Born in Scotland, grew up in Dorset and now call London home.
Tea boy through to CEO
Did you go to university?
I actually decided against University for various different reasons. The main reason was that there was nothing particularly that interested me, and I saw more value starting from the bottom in a position where I could gain real life experience on a day to day basis.
What is Connexi and when did you launch?
Connexi is an online marketplace that brokers partnerships between Brands and Social Influencers and Sponsorship Rights Holders. The key thing we focus on is relevancy and transparency ensuring each party gets what they are looking for.
We went live in February 2017.
How did the idea for Connexi come about?
The idea came to me when an old friend of mine challenged me to see if I could get them a sponsor for their racing yard, and I landed them a deal with Coral the bookmakers. From there, I put my thinking cap on, and researched other business models that used data to form relevant matches, such as Air BnB and Money Supermarket, and after a bit of tweaking, Connexi was formed to simplify the way Sponsorship and Influencer partnerships are done.
How have you raised investment?
To date, I have self-funded the whole process; however this all changes as we become SEIS approved. To date I have had various conversations with friends and wider contacts as well as looked at the Crowd Investment route.
Any advice you could give others looking for investment?
The best bit of advice I was given is that when it comes to raising money you should be out there speaking to anyone and everyone. You never know who may know someone who could be interested alternatively someone you know may have a hidden passion for your idea that you never knew about. Another thing I have learnt is that if you aren’t sure about something ask your nearest and dearest. You only have one shot with Investors and therefore it is better to go in with the answers than trying to bluff your way through something you did not know the answer to. Finally, if you are speaking to a number of investors, ensure you keep in touch with them on a regular basis with relevant news about either the industry or your company.
What were the challenges in initially setting up Connexi?
Where do I start…For me a big challenge was prioritising. I had the idea, I knew where I wanted to get to, but there was a big section in the middle which was the how do I get there. Every morning I would wake up and there would be new stuff to think about, growing number of “to-do” lists and there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to do it all.
Apart from prioritising, another big challenge was the amount I had to take in and learn whilst trying to execute the main task in mind of launching Connexi. So many people were extremely helpful and supportive and gave / still give fantastic advice, however a big challenge for me was deciding on which pieces of advice to take.
A really good bit of advice that a friend of mine who owns a company called The Tab told me, a big help for him was to focus on just one product / revenue stream and build a business in stages.
Have you got a mentor?
I have been lucky that I have a 5 people I classify as mentors. Each one of them brings a different angle of advice and to date I couldn’t thank them (Mary Keane-Dawson, Bruce Tozer, Chris Kemp, Lena Robinson and Andrew Morgan) enough for the help and advice they have given to me over the past 7 months.
Who do you seek out for support and advice?
My mentors are obviously key to providing advice and support, however I have been overwhelmed by the support and help some of my friends have given me. Small stuff like when you have had a bad day and suddenly you see a couple of friends have liked and or shared a post of yours, it puts the smile back on your face. As expected alongside some good friends, my family and girlfriend have also been very supportive (although both my mum and step-dad still don’t understand exactly what I do!!!).
Do you ever doubt yourself?
I would be lying if I was to say no I have never doubted myself, as starting a new business you welcome so many new experiences you never would have imagined, such as speaking at events, working on your own, no regular salary, etc but I think the key is to stay passionate and remind yourself of why you are doing this. I personally don’t think it is a bad thing to occasionally doubt yourself as it keeps your feet on the ground but more importantly when you prove yourself wrong and you succeed at whatever you doubted the reward is 10 times greater.
How are you marketing Connexi?
Through Facebook and Linkedin. We also run a bi-weekly blog called Connexions in which we interview a range of Influencers who look to provide insight about how they work etc, which gets sent to a wide range of Brands. We have also been asked to help support ISBA (The Voice of the British Advertisers) on providing insight into Influencer marketing and as well as providing support I have also spoken at their events.
How do you think Connexi differs from the competition out there?
