Titus Sharpe stopped over by YHP’s HQ as we talked about his company, MVF. In our conversation, we talk about acquisition offers, challenges and advices for young entrepreneurs.
Hi Titus, thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
I am very well, thank you.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
I set up my first business in 1998 an HR software business called PeopleQ. Then there was Oxbridge Life, a social networking site for Oxbridge students. It reached about 20,000 people and was actually one of the first social networks. Unfortunately we didn’t have the right business model and at the time we couldn’t take it any further.
In 2004 I co-founded Approved Index and built it into the UK's largest B2B lead generation firm, and then I sold it to Reed Elsevier in 2008.
I co-founded MVF with the proceeds of the sale with four of my friends who I’d worked with before so I’ve done a lot of things with a different people over the years.
You’ve managed two successful exits with Approved Index in 2008 and Moodia in 2009, what are some of the most important lessons that you learnt from both experiences?
To have faith. For example, if I’d had more faith and vision with Oxbridge Life who knows how big it could be now. However, I do think it is also good to experience going through the sale of a business.
You have countless of entrepreneurs who often get acquisition offers, when does an entrepreneur know the right time to sell a business? How did you know the right time to sell both companies?
It is always important to consider your shareholder if an offer is made to buy your business. If you can’t see opportunities for massive growth then it is also a good time to sell.
Tell me about the early days, the type of challenges you initially encountered?
MVF has grown rapidly, and this can bring challenges. There is a huge difference between working with five people and working with 150 people. Obviously the level of communication changes and it is important that you can get all departments interacting with each other. MVF has also changed location from central London to Kentish Town to keep costs down as we expanded.
What is MVF? And what are you trying to solve with it?
MVF is a customer acquisition service. We help brands all over the world acquire customers by using cutting edge technology. We have more than 1,500 clients, including British Gas, Mars and Nestle, in over 50 countries.
For example one of our brands Expert Market, is Europe's Leading B2B Market Place. We have helped big brands like Fleetmatics find new customer bases in new territories, as well as helping businesses getting the best quotes for office services.
How did you initially get traction?
We had some capital from the sale of Approved Index which we used to set up MVF.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
We focus on targeting fast growing and emerging sectors, for example the international relocation sector right now, or renewable energy sector a few years back.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Watching MoveHub grow is incredibly exciting. The website aims to be the number one resource for people looking to move abroad. We hope it will eventually be the TripAdvisor of international relocation.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the MVF team for 2014?
We are really excited about the growth of MoveHub. The international moves market is a very exciting sector to be in.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
- Hire employees with energy, those who will energise others.
- Have faith in your ideas.
- Hunt in packs - Work out who work best with and trust and stick with them.