There’s nothing more sickeningly inspiring to us than the tales of our entrepreneurs. This week, we’re talking to Lex Deak – a man who has already founded four companies, as well as taking up countless positions on advisory boards and partnerships. He’s now a Managing Partner over at the ridiculously cool, invite only investment club Q Ventures; where do you even begin? We sat down with him to make a start…
You’ve founded a lot of companies in your time – did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur, and what made you decide to take that route?
Being master of my own destiny was always very important to me. At school this was probably more motivated by wanting to be different and wanting to be respected or popular; I won a state bursary to a decent school, which exposed me to people with more money than I had known before.
At the age of about 13 I started buying and selling through Loot, and from that point onwards I never really considered working for anyone else. As I’ve aged (and somewhat mellowed) the importance of being in control of my own endeavours has broadened in its inspiration to include being able to organise my time, reap the most rewards from my efforts and feel I’m creating something worthwhile, exciting and profitable.
As an entrepreneur yourself, what was it that drew you to Q Ventures, and what excites you about the project?
Quintessentially is one of the most respected names in lifestyle and arguably stands as the premier network of HNWIs in the world. This is incredibly exciting as it provides us with access to a universe of capital in addition to thought leaders, top entrepreneurs and influencers. Over the next 24 months we relish the opportunity to play our part in the growth of some world class businesses.
Are there any traits that you think link all entrepreneurial types?
Low risk aversion is high on the list, a high level of confidence (which is sometimes borne out of naivety), a strong work ethic and passion also rank quite highly. In my experience entrepreneurs experience a wider gamut of emotions in day to day professional life, add to this the fact that the work life balance is distorted I often find entrepreneurs to be intelligent, self-aware, prone to mood swings and fairly serious.
The flavour of entrepreneur varies wildly according to sector, age and cultural background. It’s a fascinating subject to explore.
What do you love the most about your day to day?
Variety keeps me on my toes and provides daily inspiration. It’s also great to engage with talented people and to flesh out new ideas, that’s always energising. Most of all I love the fact that each day is there for the taking, largely on my own terms.
What do you look for in members of your team?
Honesty, integrity, wit and charm. A tricky combo but killer if you’ve got all four.
If someone was to apply to you for a job, what would really impress you?
Somebody who had already had a go at starting their own venture. In most cases – and by their very nature – will not have built a successful business; and the way in which those who have talk about the success or likely failure of the venture is hugely interesting. This is where you can gain an insight into their market and self awareness, their attitude towards loss and self improvement. I’ve failed in business more times than I’ve been successful, mercifully the wins have been bigger than the losses, but each time you learn an incredible amount and are forced into assessing your goals, drivers and abilities.
Any words of wisdom for those thinking of starting a venture of their own?
1. Avoid analysis paralysis (do you research but beware of talking to everybody about it, it can throw you off your game).
2. Start small, build an MVP, launch smart and avoid capital overheads for as long as possible. It’s great to have big plans, but people are much more likely to help the charming little guy than the guys who swears he’s going to topple Facebook with £100k.
3. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone, if you’re young try sectors you don’t know, a little sprinkle of ignorant bliss can be very powerful.
4. Accept that your energy and self belief will come in waves, but ensure this never becomes laziness or lethargy. I would love to know how many people cite market conditions or factors outside of their control as the reason for failing, when deep down inside they know full well it’s down to a lack of work and drive.
5. Try not to go it alone, it is much easier to have partners. If you do have partners, ensure you define roles and expectations from day one.
6. Many successful entrepreneurs say that you shouldn’t do it for the money as the driver needs to be something you feel passionate about, if you feel passionate about making money, that’s fine. Just don’t talk about it very often.
7. Find a mentor and listen more than you talk.
8. Be concise in what you do, great visuals tell a story more quickly than words.
9. Learn to say no, it’ll save you getting distracted.
10. Turn off social media during critical phases (apart from those linked to your business).
11. Find interns.
12. Utilise great tax breaks such as SEIS and leverage the crowd via online platforms if you need to raise funds.
13. Being an entrepreneur has become cooler, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you start and have the feeling that talking about your business on the beach during a 3 week holiday is not really working on your business than you are probably not doing yourself justice. (see point 4)
14. Just do it. Once you start the ball rolling you become psychologically committed, enjoy this and don’t always feel you need to know where you’re headed, if you’re sharp the answers will reveal themselves through your endeavours.
Lex Deak is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on finance and technology. His past ventures have included Profile Design, Sell It Shack, Riad Coco and Family Fridge. He is an ambassador at The Supper Club and consults The Free Enterprise Group.