Mike Piddock is the founder of Glisser, an interactive presentation software business designed to engage audiences and gather data at live events. The software takes regular PowerPoint or Keynote content and lets you share slides live to audience smartphones as they are presented, so they can follow along, take notes electronically, or share your content on Twitter, for example. Mike studied Economics & Management at Oxford.
What is your background? Why are you doing this?
After University I went straight into the corporate world, as was the norm back then – there wasn’t the same interest in start-ups and entrepreneurism there is now. I picked up experience in branding, product marketing, comms and PR in various industries including telecoms and financial services. I quickly realised I enjoyed working at ‘challenger’ brands, where you are empowered to make decisions, where marketing is important, but where budgets have to be made to sweat. The natural evolution of this was to eventually build a company and brand of my own – when the right idea came along, of course.
For me it’s all about creativity of thinking combined with effective execution. Entrepreneurs are generally looking to solve problems – applying their brainpower to fixing things that are broken or addressing them in a different way, and that’s what makes it interesting. But everyone has bright ideas – who hasn’t thought of an app? Entrepreneurs are different in that they don’t file those ideas away in a drawer and forget about them, they try to make them happen.
Having worked alongside some truly inspiring entrepreneurs at the last two companies I was employed at, when it came to move on it was instantly clear that branching out on my own was the only way to go. I wanted to challenge myself, really try something outside of my comfort zone, and see what I could learn along the way.
So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Creativity, since you’re not just solving one big problem, but solving many tiny problems all day, every day. Resilience, because some days those problems wear you down, and you’ve got to keep motivating people around you as well as yourself. And finally, humility, because it’s the people around you that will ultimately determine your level of success, and so if people like working with you stand a much better chance.
There is no better part than when a customer has had a very positive experience with our technology at one of their events. When they are receiving copious amounts of praise from colleagues and their boss, congratulating them on a job very well done. This gives us a feeling of immense pride, that we’re involved in something important, and that what we’re doing is right.
I really like to see UK start-ups doing well, getting recognition on the biggest stages, and achieving the sort of success that must make their founders and teams really proud. Zoopla, Secret Escapes and SwiftKey are doing great; SkyScanner and CityMapper have awesome products that I use all the time, and then there are start-ups I see every day that I think could be the next runaway success – and they can be just as inspiring.
I’d probably ask any one of those companies what was the single most effective thing you did one or two years into your journey.
Glisser won two awards just before Christmas – the first was a Gold award through the MassChallenge accelerator programme. The second named us Best New Technology Product at Event Tech Awards. They both gave us a real motivational boost going into the New Year and it felt like a nice endorsement for the work we’d put in. I picked up armfuls of awards running marketing teams for other people’s companies, so it’s nice to get one (or two) of my own.
Life as an entrepreneur can feel like one continuous stream of lessons learned, but that’s part of the deal. If I had to pick out some of the more practical ones, I’d say it’s really important to build a strong network in the industry you want to operate in, and in the start-up community generally, and you don’t need to wait around to begin this. You can learn a lot before you launch and it doesn’t cost you anything to do so, so start now…
If you’re thinking about starting a business, you’re probably overwhelmed by the volume of content online giving tips and advice (including this one…) but nothing beats getting out there and chatting to the people that have taken the plunge. So reach out to them, attend start-up events, and ask a lot of questions (via Glisser of course), and then make the big decision…