Riding Unicorns

S3E1 - Alex Chesterman OBE, Founder & CEO @ Cazoo

December 01, 2021 Riding Unicorns Season 3 Episode 1
Riding Unicorns
S3E1 - Alex Chesterman OBE, Founder & CEO @ Cazoo
Show Notes Transcript

Alex Chesterman OBE is one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs and Angel Investors. Through his unparalleled intuition and bravery Alex has carved out a reputation as a serial winner and disruptor of several traditional industries. His most recent venture, online car retailer Cazoo is proving to be yet another success having already raised over £1 bn in total funding.  

In this Season 3 opener Alex begins by reflecting on what entrepreneurship means to him, what has motivated him to keep going despite all of his success and why he chose the car industry as his next project. Alex then goes on to share his thoughts on being an angel investor and how his experience as an entrepreneur has helped him sharpen up his investment skills. 

Make sure to like and subscribe to the Riding Unicorns podcast to never miss an episode. Also don't forget to give Riding Unicorns a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep on top of the latest developments.

[00:00:00] Welcome to Riding Unicorns, the podcast about growth startups. I'm James Pringle, and I'm a technology entrepreneur and investor and the founder of Pringle Capital. My co-host is Hector Mason from episode one ventures for season three, we are sitting down with some of the most successful founders to better understand what entrepreneurship means to them. The operational processes they have employed on their startup journey and what lessons they've learned along the way.

[00:00:36] James: Today we are delighted to begin. Season three with Alex Chesterman.

[00:00:42] Alex is one of the UK's leading digital entrepreneurs and angel investors. He has founded some of the UK's most successful online businesses, including Cazoo Zoopla and love film. Alex is also being one of the UK's most active angel investors over the past 10 years.

[00:00:57] Backing dozens of early stage British digital [00:01:00] startups, including perkbox carwow, Farm drop, Tide per LIGO. Cleo thriver farewell third, fourth, and many more.

[00:01:09] And was awarded an OBE in 2016 for his services to digital entrepreneurship. This is an amazing episode to launch season three with, and we're super excited to introduce it to everyone. And we hope you enjoy it and let us know what you think.

[00:01:28] Welcome to riding unicorns, Alex. It's absolute pleasure to have you.

[00:01:32] Awesome. So as you know, season three is going to be exclusively founders and entrepreneurs. So we want to start by asking what does entrepreneurship mean?

[00:01:45] Alex: Well, I think when I started out, it meant to me working for myself, not having a boss, being my own boss, being able to do my own thing. My dad was an entrepreneur in that sense. and it gave him freedom's that, he enjoyed. [00:02:00] And so I think that's how I originally felt about it.

[00:02:02] And I think. More recently as I've done, multiple, businesses. I think of it more in terms of, attacking challenges that other people haven't taken on trying to fix problems, and doing things that other people have chosen or for whatever reason, they fought the too hard to deal with, or a little too problematic.

[00:02:26] So it's sort of looking more at challenging. I'm trying to figure out how to solve those challenges is what is how I view it nowadays.

[00:02:35] Hector: Yeah, I think that actually takes us quite nicely onto the next question, you know, to setting up a couple of super successful businesses, you probably didn't need to work another other day. So where did you find the motivation to keep on setting up businesses?

[00:02:48] I mean, it's, it's hard work. So how, how do you manage that?

[00:02:52] Alex: Yeah, look, it is what can I always, you know, I'm also a, an angel investor. I'm not one of the things that I always tell people when they [00:03:00] think about starting a business, as opposed to. you know, getting a job and, it is hard work and it's also a long journey. I think a lot of people think of, entrepreneurial-ism as a get rich, quick scheme.

[00:03:11] And it definitely isn't that, my experience is being a one way, these, a long journeys. And, often use the seven year analogy because, seven years, in my first business that I started, screen select, which became lot of film that was seven years from 2003 to 2010 between thoughts again and selling it to Amazon.

