Taking risks – views from UK entrepreneurs

Joe Svetlik

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Think you’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Heed these words of wisdom from the people in the know. It could save you a few headaches…

As any entrepreneur will tell you, taking risks is part of the game. But that doesn’t mean you should go in all guns blazing. Experts recommend a more considered approach.

“Measured risk taking – with the emphasis on measured – is key,” says Ian Merricks, head of the Accelerator Academy, a London-based high growth training and mentoring programme for digital entrepreneurs. “Don’t just dive straight in on everything because it’ll undermine the business. If you can reduce the risk and demonstrate how you did so, it will be much more reassuring to investors.”

“Think about every decision as if you were justifying it to an investor,” says Corbyn Munnik, founder and CEO of Sliide, an advertising network for smartphone lock screens. “That will hold you in very good stead, because when you do get investment, your investors will want to know why you did what you did.

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” he adds. “Remember, they’re a necessary part of success.”

To minimise your mistakes, preparation is key. “Most start-ups are winging it to a certain degree, but be cautious about risking your own financial situation,” says Wendy Snowdon from The Food Market, a forthcoming curated online food marketplace. “Crunching the numbers early on will help you sleep at night.”

One way to minimise risk is by talking to like-minded people and learning from their experiences. While mixing with other entrepreneurs can be great for camaraderie, Merricks warns that this will give you a skewed view, like “children teaching children”.

He goes on: “A mentor can say things like: ’You know that thing you’re about to do? I did it, it took six months, cost me £400,000, and didn’t work. Do you want to hear what I did next?’ You’d be surprised how often it happens.”

If you can’t join a dedicated programme, contacting people out of the blue can yield surprising rewards. “Get in touch with people you admire and ask them for help and guidance,” says Amanda Boyle, CEO of UK-based crowdfunding platform BloomVC. “I’ve reached out to lots of people over the years and no one’s ever said no. I’ve been lucky enough that one or two have even mentored me.

“There’s lots to be gained by talking to people,” she adds. “It will help you deal with the inevitable bumps that come along the way.”

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