Speaking at this morning’s "Entrepreneur Country" event in central London, Betfair co-founder Ed Wray painted both a sobering and uplifting scenario for Britain’s entrepreneurs.
The former investment banker foresees a deep and painful recession, lasting probably two years.
Wray also insisted that the household names of the future will be created during this challenging period. "There is never a bad time to start a business," said Wray, one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs running a £100m-plus international business. "Now, however, is a very good time… The structures you put in now to weatherproof your business will never go out of fashion." He pointed out that it takes 18 months for many start-ups to establish themselves; by that time, the economy may well be turning and opportunities opening.
Business practices will change in the next two years, said Wray, and this could be positive for Britain’s enterprise culture. "Entrepreneurialism is about building long-term, sustainable value; it’s not about making short-term returns and flipping investments."
Wray said that businesses would need capital to survive the next two years. Fund-raising, however, will be difficult for start-ups. He encouraged start-up entrepreneurs not to become obsessed about early-stage valuations; rather "it’s the exit valuation that really matters", he said.
Wray concluded that the next two years will also be "the biggest opportunity ever" for ecommerce. He encouraged all companies to be adaptable and be prepared to change in a new online environment.