reasons explained in the podcast, escaped Nazi persecution before founding a software startup in 1962 with just £6 which provided employment to hundreds of women when they weren’t taken seriously in the workplace. “I remember selling a six figure software project to a junior minister, and he was trying to pinch my bottom. It was very hard to maintain a sort of professionalism.” Steve’s story is one that reminds us both how much the world has moved on since the early days of her startup, and sadly how little has changed. “I can't believe how today we're still talking about the same sorts of things that I was talking about 50 years ago: feeling undervalued, women’s ideas taken and presented by men as their own, women being talked over, women being patronised, women being sexually assaulted.” From coming to England on the Kindertransport in 1939, to falling in love with mathematics, being appalled at pay inequality, founding her own company (Xansa plc, now part of the Sopra Group) in 1962, and navigating the 1975 equal opportunities legislation: “We tried to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. But all in all, we realised that that was the way the world was going. And now of course, all of business is much more inclusive. But it was a struggle. In the early days, women were second class citizens.” Having retired from the business aged 60 (she’s now 88), Steve is now a full time philanthropist, focusing on things she knows and cares about, treating her various charities as businesses. Her advice to listeners? “All the important things that I've done have been either disruptive or long term. Sticking with 11 years for this, 17 years for that, five years [there]. These are not things that are done overnight with a burst of energy.” We chat about: From refugee to entrepreneur Why she had to become Steve to get traction Surviving a nervous breakdown Becoming a good philanthropist Links: Book - Let It Go Book - So To Speak Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
How exponential technologies will change the world - with founder, journalist and author, Azeem Azhar
47:03“Technology does not appear from nowhere, it is closely allied to the shape of society. And if you have exponentially changing technologies, they will force changes on society, or create a gap.” Humans coming second best to technology isn’t a new subject but our guest today, Azeem Azhar, has a new, thoroughly researched take on it which goes further than anything we’ve seen before. Azeem is a founder, journalist, speaker and now author of the book ‘Exponential: How Accelerating Technology Is Leaving Us Behind and What to Do About It’, which is being released right now. His book, and our conversation, is about the expanding gap between technology and society - not just computing power, but energy, market control, and even how our countries are run. He presents the immense problems and opportunities this creates for us as a species. When’s the precise start date of the exponential wave? Will the growing gap between tech and society inevitably lead to conflict? Why are cities important in the exponential age? What are the major problems accelerating tech can solve? Yes, it can be a huge force for good. Find out what the future holds for our civilisation.
Ethereum fallout - how the second biggest cryptocurrency in the world nearly didn’t happen, with Anthony Di Iorio, Co-Founder of Ethereum and Decentral
48:32How many of us are kicking ourselves for not investing $100 in Bitcoin in 2010 - it would be worth almost $48 million today. Anthony Di Iorio, one of the co-founders of Ethereum, the massive open-source blockchain, which is home to Ether, the second biggest cryptocurrency in the world after Bitcoin, is not kicking himself. Anthony was an early investor in Bitcoin putting in $8,000 back in 2012. With the proceeds of his first sale of Bitcoin, Anthony was able to initially fund Ethereum with the few million dollars he made. Anthony stepped away from Ethereum in 2015, and is currently the founder and CEO of the blockchain company Decentral - a software development company he founded that focuses on blockchain tech. Anthony’s story is wild - not your average entrepreneur tale. He needs round the clock bodyguards and for a man who’s spent his working life seeking freedom, that doesn’t sit well. “I always search for freedom, to be empowered, where I can be in control of my life utilising technology to do that. A big turning point for me [was] when I'm surrounded by security guards and thinking, is this really the life that I want? And the answer is no. The more I search for freedom, the less freedom I actually get.” Links: Decentral Ethereum.org Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
The other way to build a massive tech company - doing it slowly, with Airtable Co-Founder and CEO Howie Liu
49:40Most investors didn’t understand the concept. Most non-technical entrepreneurs at the time didn’t get it either. But Howie Liu, Co-Founder and CEO of multi-billion dollar tech juggernaut Airtable, had the conviction to bet the next 10 years of his life on it. “I didn't come up with Airtable as an idea, on a lark, it was informed by a lot of the research I did, a lot of the observations I had of the enterprise software landscape, of looking back at other companies that did similar things. I then came to this gut decision that this was a big opportunity.” Airtable is a low-code relational database, a highly versatile platform that’s grown massively since its founding almost 10 years ago. In the interim, Howie has learnt how to articulate a unique product to a huge customer base, and grow it from the ground up to become a category defining piece of software. But how did a home-brew startup become a Silicon Valley darling? Howie shares his story from lifeguarding, ghosting Accenture on the first day of his new job, joining the Y Combinator, founding Etacts and his subsequent decision to sell it to Salesforce less than a year later: “We felt woefully ill prepared to go and try to build a larger and more ambitious company from the starting point that we had set out with. And a few acquisition offers did come around, including Salesforce, we felt like they would be great learning opportunities.” Find out what Howie did next on his way to a near $6b valuation.
