Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds Often now I’m called the dot com dinosaur. It’s a bit scary, when you’re only 42. But I guess when we were starting Lastminute.com, we were convincing people that the Internet was not going to blow up. People weren’t really interested in Lastminute.com, they were interested in whether this thing called the Internet was even going to be around in a few years, let alone if people would buy stuff. So it wasn’t a dark moment, but I think it was definitely one of the hardest things was right in that early days, back in ‘97, ‘98, convincing people that the Internet was here to stay, that it was going to be a proper profound importance in people’s retail experiences.
Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds I think another moment I’d pick was when we went public with the company. And that was pretty much at the peak of the stock market bubble. We got a flotation away really fast, but it was very, very tough in the company afterwards, because the stock market collapsed, everyone thought we were about to go bankrupt. We weren’t, but we had to manage the internal expectations, the external expectations, and it was hard. That’s the negative stuff. The positive stuff, I think, maybe comes from more recently.
Skip to 1 minute and 15 seconds I’ve been lucky enough to start a couple of social enterprises, not just commercial businesses, since I left Lastminute.com, and I am just amazed at how quickly the Internet is changing everything, not just the way we do business, but the way we raise money, the way we reach our end users, whether they are people who might be homeless people, through to people who might have mental health problems. So I’m a massive Internet evangelist, and I love the extremes of what’s happening.
Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds I think it’s really, really hard being an entrepreneur. And it is incredibly lonely. It’s incredibly hard work. So if I could give any advice I would say firstly, if you can be in a partnership, it’s such a massive help, because you have somebody there fighting with you. You’ve got somebody to talk to. Certainly everything I’ve ever done of particular significance, I’ve done with a brilliant team, but more importantly maybe a right hand person, or a co-founder. So I personally think that’s an immensely useful thing to think about. Secondly, I think, always aim big. Always be ambitious. We have a poverty of ambition in the UK. We think too small.
Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds We don’t think across Europe, we get scared by languages, we get scared by complexity– rubbish. Think big, then you might end up a bit closer to where you thought you might get to in the first place. But at the same time as thinking big, my final piece of advice would be to start just doing, and start small. The dominating philosophy in technical development is about failing fast, failing small. Don’t spend hundreds of millions building something that might not work. Get something out there, be a bit scrappy, see if it works, test with your users, refine it, get it better. And that can be as true for your business plan as it can be for your actual product launch.
Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds So have a partner, somebody you can rely on, think big, think ambitious, don’t be scared of global domination, but go to global domination via small **-ups, not big ones.
Skip to 3 minutes and 20 seconds I think the Internet of Things is really fascinating. Because at the minute, the internet is invisible. But you go to places to use it. Predominantly, you go onto your smartphone, or you go to your desktop, or you look at your television. But very soon, very soon, everything will be connected, and the internet will be invisible. And I think that’s kind of interesting, in terms of and your relationship to it, your data, your privacy, all of the complicated factors around that, but also just the profound impact that will have on all aspects of our lives. And so to me, that throws up a couple of interesting questions.
Skip to 3 minutes and 54 seconds Over the next 10 years, what does it mean to have digital skills, and what does it mean to understand technology? Is it your ability to switch on your smartphone? Is it being able to code? Or is it knowing that your dishwasher might be talking to fridge, might be talking to your car? It’s kind of interesting, about what understanding technology means when you have it in everything. And then secondly, I think that it’s very exciting to imagine some of the preventative things that can happen, when the Internet of Things really gets going.
Skip to 4 minutes and 25 seconds So being able not only to give you prompts to prevent health conditions in yourself, perhaps– so will your toothbrush tell you that you need to brush your teeth more effectively, to stop having to go to the dentist so much? Or will your fridge say, I don’t think so, get away from that chocolate whatever in the fridge? That could have, again, really interesting impact on us as a society, and where we have to spend money. So I think the Internet of Things is really interesting. I think it is complicated. I think it has some moral and ethical questions around it.
Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds But what it could lead to, in terms of the next really massive reorganisation of how we think about ourselves, I find that exciting.
An interview with Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox cofounded Lastminute.com, and is a Crossbench Peer at House of Lords. Mischa interviewed Martha at her offices in London, where she shared her tips on entrepreneurship and excitement for the Internet of Things.
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