Nick Hampson, CEO of Elixa

Nick is an Oxford student, going into his third year at New College studying Music.  His company is currently undergoing a £0.25M investment series in order to build a mobile software platform called Elixa which is aimed at revolutionising mobile and social payment aggregation and fund pooling.  

Q: What is your background?  Why are you doing this?
A: I’ve lived in Bath for most of my life.  I was a chorister at Wells Cathedral from the age of 8 before going away to boarding school near London from 13.  School was a really interesting time.  The highlight for me was singing as a soloist at the Royal Opera House in their 2008 run of the Magic Flute. Since then, however, I have spent more time working on my true musical passion which is contemporary rock music. I released a solo album at the beginning of my gap year which I then toured on my own, playing in New York, London and all around.  I’ve taken this to a new level at Oxford, starting a band called Northeast Corridor which has headlined the 02 Academy, as well as the Troubadour Club in London and BBC introducing in Reading.  Last year we released a music video in New York City, which was fun as I got to go out and play at the launch in the middle of Trinity term last year. For now I am taking a bit of time away from the rock game to get this company on its feet, but I plan to return very soon. In the mean time I have launched a music platform with Jack Saville called ‘The Vulture Sessions’ which records local artists in local settings. So far we are only at Oxford but have just hit 25,000 hits.  The aim now is to get into a number of other UK university towns, and then to go further afield.

I’m one of those people who has to constantly be doing lot of things. I hate having nothing to do.  I have no background in entrepreneurship at all, I just had an idea that I really wanted to see through.  I’m sure I’ll still be a starving musician at some point!

Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship to me is all about a belief in something you have created.  It’s not about the swanky titles or the investment rounds, it’s about the feeling you get when you see something which is your very own grow and change over time.  There’s nothing quite like it.

Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A:  I don’t think there is a black and white moment when you become an entrepreneur.  I’m working hard to turn an idea into something physically tangible. If that makes me an entrepreneur then that’s cool. 

Q: So what would you say are the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: For me it’s been about self-discipline.  It’s tough to be a CEO and a student as it requires so much balancing of totally different parts of your life, especially until recently as everything we were doing at Elixa was completely secret, so some of my best friends didn't even know about it.   You also need quite thick skin. People will do everything they can to try and tell you something isn’t possible.  It always is.

Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: The unpredictability. There is nothing quite like having no idea what is about to happen.  You are constantly riding a wave but sometimes you have no idea where that wave is going.   You just have to stay on top.

Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: Conor Oberst.  He is a musician from Omaha who has a band called ‘Bright Eyes’.  Listening to his music as a teenager inspired me more than anything else ever has. It definitely changed my life for the better. He has nothing to do with tech or entrepreneurship, but inspiration can come from anywhere I suppose!

Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: The man is a lyrical genius and protest writer. He spends a lot of time fighting against evil things present in the world. I think I would want to know what lies behind his ability to affect people so deeply through words and music, so much so that they actually make a change in their life. I’ve rarely seen politics do that.

Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: It’s a continuous process.  With Elixa the internal decision to go for £0.25M in funding was pretty huge for me.  That’s real life stuff.  We have a team of really seasoned tech pros and to have the nod from them was pretty special. Also getting to 25,000 hits on Vulture was a big moment for me.  We’ve put a lot of hours and creative energy into that and it’s so nice to see that translated into something real.

Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
A:  There is no such thing as a mistake as an entrepreneur.  There is growth, or lack thereof.  Everything else is just words.

Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?  Bad?
A: The company I am in partnership with, Hedgehog Lab, is actually based in Newcastle, Boston and India.  I haven’t therefore based my business in Oxfordshire in any tangible sense. However, being at Oxford and an entrepreneur is great. There are tons of opportunities to engage with like-minded people and it’s a really thriving environment for startups and small business ventures as far as I can tell.

Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A:  I would send them to Oxford Entrepreneurs, but that’s partly because i don’t know of any others! Sorry!

Q: Any last words of advice?
A:  Don’t think about money.  Think about the product.  I’ve met so many entrepreneurs who are obsessed with the idea of squeezing every last penny out of their venture.  To me the joy of doing this is creating something.  Sure, we all need money but if you go into this expecting it then it’s going to be a very long road.