Connexi differs in many different ways to my competitors. A big area in which we differentiate ourselves is that we are building a platform based on quality rather then quantity. When we receive brand briefs, we manually find the talent and build a marketplace with the most relevant talent on there so that over time we will have an automated search form to find all of the best talent in one place. Because our talent sign up proactively we are able to get lot more detail from them then just scrapping their data, such as their actual costs, engagement levels, CPE, CPM plus much more. We also don’t just work with Influencers. We work closely with Traditional talent as well which gives us a broader offering to Brands.
Other key USPs are:
- We give control back to the Brand
- We provide a very simple search format for Brands / Agencies that enables the most relevant talent to be found
- 100% Transparent. There are no hidden costs, and Brands get to spend their entire budget on assets rather then losing some through Agency commission.
- Increased relevancy – As our talent proactively sign up, we can get a lot more detail ensuring for a more accurate set of results.
Our sponsorship offering is completely unique to the market, and we have some really exciting things happening over the next few weeks, which will revolutionise the way Sponsorship Partnerships are formed!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Yes and no. I have no regrets to date, and although it has been hard it has been great fun, however the only thing I potentially would have changed was finding a Co-Founder to share the ever-growing workload, but more importantly to bounce ideas, etc off.
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
Not really. Connexi has only been going for 7 months, so we are still very early on in our journey. Ask me in a further 6 months and I am sure there will be a different response.
What’s a typical day for you working on Connexi?
Most mornings I try and go to the gym or go for a bike ride, so it gets me out of the house before I start my day. Once I am at my desk I will clear my inbox and see what meetings I have that day. If preparation is needed for those meetings then that is the next thing to be completed, and then it is straight on to the phone. Recently we have had quite a few Brand briefs, which means a lot of my time is spent finding and building a relationship with the most relevant Influencers to execute the Brands brief.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I don’t need 8 hours sleep a night!!
Any utter disasters along the way?
Absolutely. Some more costly then others, but thankfully the same mistake has not been repeated (so far) and out of every mistake there has been something to be learnt from it. For me there have been two big ones: 1 x Financial and 1 x Personal. The financial one was a huge learning curve where I did some work with a good mate and I believed that we had a trustworthy relationship that no formal contract was needed. How wrong I was! I am still owed several £000’s from that deal. That aside, I would say my biggest mistake was working with a very close mate of mine. The inevitable happened where our relationship turned sour due to a misunderstanding mainly from my behalf, and we fell out. I am glad to say that now the dust has settled we are back to being great friends again.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Connexi?
It is hard to pick out one as there have been lots of great moments, but if I had to pick one, every time a new client signs up or a new deal is confirmed, really reminds me of why I decided to set up Connexi.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Do it if you believe you can add value. For me Influencer marketing is interesting, sociable, fast moving and innovative, however on the flipside it is also very competitive. Our sponsorship side of the business is less competitive, but is equally fast-moving and interesting and for me probably the more exciting part of the business to be in.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
The big goal is to finalise our first round of funding, so we can really accelerate the growth of the business. We have some exciting conversations happening in which could really transform where we go with Connexi…
What’s the dream?
There are 3.
The first is to create a marketplace based on quality rather then quantity to make people’s lives easier whilst ensuring better results.
The second is to create the first automated live marketplace for Brands and Rights Holders to engage with one another.
And finally, I would love to be able to give something back to future generations. If I can offer opportunities, financial and commercial advice to future generations so that they can experience the rollercoaster of starting their own business then I will be pleased.
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you be doing?
I would like to say playing cricket all around the world, but the reality is I would most likely be pretending to enjoy the job that I left last year.
Just For Fun!
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…living life to the full, cricket and where the Influencer and Sponsorship industry is heading.
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…try and work out if it was worth it!
The Twenty Mile Club is…. Genuinely a fantastic concept and an amazing place for 20 something year old entrepreneurs to share stories, learn from other people and engage with like-minded people.
To head to the various Connexi online platforms