We spoke to Ben Southworth, one of the original 3-beards, and now co-founder of Unicorn Hunt about the state of the UK tech industry and why he doesn’t necessarily like the term ‘serial entrepreneur’.
Q: You’ve been working in a tech for a while, what’s your take on the UK technology scene? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
I’ve been involved with tech since I was 18 so it’s been a long while, and there have been huge transformational changes in how we interact with technology.
I’m very proud of how many more startups and entrepreneurs there are, and hugely impressed by the constant success, both in business terms, and also in the maturity of the products being released. It’s deeply inspiring.
On a less positive note, Brexit is likely to have a damaging impact in talent acquisition and we’re still in need of more Seed and early-stage investment – sadly property still seems a far more attractive and surer bet for many.
Q: 3beards recently announced it was closing down. How is Unicorn Hunt going and what are you seeking to achieve with this new venture?
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Despite appearences, Unicorn Hunt is cut from the same cloth as 3-beards, and it’s still committed to being a good community member with perhaps a wry smile.
Ultimately we’re looking to change the way we think about recruitment and hiring, we’re still very much in our infancy, and we’re hoping that 2017 will be the year of the unicorn!
We’re very happy with how it’s currently performing, and we’ve some big competitors! We know where we’re going, and we’re a lean, mean, rocketship of love compared to the behemoths and tankers we’re up against.
Q: What do you think about the term ‘serial entrepreneur’?
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Had I been in the breakfast as a service business it’d be a witty pun, in all reality it’s a meaningless term. Personally I like making, creating and doing, this is just the most fun way I’ve found yet. I aspire to be fascinated everyday and good things happen.
Q: What has been the most enjoyable part of your entrepreneurial journey to date and the most challenging?
It never seems to get any easier is the most challenging part, the reason I suppose is that you only notice or feel the problems you can’t solve. Whilst some stuff is the same, it’s often not the hard problems, it’s the simpler stuff.
For me constantly problem solving and creating solutions is a dream come true, but there are of course days where you want some help to do the work whilst you swan off to the pub early, which would be a luxury and a half!
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Q: Have you had a mentor? If so, who and what did they do for you?
I’ve not made many great decisions in my life, but this was probably my smartest and best. I met Gabbi Cahane early in my career and he’s been one of the greatest influences in my life. It’s hard to characterise what’s he’s done for me succinctly.
I think he understood what I could become before I ever did and he still does. He believes in me when I don’t. That is more valuable than anything else. One of the core things he’s instilled in me is to turn your weaknesses in to your strengths. I’m over emotional, but this gives me a very useful empathetic quality that I’ve learned to utilise as a manager and collaborator.
Q: Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I live in Amsterdam and wear dungarees everyday I’m working.
Q: What five pieces of advice would you give to those starting their own tech company?
1. Don’t bulls**t yourself.
2. Be the only person in the world who knows how to kill your idea.
3. Tell your story with pride.
4. Learn new skills. Can’t code, won’t code? Get over it, those emails don’t code themselves. Get outside of your comfort zone.
5. Patience. It’s gonna take a while.
Q: Given the chance, would you do it all over again?
I can’t imagine any other life without any of the stories and lessons I’ve learned, so yes, I’d do almost all it again, and many bits, many, many times over – they all went by so fast!