The Entrepreneur: Chris Ash, Ash Gaming
The founder of interactive gambling and betting games supplier Ash Games shares his biggest business mistake and an essential tip for other entrepreneurs
Founder: Chris Ash
Company: Ash Gaming
Description in one line: A developer of online betting games
Previous companies: None to speak of
Turnover at exit: Circa £6m
Value at exit: Circa £20m
Describe your business model and how you made it unique:
- Licensing of products to multiple gaming operators
- Exceptional focus and attention to detail on product development
- Building great relationships with engaged customers, listening and learning
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Being voted the top small and medium enterprise in the UK for our placement programme for students over a 10-year period.
What numbers did you look at every day in your business?
League tables of our most successful products.
To what extent did your business trade internationally and how did you achieve it?
Over 50% of sales were international through multiple partnerships and distribution deals.
Describe your growth funding path:
Mostly blood sweat and tears. We did have one private investor early on but we were already cashflow positive by then.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your businesses?
The wiki – using which we built a huge knowledge base of info from staff inductions through partner technical systems to customer information and everything else you could possibly think of.
If you have one, where would you like your new business to be in three years?
I don’t have a new business, I work full time for Playtech who acquired us. I have invested in a few new start-ups – social media marketing tools focused Driftrock, a site where you can discover, rent and own art works called Rise Art, and domestic cleaner booking site Hassle – which I hope will do well and I am interested in exciting technology firms looking for angel funding.
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What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Making staff redundant in the tough times.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Thinking that customers will find out who you are and understand the value you add through their own research and our reputation, without the need for significant sales and marketing energy.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
It is generally pointless talking to banks in the early stages so we didn’t bother.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
I see some wannabe entrepreneurs who think that it is the idea that matters, when really the team and their ability to execute is everything.
How will your market look in three years?
There will be more effective regulation by European governments. The continuing proliferation of new devices will increase the costs and operational complexities of maintaining a varied proposition. These ingredients will lead to more consolidation at the top and more opportunity for new players who are able to create a product focused on the new distribution channels.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Calmly tackle the most important things first head-on. It’s better to trust your instincts and act on them than ignore the problem.
Having a bit more time with the family.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Definitely the latter. I attended the Cranfield BGP course for owner-managers which I found very rewarding and am a member of the Supper Club which is also a great networking and learning environment.
What would make you a better leader?
Listening more and speaking less.
I find I don’t consume information through reading written word very effectively, I prefer to place myself in situations and learn by interacting with others.
Chris Ash participated in the Ride25 Pioneers bike ride from Geneva to Milan.