The BBC’s weekly The Boss collection profiles completely different enterprise leaders from world wide. 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 “pc boffin” who again in 1997 was dwelling at house along with his mum in Cheltenham, within the west of England, he noticed a enterprise alternative.
Desirous to arrange his personal web site with a college pal, he realised that only a few of the present web-hosting firms have been aimed toward small companies or members of the general public.
“All the web-hosting firms within the UK on the time have been pitched at a lot greater firms,” says Andrew, now 39. “However we noticed that small companies and people wished one thing self-service and straightforward to make use of.”
So he and his pal determined to fill the hole available in the market, and arrange their very own web-hosting firm referred to as Fasthosts.
“We had the computer systems we wanted 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 street. It value about 30 grand, however we had no cash.”
Pondering he had no different possibility, Andrew swiped his mom’s bank card and ordered the web improve. “We type of blagged it over the telephone,” he says.
Additionally reserving some journal adverts – and explaining away the massive new pc 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 pal went off to college, Andrew cancelled his personal plans for greater schooling to focus full-time on rising Fasthosts as a substitute.
He ended up promoting it nine 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 sold for an undisclosed sum additionally believed to be tens of tens of millions.
Whereas each companies proved profitable, Andrew additionally made newspaper headlines for throwing lavish, no-expense spared parties.
His work Christmas events at Fasthosts have 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 birthday 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, gathering takings, and discussing enterprise concepts.
“From a really younger age I had a buying and selling, money-making, get-up-and-go mentality.”
Trying 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 assumed it could make me actually pleased,” he says.
“However I really had a sinking feeling, as I walked by way of the workplace and realised I might bought all of it, that all of it got here all the way down to a quantity on a spreadsheet.”
Consequently, 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 a lot of different folks had had the identical concept on the similar time, so simply promoting wasn’t working,” he says. “It was my first expertise of potential failure, and I used to be fearful I used to be going to be a one-hit surprise.”
And so it may need turned out, if it wasn’t for an evening within the pub.
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“I ended up turning into fairly pleasant with somebody from [electronics retailer] Dixons, who I met on an evening out with a mutual pal,” 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 bought.
“It was a smash hit,” says Andrew. “And we went on to duplicate the mannequin with different retailers. Finally the enterprise turned 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 thing 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 pc 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, however it additionally simplified the method of registering domains and accessing webhosting for a lot of.
“In the meantime, Livedrive was unquestionably a pioneer within the private and small enterprise cloud storage and backup market.”
Trying forward, Andrew says he nonetheless has loads of ambition.
“I am the type of person who the extra I’ve, the extra I need. And despite the fact that my first two companies did effectively, I do not class myself as wildly profitable.”