What are you doing now?
I am the founder of a successful contemporary art business, and in the process of founding another art-related spin-off. I also recently had two books published by Lonely Planet and founded and ran several other creative businesses in the past.
What route did you take up to this point?
Well, as a serial entrepreneur this is technically my third career, so a fairly unpredictable and non-linear one! I chose to go to art college rather than Sixth Form, where a passion for videogames (does anyone remember the 24-hour gameathon we did at the school?!) led me to work in that industry at a very exciting time in its growth.
After an exciting ten years in various roles I found myself as Business Development Director of my childhood heroes, The Bitmap Brothers, where I came up with the concept of helping brands to use videogames as another marketing and advertising channel. The business I co-founded went on to raise over $50m of VC investment from companies including NBC and Intel, with projected market valuations of $1bn. As a result, I came runner up in the entrepreneur of the year awards and was a regular speaker at high profile events and conferences.
Unfortunately our Series C financing coincided exactly with the collapse of Lehman Bros. and after a challenging but rewarding two years trying to rework the business model I decided to follow my other passion for contemporary art, setting up one of the first ‘gallery-less’ galleries, representing emerging artists and curating pop-up exhibitions in London and America, including in one of the top ten US independent museums.
My most successful moment in the art world has been co-founding and curating the MTV RE:DEFINE charity benefit gala in Dallas, working with the late singer George Michael’s museum there. To date the project has raised over $10m for the MTV Staying Alive foundation.
Any significant crossroads?
I owe a lot to my fellow DHSB alumni, Alex Smale. It was he who encouraged me with some well-judged peer-to-peer ‘home truths’ to go to a freezing cold Birmingham for the initial job interview in the videogame industry. That moment changed the course of my life forever, and we are still great friends today.
Setting up my first business was also a big step, although strangely it really didn’t feel like it at the time. And particularly changing careers twice – leaving games to move into the brand/advertising world, and then again from there into contemporary art. It’s scary leaving behind what (and who) you know but gives so much potential for growth.
What have you learnt most about yourself?
That I enjoy learning!
What words of wisdom would you give to a student joining DHSB in Year 7?
It’s really, really important to remember to enjoy these next handful of years, and not to get too bogged down by the pressure of learning or career choices. This is especially true if you have no idea what you might want to do. Try to keep a good balance of hobbies and surround yourself with likeminded individuals. And don’t obsess over social media (unless you plan to found the next Facebook…)
And for a Sixth Former leaving DHSB?
Two great clichés – experience is everything, and it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Don’t be idealistic – try everything, grab every opportunity, fail fast and then learn from it. Network as much as possible. Challenge assumptions. Never, ever be afraid of failure.
Any fond memories of school you can share?
The aforementioned 24-hour fundraising events are an abiding memory. I assume health and safety means they don’t happen these days?!
Do you have a message for any of your teachers?
Will ’sorry’ do?!