I am one of a fortunate few tech founders who has successfully scaled from a bootstrapped start-up to a global market leader without any external capital.
I founded UNiDAYS in 2011 and as CEO, together with an exceptional team, our business has gone on to serve millions of students around the world, generate billions of dollars of revenue for businesses large and small and win numerous awards for our technology, marketing and profitability.
I started UNiDAYS in Nottingham, UK, famous for Robin Hood and the European Champions Cup winning Nottingham Forest FC. The journey to award winning tech start-up founder was not straightforward.
After graduating in Real Estate Management from Nottingham Trent University in 2005 I was fascinated in seeking to “find value in unexpected places” and initially worked building real estate investment portfolios for institutional and private investors until the Financial Crisis of 2008.
With the world of real estate hitting a brick wall I felt it was the right time to strike out on my own and began to explore online ideas, inspired by my daughter, around digital identity and online experiences.
After building, launching and failing with four ideas, including a browser plugin that made shopping easier and a digital identity technology that would have made children safer in social media platforms, I recognised that I needed to build a strong team with a wider array of strengths.
I travelled across the UK attending any startup event possible to learn and build a network and through this effort I found the original team of 4 that started UNiDAYS.
From my failures prior to UNiDAYS I became an advocate of the test, learn and adapt methodology. Agile testing and iteration over waterfall development led to rapid product and proposition development. Together, we – the founding team took the idea of UNiDAYS to key e-commerce conferences and gathered feedback from retailers and with this insight I spent the next 6 months trying to convince UK retailers to try UNiDAYS to connect with young consumers and offer them a discount as a reward for being students!
Although competing against major established companies UNiDAYS developed a social media, referral and influencer strategy that has almost become a standard for start-ups today. With a fast growing community of members, huge results for brands and growing UNiDAYS team I made a decision to grow internationally and support students and brands all over the world.
I’m thrilled that our growth strategy has worked so successfully, seeing UNiDAYS scale in over 100 countries and supports millions of students and working with many of the world’s leading brands. Our company has grown to almost 200 employees, with offices in London, New York, Sydney and Nottingham.
I believe that UNiDAYS is only 1% complete in our mission and so continue to pursue our ambition to take UNiDAYS to all students and give them the power to make every experience more valuable and rewarding.
A particular highlight of my career so far has included the opportunity to meet Buzz Aldrin when the company won a prestigious “Business of the Year” award and being awarded the UK’s “Rising Star” in a major national entrepreneurship competition.
There have been many challenges along the way and now I hope to use this platform to share advice and lessons learned with the next generation of founders and entrepreneurs.