After graduating off the Informatics MSc course in 2004 I started a web design agency with a friend. That provided extra income while I was studying for my PhD, again at the School of Informatics. It also opened my eyes to the opportunities available to do a high-growth startup, and in 2007 I left my PhD studies to pursue such an opportunity full time. That eventually became Hubdub, where I now hold the position of Product Director. We run two websites, Hubdub.com (a news prediction market game) and FanDuel.com (instant fantasy sports targeted at the US). Combined they have over a quarter of a million users per month.
I usually work from home in the morning where I have the peace and quiet to get some coding done. I still get to do a decent amount of site building, mainly on the application layer and front end. I'll hit the office in late morning and maybe work with our Creative Director or Marketing Director on any urgent items, then after lunch talk product strategy and planning with our CEO, technical or implementation issues with our Technical Director, or speak to some users about the site. I head home around 6.30pm then after dinner catch up on email as we have some team members and partners in the US, i.e. a later time-zone.
Raising our Series A investment round of over 800k during the worst economic conditions in a generation. We closed the deal with Pentech Ventures in Q4 2008, but our pitch to their advisory committee actually occurred in September - the exact day that Lehman Brothers went down. Not great timing! However, both parties were excited by the longer term opportunities and the deal went ahead.
In general, follow what excites you and don't be afraid to experiment with different career paths. You'll never truly know what it'll be like unless you try it. For those thinking of starting up a company, think big but start small. Find a customer and a market first, preferably one that's growing fast. Then find the problem or opportunity by talking to them (lots), then think product. It's hard that way round because product ideas come more naturally to engineering types, but you'll run a much lower risk of building something nobody wants.
There have been so many, but I think I enjoy it most when friends come to visit. You get to show them round one of the best and most beautiful cities in Europe and feel very smug doing it because you live there! You get to see it through fresh eyes, and appreciate how compact and vibrant it is. On one occasion, a friend from the US was visiting and we'd wandered down to the Jazz on a Summer's Day performance in the Princes Gardens band stand during the Jazz Festival. On a sunny August afternoon with the Castle as a backdrop and people of all ages having fun and dancing in front of the band it was an amazing atmosphere to be a part of - and a memory that will stay with me for a long time to come.
First published March 2010.
This article was published on Apr 1, 2013