[00:03:35] Similarly with my second business, it was seven years from the time we stopped and didn't notice. So the time we floated it in 2014. So I have this sort of view that if you're making a commitment, you're making at least the seven year commitment to one of these, businesses.

[00:03:50] James: Yeah, I think that's a good thing for founders to take on board. So you did entertainment and then property. What was the moment that you decided to take on [00:04:00] the car industry and what sort of research or industry figures did you have at your disposal that made you choose that as the next sector you wanted to discuss?

[00:04:10] Alex: you know, I'm very consumer centric in all of the businesses that I've started, but also most of the businesses that I've, have full. So as an angel, which is I'm attracted to. The idea of using technology. If I go back in my early career, I grew up in the UK.

[00:04:26] I spent the whole of the nineties in the U S and, Asia actually, running around opening restaurants, so nothing to do with technology, but it was a very entrepreneurial experience. I spent about 10. doing that where I would go into a city and I, find the sites and I would hire a team and I open and then I move on to the next city I was working for a group that involved the hardball cafe and planet Hollywood at the time.

[00:04:51] And so I had. 20 or 30 startup experiences in different cities that I was doing each time. and then moving on. but what, you [00:05:00] know, as technology started to take over our lives in the early two thousands, I was very attracted to the idea of how you can improve consumer experiences, generally not sector specific in any way.

[00:05:13] It didn't have to be entertainment or proper deal or cause, and I'll explain why it ended up being. I was, but, you know, Amazon was a really attractive concept to me as a consumer, just the materially better experience. That's the way.

[00:05:27] to buy products in those days. And, there were lots of other opportunities to apply technology, to significantly improve the consumer experience. And the first one was one that I saw in the states, was Netflix, which I saw in 2002. it was a very small business then, or relatively small.

[00:05:45] It was less than $2 billion. It's now north of 200 billion. It was a DVDs by post business, but it was fundamentally different to what we'd all been doing before. And maybe you guys are too [00:06:00] young. I, when I explained to my kids what, we used to do. In terms of watching movies, you know, now it's a click of a bottom and, you press play and it's thumb.

[00:06:09] I used to be a trip to the video school, limited selection. they lend it to you for a short period of time. You'd have to bring it back or get fine if you didn't bring it back one time, it was inconvenient. It was poor value. It was limited selection, but it was what we did. And nobody knew betta and we all did it.

[00:06:27] And we all thought it was. Until something significantly better came along. And I saw him at flags and it just occurred to me that this is fundamentally Bethel on a number of different dimensions for the consumer better selection, better value, better convenience. So that was the first, sort of entree into applying a digital platform to material.

[00:06:51] A consumer experience. and then similarly I got the idea from my second business, which, was, Zoopla, I saw Zillow in the states [00:07:00] where in 2006, and then I started zipper in 2007, which was, very similar. It was materially improved. The data available to consumers, when thinking about, transacting with a buying or renting a property.

[00:07:16] And again, you know, I go back to you guys are probably too young to remember this, but the way we used to do it is we used to walk up and down high school. Looking in his agents, windows going inside and they'd hand us what they call property particulars, which was a printout of, eight, four pieces of paper, which had pretty limited information on them.

[00:07:37] So you're a few photos, and a description, you know, you couldn't get floor plans, you couldn't get historic pricing, you couldn't get any of the available information. And so again, it occurred to me that this is just a fundamental improved. On what consumers are used to. And it's interesting because if you go back and look up both of those businesses in the network, People often [00:08:00] full.

[00:08:00] We must've been really good at marketing and, doing something incredible to get the traffic. We were getting, zoop law, for example, to get the number of subscribers. We got to a million subscribers, at love film. And the truth is we weren't necessarily marketing geniuses. It was, the proposition was so much better than the alternative.

[00:08:24] The historic way, the incumbents with doing it, but consumers, as soon as they experienced that, once they never went back to doing the old thing. And in fact, they're sort of left scratching their heads saying, I can't believe I used to do it. That. and this latest business is following exactly the same fall, which is, in 2018, I saw Carvana in, the states, online buying and selling of calls.