How to build a business at 16, recover from a $1b dollar deal collapsing, and walk on hot coals, with multi-exit entrepreneur Norman Crowley
47:50What would you do if you sold your business and effectively retired at the ripe, old age of 28? Phenomenally successful serial entrepreneur Norman Crowley took just three weeks before jumping back into business. “A business isn't just a vehicle to make money. A vehicle is an expression of your creativity, it's working with friends. And then the thing nobody warns you about is that when it's sold, you just end up with a bank balance, and the friends are gone, the mission has gone.” Norman has founded multiple businesses in welding, gaming and eco-friendly energy. Each time he’s turned them into multi-million pound ventures, before selling them and moving on to the next big thing. Norman has had his fair share of bruises - including having a dream billion dollar deal slip right through his fingers at the last minute. “An Icelandic hedge fund, who already owned 25% of the business, offered to buy the whole thing for $1 billion. And when somebody offers to buy your business for $1 billion, it's impolite to say no, so we agreed to sell.” His focus now is on climate change, and despite being asked to sell his current business every six months, he’s resolute that this one isn’t for sale. Don’t miss Norman share his fascinating story in this episode. From how his childhood impacted his career, to the commonality of anxiety and entrepreneurship, starting and selling five businesses, learning to control the business narrative, building a gambling machine business from £70 to £300m in revenue, missing out on selling a business for £1bn, founding the cloud, tackling climate change with The Cool Planet Group, and learning how to walk on hot coals. “Keep fucking walking. This business shit is not easy. Anyone who tells you it's easy is not trying hard enough, so keep walking. Don't give up.” We chat about: Mental health and entrepreneurship Starting and selling 5 businesses Why his current business is not for sale Learning how to walk on hot coals Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!
Overcoming crippling anxiety and how to get work/life balance right, with Mathilde Collin, Co-Founder and CEO of Front
46:04Mathilde Collin is the co-founder and CEO of Front, a communications platform that has developed a cult following - despite having to stop working at one point because her anxiety had become so debilitating. Find out how Mathilde learned to overcome burnout, an incapacitated co-founder, and a serious case of competitiveness that almost let work take over her whole life. Front has grown quickly since its founding in 2013, amassing a cult following, and recently announced a huge series C round with some investors including Eric Yuan - the founder of Zoom. In this candid conversation, Mathilde shares why she was so unhappy as an intern before starting Front, meeting her co-founder, her Y Combinator experience, meeting Patrick Collison - CEO of Stripe, why dealing with anxiety has been so challenging, and why she considers discipline and transparency to be important skills for happiness and success. “For me, what matters is when I'm not working, I want to make sure that I'm not working. I think the biggest thing that prevents people from having a good work life balance isn't obviously the number of hours, but the fact that when they're off, they're on.” We chat about: Make something people want How YC gave her the confidence that Front would be a great company Transparency and discipline at Front Her super power Links: Mathilde Collin – Medium Want to receive our podcast on a weekly basis? Subscribe to our newsletter!