Adam Hildreth setup his first company, Dubit Limited when he was 14. Dubit Limited went onto become one of the biggest teenage websites in the UK and now markets itself as a 'Youth Marketing Agency', advising major brands on how to market their products to young people.
Adam now focuses on his latest business “Crisp Thinking”, the leading online child safety technology specialist. They have also developed a comprehensive range of child protection solutions for home internet users, schools, charities, internet service providers, (ISPs), online games and social networking site developers and publishers.
He was reportedly worth £2m in the 2004 UK top 20 richest teens list and the current (2008) Sunday Times Rich List ranks Hildreth as 23rd in the 100 richest young people in the UK based on a valuation of £25m. In a study of British Millionaires of the Future Adam was predicted to be worth £40m by the year 2020. Hildreth was named the CBI's Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the end of 2006, which was awarded to him by Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones from BBC's Dragons' Den programme.
Hello Adam, Thanks for taking the time to be with us on YHP
So Adam before we go on, can you please give us some background information about yourself? What do you do?
I am the founder of Crisp Thinking, which is the leading online child safety technology specialist. We have developed a comprehensive range of child protection solutions for home internet users, schools, charities, internet service providers, (ISPs), online games and social networking site developers and publishers.
What inspired you to start up a business at such a young age?
I didn’t really enjoy school and, as my Dad’s work commitments took us around the country, I went to a few different schools. After leaving quite a tough school in Nottinghamshire where I had to quickly gain some attitude and street-smarts to survive, I earned myself a reputation as a bit of a trouble maker at secondary school and was asked not to return at the end of Year 7!
It was at my next school in Harrogate, North Yorkshire where I had my first taste of business and things really turned round for me. Some friends and I took part in a scheme with Young Enterprise, the business and enterprise charity.
We had the support of a mentor, a fantastic guy named Ian Douthwaite, and set up Dubit Limited. The business, operated through www.dubitlimited.com, was a youth website and marketing consultancy, which also offered a chat room for young people.
Dubit really took off and it not only took over my spare time, but my school time too! There were times when I walked out of classrooms during lessons to take business calls on my mobile! This happened more and more often and eventually the school confiscated my phone! I got round it though, I persuaded a member of staff I had a family emergency and needed to use the school phone – which I did, to make a business call!
It worked out – I became the youngest ever registered managing director at 15 and we built Dubit into a successful youth market consultancy firm, which is still doing very well.
In 5 words, describe yourself?
Sporadic, energetic, competitive, aggressive, inquisitive
You left school to set up your own company at age 16; do you feel not having a degree is a disadvantage in today’s society?
Absolutely not. Not going to university has allowed me to think outside the box rather than being conformed to other people’s thinking about how things should be done. It would have been a bigger disadvantage to me if I had a degree because I would be following set processes. You need to learn to make your own mistakes and how to recover from them rather than being told how others recovered from their mistakes!
Why did you decide to start up a company that specialises in child protection technology?
It was completely a business decision. There was a gap in the market and there needed to be someone operating effectively in this space. I had learnt about the dangers to children than exist online when I was running Dubit and saw that technology, delivered with the right business model, can help protect young people when they are online.
If the internet was not invented, what do you think you would be doing?
I would definitely be in business. I would probably be doing something that involved advanced engineering products, but delivered through a simple business model of selling as many units as possible.
What are your takes on the current financial situation and entrepreneurs that are on the verge of starting up companies?
It is extremely difficult to get angel financing at the moment and any entrepreneur that does will face getting less money or having to give up a greater percentage of their business. Some entrepreneurs will need to rely on friends and family for financing, but every entrepreneur should expect their business to not grow as quickly as they would like. This is not a bad thing, rather than getting a quick big injection of finance, businesses can experience organic growth, which will allow them to make their businesses stronger and more resilient for the long-term.
What would you advice anyone to invest in right now?
I would recommend investing in technology. It impacts on every area of our lives and every area of business. It’s applicable to so many sectors and markets, which always want to improve systems and the speed of operations.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?
This could take me a while! Ultimately, because every day is different. I like the challenge of being able to come up with new concepts and bring them to the market quickly and I love being surrounded by energetic people who have new and exciting ideas that can benefit the business.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently and why?
Everything. Seriously, because everything I am doing today is as good as it can be. Armed with the knowledge I have now I would go back and do it better.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I admire any business that is production-based and offers a unique and simple product, applicable to multiple markets, and has the simple business model of selling as many units as possible. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The trick is having an effective product idea!
What sacrifices did you have to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
The only sacrifice I have made is girlfriends and not spending much time with those closest to me. It sounds selfish, but I think that entrepreneurs can be a selfish breed.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I play football three times a week when I am in the UK and I like to get in a few rounds of golf. I also enjoy skiing mixed with plenty of après ski! Apart from that I like to go out with friends and enjoy good food.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Think about every decision and action you take rather than just relying on having trust in others’ opinions.
How did you overcome setbacks when they came around?
I’d talk to people I admire in business who would share experiences of their setbacks. I’d then decide for myself a course of action and go with my decision at full pace until I come out the other side.
How did you keep yourself focus, be worth a lot of money must come with the added pressure and tenacity to go off course occasionally?
I am the most unfocused person ever, but I always come back to the things that matter in the end. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like that, but with a good team around them it brings it all together. That’s why you employ COOs and CTOs. I don’t think an entrepreneur would ever make a good COO at all.
Who has made the most influence in your business so far?
Definitely our customers. No matter who you speak to or how much market research you do it will be wrong! A business is driven by what the customers want and need. Its what turns a start up into a successful business.
Thanks for your time Adam