Dave is an Oxford-based entrepreneur and founder of White October, a successful digital media agency. Dave started White October 12 years ago after completing a Mathematics degree from Nottingham University, and a stint at RM Education as an analyst programmer. He is also the Chairman and a founding member of Digital Oxford.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: I have always been driven by the desire to run my own business, but was inspired by the dot com boom. So I started something that I knew about and understood. I was always slightly entrepreneurial in school. Always looking for the next money making scheme.
Q: So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: Conviction is very important, because as the business grows you need to be able to drive through your vision, despite naysayers. Keep believing in yourself and your ideas! The ability to create a supportive yet empowered team around you, so that you all can make things happen, is a key element as well. And decisiveness. Entrepreneurs can’t dither, especially early on. If you don’t do it, no one will.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: The excitement of it all. It is deeply satisfying seeing something you’ve created grow. The highs have far exceeded expectations!
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most?
A: Elon Musk is inspiring because he took a (relatively) small fortune and has bet on various world changing businesses because of his passionate beliefs. He will probably do well, but it’s a very good ethos to have. I have huge respect for him.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with Elon Musk, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: (Laughs) I would probably want to talk about how we can save the world from AI (artificial intelligence). It’s a very interesting topic, but I think we may be playing with fire.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: There have been many high points over the years, but I have really enjoyed watching my high performing, high functioning team grow. They are very smart people, empowered to do big things, and we are doing just that. We have a “spin-out” company already (White October Events) which is doing very well, and is learning from the mistakes we made with White October
Q: Speaking of mistakes. . . want to share any?
A: A very recent lesson I have learned is that when your business is small, it is easy to make arbitrary decisions with only minor consequences and low risk. Once the business is bigger, the decisions are more serious, and can cause bigger problems if not thought through carefully enough. So learn from us: have fun when you’re small, but remember to be rational as you grow!
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: Oxford has so many talented people, networks and ideas. There are many great entrepreneurs here, and every step forward in my business has come from talking to people here. But Oxford needs to sort out the issues with housing and traffic in order to be more attractive, and show more of a commitment to entrepreneurs by providing a central hub for events and working. That would be ideal.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A: If you’re a part of Oxford University, there is so much that you can access already, such as the Isis Software Incubator and the Oxford Launchpad. Student Hubs is another great resource for anyone looking in the social space. I would highly recommend to come along to the Future Entrepreneurs drinks and the Oxford Startups networking. Just get out and talk to as many people as you can. Find a mentor, someone you can talk to regularly.
Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Lose the ego and listen. Be open to advice, opportunities and ideas from those around you, and be ready to roll with the punches.