[00:08:49] we were not doing any of that in the UK, the experience wasn't a particularly, great one. and this is again, that's a selection, better convenience, better quality, better [00:09:00] transparent. Just back to on every, dimension, Carvana was a four or $5 billion business when I looked at it three years ago.

[00:09:08] and today it's a 40 or 50 billion, business. So all of them have. Theme running through them, which all, using a digital platform to significantly improve consumer experience and also in a mass market, something we all do. We all watch films, we all rent or buy a property. and we all, drive cars or rental cars or whatever, whatever it is.

[00:09:34] And so big markets with a significant opportunity. Disrupt, what is a not brilliant consumer experience and can be made a lot better. And that's what, motivates me. So it sort of goes back a little bit to your earlier question, which is, I don't need to do this again. Bots fixing the problem.

[00:09:56] If nobody else is doing it, you know, I'd be very happy if somebody else was doing [00:10:00] it, but nobody else was. sort of full Stu dig in and, try and fix it myself.

[00:10:06] Hector: It's really interesting hearing you talk about this and the, sort of desire to improve the consumer experience reminds me a lot of talking to Simon, Franks, who we had on the podcast. And he too got very animated and passionate about, you know, the ways in which you can improve the consumer experience, which of course he did with the other bits.

[00:10:23] Became part of love film. And he's now on the board of your car and he spoke passionately about how he's going to improve the customer experience there. I know that you guys have done lots of angel investing together is that shared kind of vision of the consumer experience. Part of the reason for you guys enjoying investing together.

[00:10:41] Alex: you know, Simon is a great investor. he's super small with good friends and you're right. We are both focused on how can you bring technology to bear, to, significantly improve, something that is suboptimal and it's typically consume, uh, for us, it doesn't always have to be right.[00:11:00]

[00:11:00] All the spaces where that's true as well. But I think we both have an understanding and, one of the things people have always said to me, when I've gone into these spaces is and I hear it over and over again. And I hear it even more recently in the space that I'm in now, which is, you know, 20 years ago, slightly less, what the hell do you know about film?

[00:11:20] How on earth you think you're going to disrupt that? space And you know, 15 years ago it was, what the hell do you know about property and three years ago, what the hell do you know about? cars and, the simple answer that I always. give Is that I'm a consumer. I am the customer of this business, right? I was the customer of blockbuster video store or I was the guy looking to figure out what the right thing was to pay for my, property that I was going to buy or rent.

[00:11:50] And I am the guy who has historically traveled 50 miles to go look at a car, to buy it and decided not to buy it and wasted half a day. [00:12:00] So. you know consumer businesses. are at least for me, they're the easiest to understand and the easiest to add value to because I am the customer. And so if it's a problem I'm trying to solve for myself, I imagine that it's a problem that other people are having too.

[00:12:20] And then the way you validate that, of course, in any business that you stop is unique. Two types of people to validate it for you. Right? You've got to convince investors to tell you that you're not crazy with their capital and the checkbooks. And you've got to have people, employees tell you you're all crazy by willing to join you on the mission.

[00:12:41] So if you have an idea that you're trying to solve a problem and you manage to convince, investors that as worth backing and people that as well, joining the mission, then, that's the validation that I was like,

[00:12:53] Hector: Yeah. And I'm really interested to understand how your angel investing has impacted you as a [00:13:00] founder, because all hear a lot about how, being a multiple time founder is very useful and you draw on the experience of previous businesses to help you be successful the new business.

[00:13:10] Obviously you have that experience, but you're in a. a rare position where you've had successes in business, but also successes in angel investing. And I'd love to know whether you've drawn on your experience as an angel investor, to help you succeed with, Kazu and Zoopla, and whether you've seen mistakes that those companies have made, and you've seen things that they've done really well and copied them in, in your businesses.

