The BBC’s weekly The Boss collection profiles totally different enterprise leaders from all over the world. This week we communicate to serial know-how entrepreneur Andrew Michael.
When Andrew Michael was 17 he gambled on altering his life by spending £30,000 on his mom’s bank card with out her information.
A self-confessed “laptop boffin” who again in 1997 was residing at residence together with his mum in Cheltenham, within the west of England, he noticed a enterprise alternative.
Eager to arrange his personal web site with a faculty buddy, he realised that only a few of the prevailing web-hosting corporations had been aimed toward small companies or members of the general public.
“All the web-hosting corporations within the UK on the time had been pitched at a lot greater corporations,” says Andrew, now 39. “However we noticed that small companies and people needed one thing self-service and simple to make use of.”
So he and his buddy determined to fill the hole out there, and arrange their very own web-hosting firm referred to as Fasthosts.
“We had the computer systems we would have liked in my bed room at Mum’s home, and we had created the software program ourselves,” says Andrew.
“However what we actually wanted was a high-speed web connection, which in these days concerned digging up the highway. It value about 30 grand, however we had no cash.”
Considering he had no different choice, Andrew swiped his mom’s bank card and ordered the web improve. “We form of blagged it over the telephone,” he says.
Additionally reserving some journal adverts – and explaining away the massive new laptop modem – the gamble was that the enterprise would earn sufficient in its first month to repay the bank card invoice when it arrived.
Amazingly it labored. “By the top of the month we had sufficient purchasers and cash to pay for the web line and the promoting,” says Andrew.
And simply as importantly, his mom forgave him for the subterfuge.
Whereas his buddy went off to school, Andrew cancelled his personal plans for larger training to focus full-time on rising Fasthosts as an alternative.
He ended up promoting it 9 years later for £61.5m. Aged solely 26 on the time, his 75% share of the enterprise meant that he pocketed £46m.
Two years later Andrew arrange a cloud storage agency referred to as Livedrive, which he subsequently offered for an undisclosed sum additionally believed to be tens of hundreds of thousands.
Whereas each companies proved profitable, Andrew additionally made newspaper headlines for throwing lavish, no-expense spared events.
His work Christmas events at Fasthosts had been reported to have included performances by the likes of girlbands Ladies Aloud and Sugababes, plus rockers The Darkness, and chat present host Jonathan Ross because the compère.
And he admits that he as soon as paid for US R&B singer Usher to carry out at a girlfriend’s celebration.
“I really like a celebration, I really like entertaining folks,” he says. “And I do not do issues by halves.”
Born in Cyprus however raised in Cheltenham, Andrew thinks he inherited his enterprise drive and focus from his father.
“My father came to visit from Cyprus, and was very a lot a small enterprise man,” he says.
“Like many Cypriots, he opened up fish and chip retailers and cafés, and so a few of my childhood was spent driving round these websites, accumulating takings, and discussing enterprise concepts.
“From a really younger age I had a buying and selling, money-making, get-up-and-go mentality.”
Wanting again on how he expanded Fasthosts, he says that he was “laser centered”, and that “nothing else mattered”.
Whereas the sale of the enterprise in 2006 made him very wealthy, he says it additionally left him feeling unfulfilled.
“I keep in mind being within the workplace when the cash got here into my checking account, and I believed it could make me actually completely happy,” he says.
“However I truly had a sinking feeling, as I walked by means of the workplace and realised I would offered all of it, that all of it got here right down to a quantity on a spreadsheet.”
Because of this, Andrew admits he “obtained bored and possibly drank and ate an excessive amount of” for some time. Eager to get again into enterprise he launched Livedrive two years later.
Sadly the corporate initially struggled in a crowded market.
“We discovered that plenty of different folks had had the identical thought on the identical time, so simply promoting wasn’t working,” he says. “It was my first expertise of potential failure, and I used to be frightened I used to be going to be a one-hit marvel.”
And so it may need turned out, if it wasn’t for an evening within the pub.
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“I ended up changing into fairly pleasant with somebody from [electronics retailer] Dixons, who I met on an evening out with a mutual buddy,” says Andrew. “We then began working with them.”
Dixons determined to assist Livedrive to develop its product, after which to bundle it with laptops and tablets that it offered.
“It was a smash hit,” says Andrew. “And we went on to duplicate the mannequin with different retailers. Ultimately the enterprise grew to become greater than Fasthosts.”
Following the sale of Livedrive in 2014, Andrew’s newest enterprise is Bark, an internet site that permits folks to e-book native service professionals, every part from a plumber to a guitar instructor, canine walker or private coach.
Impartial know-how analyst Chris Inexperienced says: “Fasthosts was a traditional instance of the bed room laptop innovation that the UK was so good at within the 80s and 90s.
“Not solely was it an immediate success for a 17-year-old Andrew Michael, nevertheless it additionally simplified the method of registering domains and accessing internet hosting for a lot of.
“In the meantime, Livedrive was unquestionably a pioneer within the private and small enterprise cloud storage and backup market.”
Wanting forward, Andrew says he nonetheless has loads of ambition.
“I am the form of person who the extra I’ve, the extra I would like. And though my first two companies did effectively, I do not class myself as wildly profitable.”