Jumping all the barriers with determination, integrity, and directness, the founder of Any Friend of Ours is introducing second-home-owners to collaborative consumption.
Role and company:
Founder & CEO, www.anyfriendofours.com
Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):
We are a start-up site moving out of BETA stage in to consumer launch.
Growth forecast for the next three years:
Our aim is to achieve £3m in revenues by 2016.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
We're an exclusive and secure online travel network of second homeowners and their trusted friends. Members have the ability to let their holiday homes to other likeminded members and experience new travel adventures of their own. Most of our properties would never be found on public holiday letting sites.
What's the big vision for your business?
In 2010, over 1.7m people in the UK owned a second home, with approximately one million of these located in the UK and around 700,000 overseas.
If only 10 per cent of these homeowners, like me, leave their homes empty 45 weeks per year, that alone equates to 7.65m weeks of potential rental income. We believe that many of these homeowners would let out their property for a proportion of the year if they felt that it would be well looked after and the process would be easy to facilitate.
The key to this is that other second homeowners understand how precious these homes are and treat them with the same care and respect they would their own property. This closed community environment is an extra safeguard for the owners of these exclusive holiday boltholes enabling them to cover some of their overheads in a safe and secure way.
The bigger vision is to create a large community of like-minded affluent professionals who network and trade with one another.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
We already have properties in over 17 countries and aim to increase this as the portfolio builds and the word spreads.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
I would not define having children as a "career setback" but it certainly has made me redefine the way I would like to work and the type of business I would like to be involved in. I think what I have learned is that you cannot have it all, but if you organise your life well, you can get very close.
What makes you mad in business today?
People who give up without trying; a "can’t do" attitude. There are barriers everywhere, but I haven’t come across many I couldn’t get over with determination and tenacity.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
I think more and more of our target market will be online and using social media, so our communication strategy will need to be flexible and adaptable. Things change so rapidly and we will need to keep pace.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
I have seen a number in our sector pick up VC finance on the back of the success of Airbnb but they are not investing in early stage ventures perhaps as much as they did. I think there are angel Investors out there at the moment who are picking up the good, if more risky, opportunities. There are also new sources of investment from crowdsourcing which seem to be proving successful.
How would others describe your leadership style?
It’s difficult to put down in words. I try to surround myself with people who are better at their jobs than I could ever be so they support me in my areas of weakness, but there are certain values I would like to think I have and bring out in others:
A strong work ethic (tenacity and determination), honesty and directness, trustworthiness (absolutely vital to our business), and integrity.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
My second home in Camber Sands and my holidays generally. There are so many amazing properties on the site, but just not enough time to visit them all…
You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
Continue the SEIS and EIS schemes, which I see encourage angels to invest in start-up businesses across all sectors.