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The Entrepreneur: Dan Wagner, Powa Technologies

Serial entrepreneur and e-commerce expert Wagner talks leaving school at 16 to "get his hands dirty", business regrets and why the market is about to get a whole lot "smarter"

Founder: Dan Wagner
Company: Powa Technologies
Website: uk1.powa.com
Description in one line: Everything commerce, mobile/desktop/POS, online & offline
Previous companies: Online archiving business M.A.I.D, e-commerce platform Venda
Turnover: Private
12 month target: Private

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Synergy amongst multiple independent product lines
  • The best people, building innovative products
  • Visionary leadership team, designing and executing winning strategies

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The latest funding round (Powa secured a record $76m backing from US investors in August 2013) has given me and my entire organisation a fantastic opportunity to build a global leader.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Many. We have key metrics in each division and unit. With the upcoming pre-launch of PowaTag, I really enjoy looking at the number of clients that have signed up, because it validates my vision of the potential of the service.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We are currently experiencing tremendous growth. Our e-commerce platform, PowaWeb, has been operating throughout Europe for several years now. Our mobile POS division has major clients in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the States, we’ve attracted the top leadership team from VeriFone, as well as the top sales talent to spearhead our PowaTag efforts. Over the last four months we have opened 14 offices around the world.

With the upcoming launch of PowaTag, our exciting new service that will look to revolutionise the way in which retailers and consumers interact, our interaction with other global enterprises will increase greatly.

Describe your growth funding path:

I started this company with my own funds because I just knew the market was ripe for innovation. Our Series A round has set records for being the largest ever first investment round. We are in the envious position of having many options for our next funding steps. For now we are focused on execution, while keeping our eyes open for the right business and funding opportunities.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

The smartphone. It is much more personal than the personal computer. The combination of a powerful computing device, in an interconnected world, with a population that is increasingly tech savvy truly opens the door for innovation.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

The onus is on the continued international expansion of the Powa Technologies brand. We are embarking on some exciting times thanks to our breakthrough technology and I hope to go someway toward Powa Technologies being a household name in the not too distant future.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

In 1997, following my reverse acquisition of Knight Ridder Information, I had to let go of 30% of the workforce representing over 400 jobs. It was extremely difficult to effect the redundancies but it had to happen because the business was way overstaffed.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Allowing private equity investors into my companies who didn’t share the same vision/goal as I had. It makes things very difficult and many work cycles can be wasted in that environment.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Nothing a nice red scissor can’t take care of. But seriously, we are not in a highly regulated environment (yet) so we are not significantly hampered by Red Tape.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

There is a very fine line between success and failure in the entrepreneurial world. What works for one may not work for another, but I think one of the most common mistakes is not having a clear goal, or vision for your business. It’s essential that you have a clear and focused approach to where you want your business to get to. Once you have determined the end goal, you’ll be better placed to work out how to get there.

How will your market look in three years?

I think the trends we are seeing now will continue. All sorts of devices will get “smarter” as they connect to the internet (cars, thermostats, security systems, etc.); design will continue to be important (in software and hardware); the lines between offline and online will blur; the lines between mobile and desktop will continue to blur and consumers will expect, and demand, innovation.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Follow YOUR vision. Don’t be too stubborn to accept help, advice and guidance from those that have succeeded before you, but it’s essential that you are the captain of your own ship. Neither success nor failure is predetermined, but once you have established in your own mind where you want your business to go, follow that vision, trust your own instincts and work like hell until you get to where you want to be.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Family vacations

Executive education or learn it on the job?

I left school at 16 so I’m firmly in the ‘learn it on the job’ camp. There is no better education than one where you are actually out there getting your hands dirty and experiencing the highs and lows associated with business first hand. There are a lot of things that can be learned in the classroom, but the real cut and thrust of business is not one of them.

What would make you a better leader?

Even as a successful businessman there is always scope for development and room for improvement. To be a successful leader you have to be a good role model, knowledgeable in your field and therefore worthy of respect. I like to think that I possess these qualities so it’s just a matter of building on them.

Business book:

Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

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