[00:13:33] Alex: Yeah. So look, I got into angel investing and I'm, you know, I've been over the last dozen years, a pretty active angel in the UK, and I really enjoy it, Pauly, because there's lots of spaces where, technology, can improve it. But of course you can't do things as loss of ideas you have. You can't do them all.

[00:13:53] You're going to have you stop. I haven't run one business at a time, full time. And as I said, these are long journeys. So if I [00:14:00] happen to find somebody, who's got a great idea in love of space. that's one that I wish I had the time to do myself, but they're the right team and they got the right idea. I'm very happy to back them.

[00:14:10] Look, I got into angel investing actually, accidentally almost because the world was quite different back then. in the sense that there were a number of decent VCs in the UK, but they would not, pre-seed or sees things that were very, very few. And in fact, to give you an example, when William rave my partner and I originally went to raise money for screen select in 2003, we went to 16 VCs and we got 16 rejected.

[00:14:45] And we ended up, piecing together an angel round checks of 25 to 50 grand. I think we ended up with 40 something people on our cap table to put together all first round of 1.2 million pounds. So that just gives you a [00:15:00] view of what the wool. Back then. And then of course, with the success of screen slapped and love film, all the founders had the same issue.

[00:15:09] They were going to VCs, they were getting rejected. And so we started to see quite a lot of people will come to us for advice and you know, not necessarily money, but they'd say, look, how did you do it? Where should we go? We've got this great idea. We need some money. tell us how you did it and can you point us in the right direction?

[00:15:27] Very often the right direction. Forgetting the VCs, a mess. You've good at handling rejection. Like we were, you need to, you know, put together an age around it, by the way, if we loved it, we'll, uh, uh, put some money in. So that's sort of how Simon and I started investing together and, and some of the others and, you know, with you, and and a whole bunch of others.

[00:15:50] Got involved in angel investing, in that way that, you know, over a period of time, we were quite active. and it's only more recently over the [00:16:00] last, I would say four or five years where two things have changed from an angel investing perspective. One is the VCs have stepped into that well in a big way.

[00:16:11] So there's a. Pre-seed seed funds. So there are now a lot of funds that specialize in that. So angels angels were filling a void 10 years ago. There was no, there was nowhere else to go. Other than to also, if you were lucky enough to find the angels, your business got funded. And if you. You probably didn't get funded today.

[00:16:33] There's lots of other places to go. And so, you know, we're less active probably now than we were, back then. but I think, the reason I do it, is most of the people I meet all versions of me 15 years ago, which I love. I love seeing. Uh, and exciting ideas and people who are passionate about disrupting, but the type of stuff I invest in is very similar to the type of businesses that I've started,[00:17:00] which all big spaces, disruptive models, great teams.

[00:17:05] Those are sort of the three boxes. If they check those. Then I'm pretty much likely to be in, the way the world has changed is that there's now a lot of other people in that space as well. and also angels gotten a lot of credit historically sort of 10 years ago. VCs on the stood that the ecosystem.

[00:17:25] Started with angels and angels came in and then the VC is sort of took the battle all through it reached and that your angels were taking high risk. And that was respect for that. Uh, that will change a little bit now. And I think you've had a lot of different types of VCs come into later stage VCs. So, come in who don't necessarily.

[00:17:47] have the same, view of the value that angels provide. And so I'm not sure that that treats them quite as well as they, used to be, which is, which is unfortunate, but, you know, at least there's other people to fill that void these days.[00:18:00]

[00:18:00] James: Alex, I'm interested to understand what it's like fundraising as Alex Chesterman now. So, so you had that experience of 16 rejections years ago, but now. what's it like when you go out to raise a first round for kazoo and do you put together a pitch deck or is it just a case of picking up phones to people, you know, and then I'm also interested in mega rounds.

[00:18:22] So you, you raised a sort of mega round quite early and one of the fastest, if not the fastest unicorn in UK history. is a mega round very similar to a normal funding round with just different numbers or is it a different process?

