Michael Acton Smith: Firebox.com
Focus: Web gadget shop
Michael Acton Smith
Web gadget shop Firebox.com launched in 2000 after raising £75,000 at the height of the dotcom boom. Three years on the 20-person company will turn over £8m this year and is profitable. Now Acton Smith and co-founder Tom Boardman are bringing in new senior managers to allow them to concentrate on long-term strategy, launching a catalogue, opening their first outlet and hitting the US and Australian markets.
After the success of Firebox, Smith stepped down as CEO in 2004 to focus on his new project, entertainment company Mind Candy. The company is behind the enormously successful children’s’ brand Moshi Monsters – a virtual online world allowing kids to adopt their own pet monster, which they can use to socialize and play educational puzzles. It expanded into offline products such as toys, books, magazines, trading cards, videos games, music and a film. The brand’s revenues increased by more than 60% from £28.9m in 2011 to £46.9m in 2012, with its user base increasing from 55 million to 70 million. However, after reaching a peak valuation of $200m in July 2011, Mind Candy’s value had dropped dramatically to below $24m, following what Smith described as a “really tough time”. During a brief spell of rejuvenation and reflection in Austria, Smith learnt the benefits of mindfulness mediation to calm his busy mind. Initially as an angel investor, Smith got involved with friend Alex Tew’s company calm.com – a website and app that teaches people mindfulness mediation. The site now has four million users, with 10,000 said to be joining each day. The entrepreneur was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours 2014 for services to the creative industries.