There is a new generation of entrepreneurs finding opportunities in London that earned their stripes in the Credit Crunch and bring hope to us all. That was my conclusion after spending time with Jonny Gibaud, recently relocated to Imperial Wharf, Chelsea from Liverpool. This is not just the ‘next’ generation, they are truly ‘new’ in the attitude, behaviour and workstyle.
So what is new? Let me draw on some of the elements of Jonny’s own story to illustrate.
At 21, Jonny left university inspired by the design ethos of Steve Jobs but choosing to take his final year project and turn it into a business rather than work for Apple. Established in 2007 and part funded through the proceeds of a design competition, the business was built in the teeth of the credit crunch. The design-led product (still sold under licence as ‘Ovo’) was a self-contained eco-system for growing fruit and vegetables in the home. It was manufactured overseas and marketed through the internet. Like Jonny, the ‘New Entrepreneurs’ are often graduates who have chosen a path of entrepreneurship while at university and used their university courses as a springboard to launch. They are international in outlook, design and marketing savvy and treat the internet as the sales and marketing platform of choice for a new business.
For Jonny, this first experience changed his thinking as to what was possible. He had started with a sketch on a piece of paper, taken it from prototype to manufacture and successfully sold it to consumers. But, he would be the first to admit that, even though he was a great designer, he was an awful entrepreneur. He failed to build a scalable business model and, £100,000 later, faced the reality he could return all the money to the investors, retain and licence the intellectual property but would have to close the business. Like Jonny, the ‘New Entrepreneurs’ wear their early failure as a badge of pride and interpret them as successful learning experiences that fuel their future success. They are not afraid to shut something down that cannot meet their criteria for success, will mourn their loss and step out stronger and clearer about how they are going to succeed in future.
18 months later, Jonny was launching his next business. This time he focused on systems and brand using an existing product. Scalability was built in from day one. Supplying long-term emergency food with distinctive branding and packaging, he started www.emergencyfoodstorage.co.uk at the depth of the recession in 2009 and has built the business from strength to strength over the last 30 months. A key decision was to find a business partner with complementary strengths and weaknesses, establish clear separation of roles and offer trust, responsibility and accountability. Jonny invested just £50 cash to create a ‘minimum viable product’ for launch and turnover is now £1m per annum. “The aim of this company is to make myself the least important person in the company as quickly as possible”, he says. Like Jonny, the ‘New Entrepreneurs’ are increasingly self-aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. They recognise the importance of team and partnership and will build a strong community of co-creators who provide a rich support network. ‘Minimum viable product’ (MVP), a term with origins in the Agile software development movement, underpins a commitment to ‘test early, test often’ not in the lab but with real product and paying customers. For Jonny, a hundred ideas may yield just ten viable concepts. The strongest three may be investable and just one may become a fully fledged business. Risking £1,000-£2,000 per investable concept, he expects to put £100,000 initial investment in the one capable of establishing a scalable, sustainable business.
For the ‘New Entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurship is not just a workstyle, it is a way of customising their lifestyle. When asked for a photo to accompany this article, Jonny offered pictures of his adventure sports trip, scuba diving in the Caribbean, the week before. Whether it is to provide the freedom to travel three months of the year, create a social impact or establish a platform for the future, the ‘New Entrepreneurs’ design business models without compromise to suit their lifestyles rather than becoming slaves to the businesses they start. And for so many of them London is theplace of international opportunity. Unafraid of recession, the ‘New Entrepreneurs are Coming’ and it is to London they choose to come.
Jonny Gibaud is a serial entrepreneur and a consultant and speaker helping small and medium size businesses start and grow their ideas to profitability and beyond (firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jonnygibaud.com).