atom42: Andrew Atalla

The 2009 Startups Awards young entrepreneur of the year on why he hasn't quite mastered the work / home balance yet

Founder: Andrew Atalla
Age: 29
Company name: atom42
Date started: March 2007
Based: London
Staff Numbers: 10

Tell us what your business does:

We are an online acquisition agency specialising in helping our clients grow their business through online marketing.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

With a background in Search Marketing, I quickly realised that search marketing was just a means to an end. A client’s real goal is that of acquisition – be it a sale, registration, or simply awareness via site interaction and usage.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Companies always want to grow, and as the internet is becoming a more and more competitive and complex space, they need to be more and more innovative in their approach to growth.

Was it hard to leave your job?

It was a big leap, but having grown the search division at my last company from nothing to a group of 10+, I felt confident that I should be able to do the same again with a revised, and hopefully more engaging offering.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I remember once in an appraisal my boss at the time said something like “I’m sure you’ll want to start your own business at some point”, so it will be good for you to get exposure to all sides of the division you’ve developed” – and I thought… “oooh, run my own business – I hadn’t thought of that!”.

To be honest – there were so many factors that fell into place that made it feel right, specifically the support and encouragement from my family and friends which made me feel comfortable in giving it a go.

Being your own boss has as many pros as it does cons. It often feels like you’re never off duty, as even when I’m off on holiday I find myself checking it for an hour or so each day.

Building a website for your business idea is easier than you might think. Our online tool ranks the top website builders that offer free trials.

At the same time though, having a happy group of people who are all part of something that you’ve put together is hugely satisfying.

How did you raise the money? How easy was it? Did anyone reject you?

My overheads were very low at first, so I didn’t raise any cash.

What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is finding the right people to let into our little family. Overcoming that is an endless struggle, but worth every minute of it when you find a gem.

How have you promoted your business?

Mostly by word of mouth, our online marketing initiatives, and the occasional commentary we’ve done for some start-up business magazines to help business owners get going.

What has your growth been like?

We got to where we are in about two and a half years.

I was told when I started that the first two years are the hardest, but I’ve just come out of a meeting with some people who have been doing this for much longer – and they think that year three is the hardest! I’ll have to let you know.

What’s the impact on your home life been like?

It’s a tough balance, and one which I’ve probably not quite mastered yet.

What would you do differently?

Fortunately, not too much. There have perhaps been a couple of opportunities missed, but nothing that we can’t make up for in the future.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Look before you leap, and then leap.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

The team we have here love what we do, and our clients are happy wit the results and service which they’ve received. As long as these things continue – it will be hard to warrant any significant change…


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