‘Overnight success’ is far from reality

Endless inches of column space have been dedicated to serial entrepreneurs talking about ‘how I made it’ and ‘what I’ve learnt’. Yet I still believe that hearing stories of the journeys that people have made can help budding entrepreneurs, especially when times are tough. 

Over the years that I have spent starting and running businesses, I have learnt that whether you’re just toying with a great business idea or in the process of growing your company – never give up. The route might not always be obvious, but if you have the enthusiasm and the industry insight to see the way forward, you will get there in the end. An entrepreneur can always see the horizon.

In the early 90s I found myself at the forefront of the birth of the internet. Alongside my friend, Alan Goulding, I was working on software which allowed an electronic book to be read on a computer. This was all well and good until the internet started taking over – suddenly our great idea no longer looked so bright. In an age where anyone can read anything online, it became increasingly clear that our online book business would not be the success that we had hoped for.

In 1994 we then set up an internet consultancy firm, Super Net, with which we set about establishing Europe’s first online shop, the Wine Warehouse. I believe that this was the first online store of its type to offer secure transactions. At this point the internet was still unfamiliar territory for most people, and even Alan and I found the idea that this was a truly global platform to be an entirely new concept. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who found the concept alien, and it became increasingly clear that much of the public wasn’t on the internet at that point, and those that were online were not ready to trust online payments. The Wine Warehouse wasn’t a success. 

At this point in the story the temptation would be to give up, get a job and move on. But we had amassed such a wealth of knowledge and experience, in a space which we knew would be huge. In 1995 we joined Barclaycard and built Barclay Square, the UK’s first e-shopping mall. It was this venture which allowed us to get the experience, and ultimately the funding, which then helped us build WorldPay, the global payment trading platform, which we then sold to RBS in 2010 for £3bn.

We have witnessed different ages of the internet. Alan and I were there at the birth and have seen the internet grow to be fully established and integral to our everyday lives. We are currently on the cusp on the next stage – an ever greater-expansion, as the internet further infiltrates our lives via mobile. 

There may be companies out there today facing the same issues as we did back in the 90s – you come up with an idea and within a matter of months this product is obsolete as the industry propels forward. We can see similar barriers in the financial services at the moment, where the Eurozone crisis is having a daily impact on an entire industry – anyone would struggle to keep up.

My point is this: building a business is difficult. The road is never smooth and your journey will take you in directions that you never imagined were possible. And believe me, there are far more businesses that were built like this than there are Instagram ‘overnight-millionaire’ stories. Just stick to your guns, believe in your own knowledge and keep on going.

Nick Ogden is CEO and founder of payment solutions company CashFlows . A serial entrepreneur, he founded WorldPay before it was sold to RBS and has since been the chairman and CEO of The Voice Commerce Group. In 2010 Nick was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year at the National Business Awards UK.


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