1 August 2019
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey, from the beginning of your career to Wagestream.
As a student, I started off selling books door to door in the US. 100% commission, no work, no pay! I got into technology industry when I joined US Robotics in my mid-twenties, a US company selling modems into Europe [we thought 28.8Kbs was the fastest the internet would ever be!]. In the 1990’s anything attached to a computer made money [well almost anything], and the fast pace and high growth gave me an appetite for tech start-ups that could never be satisfied! I have since gone on to grow, manage and scale several high growth global technology businesses. Some of the companies I have built have become multi-million £ brands and engaged tens of millions of consumers. For example, I built and sold a company to Microsoft, producing the best quarterly post-acquisition metrics in Microsoft history. I also founded LivingSocial UK/IE, taking it from zero revenue to a $100 million consumer technology business with over 350 employees in the UK & IE.
Why did you found Wagestream and what is the dream?
Myself and my co-founder had a natural hatred for payday loans and have seen the damage they can cause to people’s financial and mental health. We concluded that the main issue, or main reason people take loans, was not a credit issue but a cash flow issue. As in, workers are restricted from accessing their earnings and as a result are forced to take short term high interest credit alternatives, which unfortunately get them into cycles of debt that it is very tough to recover from. Therefore, if we could figure out a way to link to the employer, understand in real time employees earnings, and give them access to a portion of what they have earned, the requirement for the majority of pay day loans would become redundant.
How did you decide on the name Wagestream?
The category is called income streaming so Wagestream was the natural choice!
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
First to market, with the most advanced product, and the easiest to integrate. Our mission is to kill off payday loans, end overdraft fees and get everyone £250 in savings [right now 55% of UK families have less than £250 in savings].
Why should people join Wagestream?
It is a great concept with a social mission, that is delivering massive value for employees and employers alike. If you want to be part of something that changes peoples’ lives – join Wagestream.
What lessons do you have on how to manage an investor base?
Always keep investors informed and up to date. Whether the news is good of bad – not communicating will never win you investor friends. Investors are investors for a reason – they have either made their own money or have earned the right to invest someone else’s. Either way, they have experience and can be incredibly helpful if you keep them informed and in the loop.
What advice would you give to new start-up founders hoping to raise investment?
At the beginning, investors are buying into you as founders. Your idea may be the best thing since the penny farthing but a good investor knows execution is key. Be honest, up front and present yourselves as people that can deliver. If you have a minimum viable product (MVP) or traction that really helps, as you’re already proving you can execute.
Why do you think Fintech start-ups in London are absent from addressing socially important issues?
I think more and more investors are looking to fund social enterprises and organisations that have profit with purpose. As this becomes more of an investment criteria it will help social impact businesses expand and grow.
How have you adapted your product to the changing markets or environment?
Firstly, get a product to market. Then, listen to your customers, be on top of all usage data, and continue to iterate and innovate based on what your customers say and how they use your product. Have your engineering team in house and never outsource in the early days. Constant agile iteration is key.
What is your view of the Tech Sector in London in the next 5 years?
I think the UK fintech market will go from strength to strength. Our banking infrastructure, open banking initiatives and regulatory environment are world class. The fintech growth area is one of the biggest assets the UK has in terms of innovation and job creation. I also believe it will be able to weather any storms that occurs from Brexit.
What are the biggest challenges Tech businesses should prepare themselves for post Brexit?
Hold on to your hats. Tech businesses are quick to counter challenges and overcome obstacles. As the future is unclear, do what all fast growth tech companies have to do every day; dive in and overcome!