[00:18:36] Alex: Yeah. So, you know, if I look at the first experience with, unproven, found, uh, back in 2003, you have sort of two things working against you. The fact that, you're unproven, and to the limited places you could go to look for money back then, the second time I did it, which was [00:19:00] 2007, there were two things that worked, to my Vons.

[00:19:02] And one was obviously, You could get in and see anybody you wanted to see having had a success and people were much more receptive. And I think they, fall obvious reasons, there's an appetite to back, repeat, entrepreneurs, particularly when you come with a ready-made team and all the things.

[00:19:22] So it makes it a, a lot easier. In that case, we went to, I think three or four VCs and we have three or four term sheets very quickly. Now that was a really interesting fundraising process because at the time we were fundraising as. We were closing the rounds at the time that Lehman claps, the first big round for that, right in the middle of the process.

[00:19:45] And actually despite my track record of the spine of being an interesting space and whatever, actually, one of the big, policies in that room. pulled out, and made it a very difficult process for us. So even with a [00:20:00] track record and a great idea where people get nervous, they run for the Hills. It doesn't matter who you all.

[00:20:06] So that was not the easiest, process because of, of the timing. in terms of beg arounds, funnily enough, we had a very similar situation. with Kazu, which was first round, we did raise a big round. I think we raised 30 million pounds. The answer is yes, we did put together a debt, but it was probably a dozen slides.

[00:20:26] And, and also we went back to a lot of people who had done very well with us before. So, you know, if you've made people a lot of money, they're inclined to, take a punt on you again. I think so we have a network of. Fans and supporters, which makes life easier. You know, the repeat success, helped again.

[00:20:48] But one of our big rounds that we did. we were doing in March of, 2020. and I think that was all serious. and the world fell apart, in a [00:21:00] Lehman esque kind of way, but this time with COVID and log downs, and again, an investor who we thought very highly of who had been involved with us, previously, big fan of.

[00:21:12] I love the space, but their investment committee, which was based in those days just said no to everything. you know, it's not specific to us. We're just not writing any checks, blah, blah, blah, and looks like this. And so, you know, even when. You know, you have a lot of things going for you.

[00:21:29] things that I've never quite played in to say like, and I, you know, I always tell people that these, journeys as well, as well as being low, they'll never straight lines. And, it's, it's very interesting because if you look at most of the businesses that I've been involved in and, and, and, and this is, I applied very much to my angel investing.

[00:21:48] I don't pay a lot of attention. To the decks that I'm shown as an angel, I'm only doing pre-seed seed. I'm the first money in it's super early. [00:22:00] And if I look up my investment decks for the businesses I started, and then what the business is actually ended up being. They're very different. If I pulled out the Zoopla that from 2007 in the first funding round, and then you look for what that business was today, it'd be unrecognizable.

[00:22:18] So I, take the same view as an investor, which is, look, if it's a big space on a small team and they're doing something transformational, I don't really care what the deck says. you know, I want to give. Time and money and oxygen to figure it out, right? You parachute super small team into an enormous space.

[00:22:39] They'll figure it out and they'll make something work. And a good example of that. Ikea is a business Simon Franks and I backed years ago. I forget what the original business was called, but it became public. well, we originally backed with something completely different. It was a completely different name.

[00:22:58] and the team realized [00:23:00] quickly, that the, that, that was a different opportunity. And, you know, I'm, I'm never going to go back and say, but hold on a second, you told me this was what the money was up. Now. I'm only interested in, you know, you figure out where the best return is going to be, you know, more about it.

[00:23:15] and so, you know, in terms of mega rounds versus small rounds, it's a similar process. it's a different investor set probably. but I think part of what's changed over time is numbers generally have got bigger. this particular business, which we've now raised over a billion pounds for, through both public and private rounds, I was never going to do this.

[00:23:41] so, if I think about where I was in 2018, having sold a Zoopla, you know, when it was taken private by silver lake, the issue for me was. How can 20 is into the digital revolution now be anything really exciting and big enough that somebody else hasn't done. [00:24:00] And I almost assumed incorrectly that the answer was that couldn't be, and therefore I was going to really struggle to find something, to sink my teeth into.

