Skip to content

Entrepreneurs Panel

Richard O'Sullivan
Debbie Pierce
Laura Tenison
Julie Meyer
Steve Purdham
Michael Oliver
David Pollock
Jeremy Roberts
Charlie Mullins
Jennie Johnson
Tony Caldeira
Brian Hay

Advice from successful digital entrepreneurs

Britain is home to a wealth of digital entrepreneurs. In order to find out how these individuals have gone from the initial concept to a fully fledged business Broadband Genie, one of the UK's longest running broadband comparison sites, has spoken to digital entrepreneurs across the UK in order to encourage those looking to start their own digital venture.

Below we have valuable insights from entrepreneur Matt Heiman, CEO and co-founder of Diagonal View, a site that creates and manages online video content. Matt founded the company in 2008 as a joint venture with ITN Source, the footage licensing division of ITN. Today, it is one of the leading producers and managers of online video content.

What made you decide to start your business?

I saw an opportunity to create digital video for digital platforms. Most digital video at the time was either long-form (Hulu, Netflix) or viral user-generated content. Making professional content for audiences online seemed like a global opportunity too good to be missed.

Did you experience any difficulties when setting up your business?

Setting up was pretty straightforward. We received access to more than two million hours of professionally shot content and we very quickly had more views per month than the BBC iPlayer. One initial challenge was getting advertisers to pay for ad-spots, but that market has caught-up and we now get paid well.

What's the best thing about running a digital business?

The intellectual challenge, it never ends. As a team we worked for years to build a profitable business without raising venture capital. Our next challenge is how we re-invest and leverage our owned intellectual property (IP) to create substantial audience. Then, we will consider how we leverage that community to grow our IP even further.

What advice do you have for others looking to set up a digital business?

Right now, the financial barriers to setting up a digital business are lower than ever so go for it, as you won’t know until you try. Something to keep in mind though is that the ability to cut-through others looking to do the same are more difficult than ever. Make sure you’re offering an innovative solution and you’re aware of your key differentiators to help your company stand out.

We also have insights from John Peebles, the CEO of Administrate, a start-up based in Scotland.

Administrate provides software that helps companies run their training operations and eLearning. The company now have customers on six continents and are trusted by some of the biggest brands in the business.

What made you decide to start your business?

Our company provides software for training companies and training departments. It was born within a training company because they couldn’t find what they were looking for anywhere. Right from the beginning our software was helping solve an identifiable problem.

Did you experience any difficulties when setting up your business?

Every start-up has difficulties, and in the first few years, these challenges can be a daily occurrence. We were no exception and struggled with all kinds of issues during our first few years. Was the software working correctly? Could we attract enough interested customers? Was our pricing right? Did we have the right people? Were we growing fast enough or too fast? These challenges exist in every business, and the important thing is to take them head on, one at a time, and not give up or get discouraged.

What's the best thing about running a digital business?
The best thing about running a digital or online business is that we can attract customers from all over the world. We love interacting with people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds, and right from the start we’ve had a very international customer base. Being a digital business just makes it a lot easier to expand into markets organically.

What advice do you have for others looking to set up a digital business?
Make sure you’re solving a problem in the market, test your solution before you jump all the way in, never stop learning, and don’t get discouraged when everything seems too difficult!

The most important thing to get right when starting a business is your team. Focus all your effort on assembling the best possible team as early as possible, and you’ll be much better prepared to meet any challenge. Your business model, idea, route to market, and a whole host of other things are all going to change and a great team will help lead and drive those changes. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that people are interchangeable.

We hope that these insights will encourage future digital entrepreneurs to take the first steps towards realising their potential.

  • Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, started with little more than faith and determination, but four years later it’s grown into a global business. Ahead of her appearance at Accelerate 2015 in...

  • Author, writer and marketer Ryan Holiday on how entrepreneurs need to interpret failure.

  • Sue Vizard, business coach and author of Jump Start: The Start-up Book for Your Dream Business, looks at some of the questions solo entrepreneurs should ask themselves.

  • Ian Wright, founder and chief executive of, is bringing together SMEs and NEDs - without the hefty recruitment fees.

  • Former professional golfer turned entrepreneur Colin Stevens has had a busy 18 months. The Better Bathrooms founder has increased turnover at the firm, secured a multi-million pound investment and...

Five Minutes With

David Hughes sums up his entrepreneurial career to date thus: four spectacular successes and two failures. He founded the sports retailer Allsports and achieved turnover of £180 million before a vicious price war meant decline, administration in 2005 and a sell-off to rival JD Sports.

It took Richard Shonn, managing director of 151 Products, three years to find a warehouse big enough for his requirements.