Infobasis: Ashley Wheaton
Ashley Wheaton explains how he fulfilled a 20-year dream by starting up leading skills firm Infobasis
Many business bosses admit to having entrepreneurial dreams from a young age. Few have waited as long to launch their first venture as Ashley Wheaton, co-founder of Infobasis, a skills management firm.
Luckily for Wheaton, and fellow creators Nicholas Revell and John Cooke, the 20-year wait has been proved worth it, with Infobasis successfully tapping into a profitable market.
“I have wanted to run my own business since I was about 15,” Wheaton explains. “However, it took nearly 20 years to pluck up the courage to do it.”
Wheaton, Revell and Cooke founded Infobasis in 2001 after coming up with the idea while working as trainers for software giants Microsoft.
“We simply had to apply a technology solution to the age-old problem of training needs analysis,” says Wheaton. “John and Nicholas worked closely on the project with me, and we soon spotted the major commercial opportunity for such a solution.
“We approached Microsoft to see if they wanted to commercialise the solution, and they gave us the go-ahead to set up out own business, having decided it was not something they wanted to pursue.”
The trio funded the business through their own savings for the first three years, before securing external investment in 2003 through Oxford Capital Partners. The founders put the £500,000 to good use, rapidly growing the business, thanks to the large gap in the skills management market spotted by Wheaton.
“The market is growing faster and faster, and we are still one of the very few, if only, serious players who have comprehensive customer solutions,” he says. “We’ll target about £3-4 million revenue next year. We’re aiming to take our solution into new sectors of the market with the ultimate goal to have the business acquired by a larger organisation, who can grow it still further and more quickly.”
Wheaton claims that effective teamwork has been a significant factor behind Infobasis’ success. The company’s emphasis on strong working relationships saw it being named the Team of the Year at the 2004 Startups Awards.
“I think it (teamwork) is not just important, but absolutely critical,” he insists. “We have insured at Infobasis that teamwork is a very high priority. When everyone knows the business direction, and has a real sense of being part of a team, the whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.
Wheaton is less enthusiastic about the UK’s attitude to entrepreneurship, which he feels is not helpful to startup businesses.
“The UK can make it hard for entrepreneurs,” he says. “There are not that many government schemes which provide real incentive to go into business for yourself.
“The major issues has been the UK banking system, which has been very difficult to work with. It has been a struggle to find a bank that can truly support our needs a growing software business.”
Despite this, the Infobasis co-founder claims that determined entrepreneurs are able to overcome such obstacles, citing icons as diverse as Bill Gates and Lance Armstrong as figures who have succeeded despite adversity.
“One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is that every day you are doing something you truly believe in. Work is not longer defined as ‘work’, but as doing what you are trying to achieve.
“Anyone thinking about it simply has to answer that question – ‘Will I be doing something I truly, and deeply, believe in?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then nothing can stop you.”