In 1982, Allan Gibb and John Ritchie wrote that entrepreneurs were ‘born not made’. It was not a unique idea at the time, in fact, it seems to have been widely accepted by a number of researchers they quote from the 70s. Researchers used the premise that because start-ups were so original and their creators so individual, with unique character traits that set them apart from everyone else on the planet, they were beyond analysis.
These opinions are now almost laughable when we see all types of people, starting all types of businesses, some failing and starting again many, many times. The Launchpad programme is proof that anyone can be taught to manage a financially successful start-up, as long as they are willing to put in the hours.
However, what is clear, is that start-ups that succeed have three things in common. Firstly, and this is where the researchers from the 70s were right, start-ups do need to be original. They need to find a niche and fill that gap.
Secondly, they need to have a plan, yes they must be creative and enjoy the process and work hard – but to do all that, they need an idea of how the business will move forward and what it will look like.
And finally, and arguably most importantly, they need cash flow. All the greatest ideas in the world need breathing space and in an entrepreneurial context, this means money, so that the directors can focus on honing their idea, finding investment and figuring out what works for them.
These three things are exactly what students on the Launchpad programme are taught. Quite a few of them on the year-long courses may have already tried starting a business or had an idea for a while, that they have struggled to get off the ground.
Tim Edwards is one of those, he’s now the only member of his Launchpad team running his startup, Codices: “I come from a mixed background, I got a computing degree and also worked in the games industry.”
But Tim had started his own business in the past, and according to him, while it made a profit, it did not see the success that he’s seen from Codices, since graduating from the Launchpad programme.
He says: “I came to Launchpad because I wanted to work on something new. I had already had my own business, but that was really hard without support and investment and then I found Launchpad, which was a good fit for me.”
Tim’s business is a forward-thinking interaction platform – the company wants to make it easy for people to interact with game-shows, something that can be made possible with tools like Amazon’s Twitch.
He says he felt more empowered to try new things and to think big once he joined the programme: “On Launchpad from day one, it’s about how to create a multi-million pound business, which really shifts the focus from small business thinking.”
And Tim is already thinking big. Within a few years, he plans to create his own digital podium, instead of piggybacking on others: “There are a few people who have already started doing interactive game-shows that the audience really want to engage with.”
Like the other groups on Launchpad, Tim started working on business idea, after being given three challenges with his co-directors. The key difference to him between Codices and his previous business, is the backing he’s had.
He believes there is almost no opportunity to fail: “It’s great that we have this support,” he says, “we started in May last year when we were put into a team and given three challenges. We had to take about three or four months to do due diligence on each one to decide on our final idea and then nine months to develop a platform.”
Codices allows users to actually interact with a gameshow – that might include asking questions, suggesting things that could happen or just stating an opinion – almost like a next-level Periscope.
Despite being motivated and believing in his idea, Tim was apprehensive of success in his business. He says: “I am quite ambitious, but I didn’t think we would do this well in the first few months.”
Since his graduation from Launchpad, he has been working with Twitch – and has been out to LA twice in the past year – to see how they could make the platform more accessible to people.
He says: “We have funding and investors now, which means we have money to look at new ideas and innovations in the business.”
He sounds stunned by his own success, when he says: “We haven’t done any marketing or anything around our product but already we have 100 people using it and twenty eight thousand people playing.”
In fact, it’s so successful, Codices are trying to grow the team and really need someone to look after their users. “We would really like someone to look after the community that we’re creating, which should also help our business in the long-term.”
The company is also trying to raise seed investment, and it seems like the task has been made a bit easier with backers like Twitch. Tim sounds like he truly believes he would not have had this success, had he not had the support of the Launchpad programme. He says, it’s given him the confidence to grow his business, without the financial and other worries he might have had – indeed, did have – with a business he started on his own.
It’s a confidence that’s allowing him to be bold for the company’s future prospects: I see this idea as the next big thing for interactivity and in five years, I see us making our own content from our own platform.”
But is he ready for that? He thinks so: “It’s been so busy since I left Launchpad, and I guess I feel prepared enough. There is a lot of work involved in creating and managing your own business. But, for us, because we have big investors that believe in us, we have a lot of validation for what we are doing, it’s how we judge our success. “