[00:24:09] It turns out I was completely wrong. The biggest single space was the least disrupted, which is, which is caused, but then not beg the question, the argument. You know, it's 20 years in. I'm not the only person who realizes that, you can read it, any retail report that use causes the biggest. And, the, most of other people have obviously, you know, figure out, this, why hasn't anybody attacked it.

[00:24:32] And the answer is because it's hard. And that goes back again to your very first question about what's up for Bernardo is that, I don't look at it when I say see that it's hauled a lot of people, I guess, see that. For me, I'm the guy who runs into the burning building, not the one who runs away from it.

[00:24:50] So the harder it is, I think the more opportunity to create moats in businesses, but of course that takes time and money. And [00:25:00] so the reason that this space hadn't been attacked, in the way that we're doing it is, poly because it's hard. And so you need solve a lot of problem. Data technology brand, et cetera, but also that takes a lot of capital.

[00:25:13] You got to build infrastructure. You know, we, you know, we've built a ton of infrastructure in the UK in the last two years. vehicle reconditioning sentences, 250 acres of storage, 20 customer handover centers, 300, vehicle fleets of deliveries. You know, this battle will take serious capital. So.

[00:25:32] Uh, I was only going to do this. If I knew that I could, go ahead and raise that sort of money, which, is why we did, but, but the same is true that, you know, if you have people who both believe in the concept and know that you have the ability to deliver or at least giving a best shot of delivering on what you're promising, and it certainly makes life a lot.

[00:25:57] Hector: Super interesting. And it sounds like there are, there are definitely a [00:26:00] few investors who've been left regretful from not investing in you over the years. And so maybe less than not to let macro shocks get in the way of investing in private companies, perhaps. you actually touched on it that.

[00:26:12] Wanting to ask whether, all of your businesses have turned out how you intended them to, and it sounds like with Zoopla, that wasn't necessarily the case, but I'm interested to learn, what it is that causes businesses to have to adapt, to have to change. Are there roadblocks that mean, you can't execute how you want to, or, did you sense a bigger opportunity somewhere else?

[00:26:33] Alex: yeah, it's a good question. So, it, again, if I go back to the first one, we got into a business. We felt like we could beat the competition, uh, and win with a better proposition because the competition then. Some chains have video schools like blockbuster and independent video stores. So we [00:27:00] didn't view the competition as particularly scary.

[00:27:03] We thought we could take them on. We're not necessarily the smartest people on the planet. We didn't have the deepest pockets on the planet, but it felt like that was a challenge that we could, overcome and we could make. and then as that business thought that a transition into a different world, which was digital, no physical, distribution of, of DVDs by posts.

[00:27:23] We started to realize that the competitive set was changing dramatically, or would change dramatically. And that the level of investment, you know, creating. Uh, you know, your own content, for example, becoming a studio. So you, you moved from competing with a blockbuster and independence who, you know, you can beat into a wall of competing with Amazon and sky, and all sorts of Netflix and all sorts of other businesses.

[00:27:54] who you, you, that you would, probably struggled to be, and certainly struggled to our [00:28:00] spend in terms of content. So you know, we had a very, very clear view, similarly in the, all of us in the business I'm in now, again, the competitive set is not one that scares us in terms of the proposition that providing or, competency, et cetera.

[00:28:16] So, You know, we look at, where can we apply our skills and our capital's. In a way that is going to allow us to win. And that changes over time for different businesses. The competitive dynamics change over time, the competitive set, changes the capital requirements change.

[00:28:36] If you think about, the physical to digital content in our film business, that changes over time. So I think you've got to adapt. And one of the things. that I want to see when I'm backing entrepreneurs is exactly that is that they know exactly when to pivot. Then, you know, they, they're not people who dig their heels in that they are prepared to recognize when things change and [00:29:00] Zoopla was a great example of that.

