Behind every successful company is the story of an entrepreneur who worked incessantly to bring the original business idea to fruition. Aspiring innovators and leaders look to these narratives for great inspiration. That is why we have chosen ‘entrepreneurship’ as our theme-of-the-month. For this blog post, we sat down with local entrepreneur Adam Goodall, who is working on his second company, to learn more about the process of building a successful company and working with startups.
ST: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
AG: I’m a Digital Product Manager, but I started my career very differently. I graduated from Durham University with a BSc in Maths and became an accountant. After qualifying I left to start my own business. I’ve been based in London for 8 years, but I’m originally from Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands off the southern coast of England.
ST: What sparked the idea for your first company?
AG: I joined PwC in 2008 as an auditor and while there, I came across one part of the auditing process that was particularly painful. Auditors spend a lot of time verifying client account balances, which involves writing letters back and forth to banks to confirm information. They often have to call the banks to chase missing responses. As a junior accountant, you spend a lot of time in this letter and calling stage of the process, which is a bit archaic.
The process had already moved online in the US, but the UK had been slow to follow suit. Around this same time, I met my business partner, Samuel O’Connor at PwC and found we shared the same frustration with this stage of the auditing process. We often wondered when this technology would come to Britain. Then, after working at PwC for three years, we decided, why don’t we do this instead of talking about when someone else will? I knew I wanted to get out of the big corporate world and get involved with startups and smaller businesses, so starting ProConfirm was the right move for me.
ST: What made you sell your first business?
AG: When we finally developed our product as ProConfirm and began selling it to banks and audit firms, the developer of the US-based technology, Confirmation.com, started to take notice. Then discussions began with them about joining forces. At this time, we were conscious that the businesses we worked with were increasingly global and wanted an international service. Confirmation.com were already established in other markets outside of Europe. We decided to give the customers what was best – a global platform – by selling the business to Confirmation.com and helping establish their European office in London. We also knew the power of being able to say that we sold a business when it comes to working on projects in the future. We didn’t look back.
ST: How would you characterise the experience of developing your own business from the ground up? Is there anything you would do differently if you did it again?
AG: If I had to do it again, I would join a startup community earlier on and immerse myself in that supportive environment. When working in a large business, you’re generally playing quite a narrow role, and our education system supports this. But as a founder, you’re wearing many hats and you’ve got to learn many different skillsets very quickly. If you join a startup community and surround yourself with people already facing the same challenges, you’ll have incredible resources for advice and guidance. Back in 2013 when ProConfirm first joined the startup FinTech community at Level39, it became a real tipping point for our business. And that’s why I recently became a mentor at the co-working space Launch22; I want to share my knowledge and experience with other new businesses.
ST: Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?
AG: I don’t think I fit the entrepreneurial stereotype. For me, it’s more about finding a good team to work with, where each individual’s skills complement the rest. It’s also about finding a good idea to work on that you’re passionate about. The number one reason why startups fail is because there was insufficient demand for the product in the first place; so you’ve got to be honest with yourself about this, but at the same time know when to have the conviction to keep going when you’re onto a good thing.
ST: What’s next?
AG: I’ve left Confirmation.com to work on some new projects at FwdFactory, focusing on Product Management, while mentoring technology startups at Launch22.
Adam Goodall is Co-founder and Product Manager at FwdFactory.
Follow him on Twitter @adamjgo.