eHealth business Sleepio is aiming to become the world's leading digital therapy platform. Founder Peter Hames tells us what he's learned in years as a businessman.
Role and company:
CEO and Co-Founder, online sleep improvement programme Sleepio
Growth forecast for the next three years:
This is a market worth billions worldwide, we have a world-leading product and expertise, so we easily have the scope to be generating £20m EBITDA by 2015.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
We are the world’s first online sleep improvement programme that has been clinically proven to the highest level. Sleepio provides clinical-grade Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but crucially it doesn’t feel like medicine – it’s more like entertainment, with your virtual sleep expert The Prof and his narcoleptic dog Pavlov leading you through a personalised programme.
What's the big vision for your business?
To become the world’s leading digital therapy platform.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
We are getting high levels of interest from all over the world, from US to Australia, but we are not yet actively marketing outside of the UK. We are planning to begin our international rollout in 2013.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
I founded my first business when I was 23 with one of my best friends, an arts events company. We produced some amazing events, had a glorious time and made every mistake under the sun. I believe you can only learn through doing, and I learned a ton. However, that business coming to an end was probably one of the toughest times I have ever experienced, fighting against not having any money for such a long time and the toll that takes on close relationships.
What makes you mad in business today?
How TV shows like the Apprentice have defined the business world in the public mind – as relentlessly cutthroat and aggressive. My old boss Martha taught me that wasn’t necessary, that you can be successful in business and tough commercially, but do so with humanity and respect for people.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
The healthcare ecosystem is undergoing a huge transformation right now, and we need to stay on the front edge as it develops.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
I think the issue in eHealth and mHealth right now is a lack of startups in the UK; in our experience the funding is there, but the scene is pretty small right now.
How would others describe your leadership style?
Leading by example, I hope. I believe that ego is one of the main barrier to creating a productive creative atmosphere, so I encourage everyone to leave theirs at the door.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
I don’t really do extravagance.
You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
Stop throwing more money into QE and instead give it as grants to entrepreneurs, as part of a high-risk innovation fund – fast-track that money straight to where it’s needed and where it will get spent in the real economy quickest. We have millions of kids across the UK who have no jobs but bags of digital skills; Cameron could do worse than put some cash behind amazing, industry-led initiatives such as Freeformers.