[00:29:02] And, you know, we never set out actually with, Zoopla say, you know, we've got to build a billion pound business or, I didn't have that view at the time. on that business thoughts as free data to consumers, we haven't actually figured out a revenue model.

[00:29:17] So as I said, if I showed you the Fest business plan, we didn't have a view on how we were going to make money. What we knew. That we, you know, it was a big dinner table conversation. And if we let people just type in their address and we gave them a value for that property, but lots of people would do that.

[00:29:33] They'd look up that bosses and their parents and their cousins, properties. And that's, that's how that business thought that it was a data business. And we re you know, we thought we get a lot of traffic when we figure out monetize it. down the road. so, you know, I've never necessarily set out and said, look, this is exactly what we're going to look like in five years or 10 years.

[00:29:56] And this is the size that we're going to be bought. If you go [00:30:00] into a very, very big space, which touches everybody's lives, then you will figure out how to monetize that. And as. Better and bigger examples of Facebook and all those, oops, I've taken the same view, right. Which is, provide a great service, to consumers and you'll figure out how to monetize the nights.

[00:30:19] James: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think our audience would also like to know a bit more about how you operate as a founder. Is there anything that you think specifically gives you an edge or separates you from other founders?

[00:30:33] Alex: if anything, I would say there may be a couple of things having watched other founders operate, and I'm watching people generally. my motto is, and I sort of drive this through to people I invest in, but also people who work for me, which is keep it simple. I found through sitting and listening to pitches for people where.

[00:30:54] started to lose track of what they're talking about. things can be kept very simple and if you keep them [00:31:00] simple, they're more likely to succeed. The more complicated you make something. The harder it is to get people to understand what the hell you're talking about. and then it's harder to deliver because you're trying to do too many things at once.

[00:31:12] And so, don't send me a 30 slide deck, send me three bullet points, right. on, why you need to do it, just keep things simple. I think that's one of the things that, uh, that may separate me. Cause I've seen a lot of. I see it all the time where people really think that the more they do, the more they explain the, uh, you know, the clearer it becomes, it's not true.

[00:31:35] The opposite is true. and so keeping things simple and also, I think just running false, what we've learned over the last 15 or 20 years in a lot of spaces is that. there is first mover advantage. There are often land grabs. That's why capital matters. If you're disrupting in a market and the reason you beat the incumbents and technology has taken over in a [00:32:00] lot of these spaces and why the incumbents haven't been the winners in the spaces that they had every week.

[00:32:06] To win in rise. And you've seen this in almost every industry where if you'd imagine 20 years ago, okay. Who is going to be the winner in that particular space? Not a single one of them is right. Blockbuster. Didn't win Netflix, right? Barnes and noble. Didn't win Amazon. And there's a hundred examples like that.

[00:32:27] And that's about running false. It's about being decisive. I tend to be very decisive. You know, if you're running a business, you have to make a lot of decisions. And, I'm not the guy who says, let me go away and think about it for a week or even a day. I'll make a hundred decisions a day.

[00:32:45] Hopefully I've got 90 something of them. Right. And I couldn't get us about the, the, the few that I might've got wrong because, somebody once said to me, the worst decision you could ever make is not making a decision. And, when you're running faster, you're trying to [00:33:00] disrupt. I think that's, that's really true.

[00:33:02] Hector: Yeah, that's fascinating. And I yeah, I mean, that's a great takeaway for listeners entrepreneurs who are listening, because I think there are probably plenty of entrepreneurs who are kind of overthinkers and you can overthink your way out of a successful business. I should think.

[00:33:14] Alex: when, because I'm in businesses very early, I often get all, you know, to have a look at a deck as they're preparing for a series of. Or as soon as being that I see these decks, which you don't mind, vice is always really simple, which I think is the advice, editors give people when the, when the, you know, say, I think I'm right.

[00:33:31] Gonna write a book and that's all well, okay. There's a beginning, there's a middle and an end. And that's the same with writing at that. Right. I would much rather not see a 50 slide deck. I'd rather see 15 slides that tell me what the opportunity isms. Y your better than everybody else doing something different and going to win and what the outcome is going to be.

