This is my interview with David Carter, CEO and Founder of Corporate Group:
Can you first give me a big if background about yourself:
I was in still in college (Manchester College, England) when I had the idea for my business. My college courses didn't interest me, and running a business was more appealing. I’d skip class with fellow students and we’d use the college IT labs to write software and put our apps onto marketplaces. I was only 18 years old when our applications became the largest seen on Android devices. I knew then there was real potential so I turned down a place at university to work on the business full-time.
So what does Corporate Group do?
Corporate Group is technology consultancy service. We develop and sell computer and mobile device software. We also offer infrastructure and consultancy in areas like application development, integration, and solution development.
Where did the inspiration behind the idea come from?
We were all geeky tech guys who wanted to build a business around our hobby. The inspiration grew from there to being much more ambitious. When we realised we were disturbing the marketplace, getting more downloads on our apps than most companies worldwide, we became hungry to take food from the mouths of the old sleeping tech giants. That’s what drives us today.
What challenges if any have you come across when starting a business at a young age?
People were very quick to stereotype us. Maybe they thought we are too young to build a business but we were able to prove them wrong by delivering great solutions to big companies. I think once you've demonstrated what you can deliver, people quickly forget how young you are and respect you as an expert in your field.
If you did come across any age related challenges, how did you overcome them?
So long as you can prove yourself by developing something where the quality is obvious, then age becomes much less of a hurdle. Now we've got a strong track record of delivering great solutions to our clients the age restrictions have lifted for us. Our guiding principles and culture are simplicity, best code wins and craftsmanship. By following these principles we help to deliver groundbreaking tech that lifts these age barriers.
What did your family think about you starting a business rather than going to uni?
My mum raised me as a single parent and she’s a great inspiration to me. She’s always been supportive of my decisions and I think she understood that University was not the best route for me. I was never really into my lessons and more focused on making a business so really it was only a matter of time before I dropped out.
How did you initially fund the business?
In the beginning, we were self-funded. I only had a couple of hundred pounds when we started out, which I’d made from part time jobs. When we built up the number of downloads and got paid for them, we put that money towards buying more equipment and building more applications.
And how about now? Have you raised any funding or is it bootstrapped?
We have a small amount of investors, but the majority of business is still self-funded.
You’re based in Manchester, what is the start up scene there like?
Manchester’s really shaking things up now on the start up scene and I think it has the potential to be a new Silicon Valley. Manchester council is supporting digital initiatives and the arrival of MediaCity UK, which is home to the BBC, has helped facilitate the growth of technology companies here. The arrival of a new TechHub, which is a shared workplace for technology entrepreneurs, was another boost. It’s the first UK TechHub outside of London.
What advice would you give any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Work hard! I also think it’s really important if you've got an idea to just get started. Too many young people talk in terms of ‘ I'm going to do this…’ or ‘Once we've done that…’ It’s vital to move beyond that planning stage, stop talking about it and start doing it.
If you had a chance to start over what would you do differently?
There’s nothing that I could really pin point to do differently. I feel like any mistakes we have made along the way we've turned it our advantage. There’s nothing I regret.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
It was tough growing up on a council estate. Everyone was trying to do something to elevate themselves out of that environment. For me, it was the shift of lifestyle to working in the office and sitting in the boardroom that I’m most proud of. I could have taken quite a different path but taking such a positive route out of that council estate is my greatest achievement.