Role and company:Founder and CEO of That Device Company, who have recently launched Breezie
Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):Just launched
Growth forecast for the next three years:Scale up the business to US and Europe through strategic partnerships… we are already planting seeds on this, for example the relationship with Harvard.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:Millions of older adults don’t use the Internet, not only because it is complicated but also because it is not relevant to them. We have solved these softer issues and also have a unique solution to help loved ones support their older relative in getting online.
What’s the big vision for your business?We want to be the de facto interface for those who want to enjoy all the benefits of being online but could not be bothered with learning complicated processes or keeping up with the fast changing technology.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:As a start-up, we are focused on UK market, but our innovative solution has already grabbed the attention of American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) who named us as one of the 15 most innovative start-ups in the senior space. We have a strategic relationship with Harvard, to bring their amazing health related content on Breezie. We are also in talks with ‘care’ groups in Europe to licence the Breezie platform.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:About two years ago, I had managed to successfully turn around a start-up I was working on in the US, but failed at the last step of what could have been a very successful exit. We ended up making a reasonable exit, but it taught me to be more attuned to the various inter-personal conflicts, aspirations and motivations that can arise during an exit – especially with investors, founding team members and management. Now I am always trying my best to keep all stakeholders aligned as much as possible from the start.
What makes you mad in business today?Procrastination and entitlement. Far too many people are putting off decisions, actions and even discussions in the name of conflicting priorities – which more often than not is simply their assumption that there is more time to get something done. And the very same people then insist there are entitled to timely benefits and prompt action from businesses and government.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?Personalisation like we have never seen before. The fact is that over the past decade or more we have been leaving a lot of digital footprints in our use of the Internet. This has accelerated several folds with our use of smart phones – devices that capture bits of information about us silently – where we are, our usage patterns, our tastes etc. People worry about the ‘big brother’ side of this, but I think there are some amazing personal benefits in store for all of us from the harvesting of Big Data that is beginning to gain momentum.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?Absolutely! I think a lot has been done in this space and things have really improved. What is perhaps missing is the formal skills to raise finance – but even there, incubators and crowdfunding platforms are helping out.
How would others describe your leadership style?Assistive – I think people lead their own lives, period. So, the only job I have as a leader is to assist them in aligning how they want to lead their lives/careers/projects with what we need to get done as a team.
Your biggest personal extravagance?My two sons – I have finally realised the full meaning of the term ‘price insensitive’.
You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:I think the Prime Minister has done a great job in helping funds flow into businesses – through investment schemes, grants and tax credits. The next step is to look at policies that benefit ‘cash flow’ in SMEs. If I have to pay PAYE in Real Time and claim R&D tax credit at the end of the year – it doesn’t help at all. I can employ many more people in that period. By Shané Schutte
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