[00:33:55] That's the beginning, middle and end for me. And if you give me that pitch, [00:34:00] it's a really exciting, huge space. I've got a better idea than anybody else, or I'm going to deliver it better than anybody else. And his upgrade. The outcome is going. it doesn't need to be more complicated than that.

[00:34:12] And so, you know, keep it simple, stupid is my motto. and that allows you also to move a little bit faster as well. I think if you'll just constantly, I don't want to say dumbing it down, but, you're able to move fast. If, if things are kept pretty, pretty straight,

[00:34:29] Hector: Yeah. It's a bit like the saying. I didn't have time to write a short. it's often harder to do something simple and short. so I wonder if you've always had this drive and, desire to be successful and to fixings that are broken or that could be better. what do you think a year old Alex would have thought of your.

[00:34:46] Alex: I think I knew quite early. I'm particularly, I knew of having had a couple of jobs. That I probably wasn't going to be a great employee. you know, I do only from my, uh, you know, I mentioned my dad was an entrepreneur, so [00:35:00] that was sort of something that I knew I wanted to do, but of course you don't come out of school and university and immediately do it.

[00:35:06] So, so, you know, I think what, for awhile, I'm not reinforced for me that I probably wasn't, wasn't going to be a great employee and that I'd have to figure out what to do, on my own at some point, the drive to keep doing it again for me is, look, the financial success gives you a couple of things, but it doesn't, it's not, You know, I'm young, I've got young kids or relatively young.

[00:35:32] Um, I've got young kids. I'm, you know, work is my passion and my hobby. I love doing it. So it's not like I'm going to just go, go onto a beach somewhere. So, but the fixing, it drives me in on the financial success, delivers you a bit of freedom to choose.

[00:35:47] What's. one of the things, uh, next could be the so many going on, lying on a beach. It's just definitely not for me. and it also allows you to do the other thing that we've been talking about, which is to reinvest [00:36:00] in other areas. And that might, you know, in my case, that's been in a couple of things.

[00:36:04] it's, it's afforded me the ability to do some philanthropy and it's supported me there. To re-invest the knee ecosystem, particularly in the UK, uh, I'm thinking in the digital space. So that's, that's my passion is, you know, my, my day job is sort of fixing these big problems. you know, on the sides, I, you know, I love to try and help the next may figure out something even bigger about.

[00:36:29] James: Well, I think that's a great insight into what's motivating you and driving you and nothing. The UK taxi knows you a big debt of gratitude for having that attitude to want to reinvest in the next series of entrepreneurs as well, which is great. So Alex are incredibly grateful to have you on. We always like to end by getting our guests to do our dinner party guests games.

[00:36:54] So if you've tucked dinner with three people, it can be absolutely anyone. Who would they be?[00:37:00]

[00:37:01] Alex: well, look, if it was a chill night and I choose my wife and my two songs, cause that's a great, uh, I think if it was a business dinner, uh, I'd probably want to sit down with, uh, Steve jobs, Jeff Bezos and bill gates. and if I was sort of in a troublemaking mood, I'd probably get Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump around the table to see how we could make some fireworks.

[00:37:24] so yeah, it depends on which night of the week and what mood I'm in.

[00:37:28] Hector: It's going to be a great dinner.

[00:37:29] Alex: Yeah.

[00:37:30] James: Yeah, any of them would be, would be great. Well, Alex, thank you so much for coming on riding unicorns and telling us your writing unicorn story. Uh, there's so much useful advice and interesting anecdotes and stories within that for our listeners. So thanks again so much for coming.

[00:37:48] Alex: Thanks for having me.

[00:37:49] That's it for this week. I hope you were able to take away many learnings from this episode. Thankfully, we have plenty, more amazing guests and insightful conversations coming your way. Every [00:38:00] week, every Wednesday. Be sure to subscribe to riding unicorns on apple, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Thank you again for listening. If you're interested in supporting the show.

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