Tech City Life: Why you need to take risks

Flubit.com founder Bertie Stephens urges you to ditch the back-up plan and get started today

It feels slightly cheeky writing this week’s blog. Last week Startups’ new mystery blogger, Startup Confidential, wrote about why making the decision to start a business is the hardest part; my words are to echo theirs. Week two of this Tech City insider helps put this great advice into a real world adventure.

In time we’ll trundle down the path of the many pros, cons, highs and lows of living your life within the walls of Tech City, but, you have to get here first.

That is key, the getting here part.

I don’t mean taking the tube two stops from King’s Cross and walking out into the maze of tunnels Old Street station offers with your dream hat on. I mean arriving with a view that the first ‘To Let’ sign you see on an office block is a real possibility of becoming your new home.

Oh, on a side note, you’ll sleep here on many occasions, so make sure it’s a fitting place.

In April 2011 when I took that leap I was far from discontent with my own employment, I enjoyed every day – surprised right, that’s not what you usually get?

For me it’s always about trying to do the ridiculous. Flubit.com offers a bespoke discount on anything, at any time – and I love the fact that that sounds almost impossible to pull off. But I’ve always been interested in bringing ideas to life. In high school I created a city-wide discount card, I published a magazine in university, and produced and raised funds for a 16th century period drama feature film during my final year. Instead of a Saturday job, I started my own radio voice over agency to help fund my day-to-day activities. My philosophy is about doing, and being productive, it doesn’t always work, but it’s great just getting on with it.

So that’s why in April I wasn’t sat behind a desk of a standard 9-5 day-dreaming about adventure – in fact I was already having my very own one.

Three years prior to setting up Flubit, I had co-founded a video production media agency with two colleagues. I was (and am) incredibly proud of it. We had clients such as Intuit, BAE Systems and Coca Cola Enterprise. We made feature films, product videos and more. It was great, I loved it. I had almost full control over the production of many projects and I could bring to life my concepts; we were profitable, we had our own massive studio.

Then one day I sat down with my two co-founders and announced I was leaving.

Curveball, no one saw it coming, I don’t think even I saw it coming. But it had to happen.

It had to happen because I had developed on paper a concept. It was risky, garishly outlandish. I had met someone who offered me a small amount of money (in comparison to what we would need) to get it fully working.

I had a choice; continue where I was, a steady income, a set up already in place – versus – start from scratch to take a concept to product with only enough money to keep me going for a few months. We would need to raise more, but then the end opportunities were greater.

To this day I still believe my co-founders think I had raised enough money to keep going for a long time when I left. I don’t blame them, who would be mad enough to take the risk of losing everything, severing any opportunity of returning, for something that can be over in a few months?

I was. I was because I knew if I didn’t I’d never know what I could achieve. If someone replicated that idea, I’d always be the one saying “I thought of that”. Now, whatever the situation ends up to be, at the very least I can always be the one to say “I went for that”.

Thoughts had run through my mind. Maybe I could ask for a six month sabbatical? Maybe I could do it part-time and get another CEO to run it?

My co-founder, Adel, soon put me in place. If you have an escape plan, you’ll always be relaxed knowing you can fall back on something. Not having one is the scariest thing you’ll do, but also the best way of allowing yourself to succeed.

Take the risk, and make sure it is a risk. Risks will fail and you’ll have to re-group, but not having a risk will heighten your chances of failing too.

So in April 2011 I took that risk, severed all ties, and moved on to Flubit.com. At that point I was based in Newbury, Berkshire. I had to take a big decision, stay put or move to Tech City in London – and that’s where we’ll pick up next week…

Bertie Stephens is chief executive of demand-driven marketplace Flubit.com.

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