Interview with a tech entrepreneur
British and 26 years-old. Blimey
He moved on to the University of Brighton, where “there was a good atmosphere and really insightful lecturers but I learned nothing. I knew it all about computers. The only thing I learned at Uni was Business. I knew Technology and the next thing was to make money out of it.”
Stubbs didn’t finish university, though he says it bugs him and he intends to finish up someday. “I didn’t finish university because I started making money,” he recalled, “especially in my industry, you don’t necessarily have to have a degree - experience and knowledge is more important.”
“I’d been making websites since 1995,” Stubbs said, “and I saw the dot-coms making money and knew I could do the same.” Stubbs' first business - which didn’t survive the Tech Wreck - was called “English Village” and involved building e-commerce stores for people with things to sell. “It was money for nothing really,” Stubbs says, “these businesses were riding the dot-com wave and when that tanked, well our business did too.”
Stubbs then found himself in an Eastbourne pub with friend Mark Roberts, an Aussie with a business background, discussing politics. The subject shifted through Democracy, on-line voting/polling and how “can we inspire people’s interest in their local councils?”
“People don’t go to or get involved in their local council meetings,” Stubbs explained, “so we came up with a web-casting service for the UK councils which allows residents to get involved; watch council meetings on their mobile phones; go to an internet café; go into archives and watch their councilors and what they said and how they voted.” UK Council Ltd. (http://www.public-i.info/) was born.
What the Stubbs/Roberts' initiative did was to install the cameras, hardware and servers for the council and handle the broadcasting of meetings over the internet. This increased council transparency to the taxpayers, offered a better way to interest citizens, and eliminated the need to disseminate information via expensive printed mailers.
This enterprise was self-funded by Stubbs and Roberts until they successfully raised £1 million from investors.
In 2001, Stubbs left UK Council Ltd., although he remains a significant stockholder. He then worked for a start-up - where he supplied all of the technical and programming acumen with a particular emphasis on networking - and began to mull new possibilities.
He was concentrating on building a very big, interconnected business. He wanted it to provide networking services to customers then also subsume their web apps, bespoke system design and software development for the clients they initially engaged for network services. “This is a heavily open-standards-based business,” Stubbs insisted animatedly.
The Network Factory (www.thenetworkfactory.co.uk) is Stubbs’ new business. This start-up counts amongst its clients the UK’s largest monthly-turnover online mortgage processor for whom they designed a bespoke system and also run all other IT systems. “Everybody says they do ‘bespoke systems’ but at the end of the day, they’ve just installed other people’s products,” Stubbs observed pointedly.
“We design the software, hardware and use best-of-breed technology,” he said with satisfaction.
This kind of passion/enthusiasm is the crucial ingredient in any entrepreneurial enterprise development. Without it, the start-up is doomed. Britain’s entrepreneurs must seize and maintain this motivated maverick mindset in order for this country to build anything even faintly resembling Silicon Valley.
However, to suggest that ultimate success is just a matter of pure energy would be misleading. Stubbs is expecting his first child soon. Until that happy event, he has got to get his cash flow together and scale his business baby quickly. Then, and only then, can he build something robust and sustainable. ®
Bill Robinson has appeared on CNN, PBS, Bloomberg and had his own segment on SKY News commenting on high-tech and marketing issues and has written columns and articles for FORTUNE Small Business, The Financial Times, Marketing Magazine (UK), Forbes.com, The Moscow Times, Cisco Systems iQ Magazine, United Airline's Hemispheres Magazine and Upside Magazine. Bill may be reached at: [email protected]