James is a technology entrepreneur, angel investor and venture scout. James sold video and machine learning technology startup Suggestv in 2019 after raising over £1.2m from angels and VCs. He now operates Pringle Capital, one of the UK’s largest angel networks. He is a Seedcamp alumni from his time as an employee of MatchChat and a scout for Backed VC.
Q – What has your career and entrepreneur journey been?
I started my first company in the 3rd year of university, and I was hooked from that point onwards. I then went and worked for a sports social network called MatchChat when I graduated. The team were amazing, but we ended up pivoting a few times, going through Seedcamp and eventually I left to start Suggestv in 2015.
I had a technical co-founder, we built a product, signed up our ideal client and raised capital quite easily. We had so many things that went wrong and my greatest attribute was resilience, that’s how I made Suggestv work. We raised more money, grew the team and finally in 2019, after turning down more investment, we exited the company to Viqeo, a US video advertising company.
It was a full circle entrepreneurial experience – product, sales, legal, finance, funding, hiring, firing, shareholders. I am a different person off the back of the Suggestv experience and it was a great outcome in the end.
Q – What are you up to now?
I am working part-time for the acquiring company, Viqeo. The rest of my time is spent developing my new business Pringle Capital. We help start-ups raise money and grow from Seed to Series A. Pringle Capital now has one of the largest investor networks in the UK and we are constantly on the lookout for exciting technology start-ups. I personally invest alongside the network, and it is the start of my journey to becoming a fully-fledged VC.
Q – What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur and/or investor?
I don’t think I could pin it down to one, but I can give 3; focus, resilience and control. If the founding team has these, then they can be very successful.
Focus is something people talk about but don’t often practice. I like companies that focus on one metric and that is all everyone is trying to improve within the business. It is simple to communicate and unite around.
Resilience I have already talked about. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, disheartening and create a lot of self-doubt. Being able to enter a new week with new optimism is important.
The last one, control, is not what you might think. I don’t mean holding onto the reigns of the company and not giving away equity. What I mean by control, is do you control the value exchange and is your business model reliant on your own efforts and immune to external factors. Suggestv was always slightly lacking control because the true value wasn’t in the video views, but in the video ads, which we weren’t in charge of. This was a great lesson.
Q – What’s your view of the current attention economy landscape, in terms of challenges and opportunities? And how has this changed with C19?
The ‘attention economy’ is a key investment area for Pringle Capital due to my background in media/ad/social technology. Attention economics treats human attention as a scarce commodity. All of us are customers and our time and attention is valuable. The biggest technology companies in the world have captured our attention and make huge profits from advertising or subscriptions. It is a really exciting time because we are on the cusp of the ‘4th era of attention’. We have had the media era – print, radio, TV; the digital era – internet, social media; the on-demand era – mobile, video, VOD and the 4th is the immersive era – esports, audio, VR, AR and AI.
The winners in the immersive era are going to be massive companies as they will have 100% control of your attention. With attention, just look at what 16-21 year olds are doing and invest in that!
Q – What specific areas or particular companies excite you?
Anything that can bring esports mainstream. Virtual meeting worlds. Audio and voice because of the screenless opportunities and the authenticity. Basically, anything new world / immersive that is generating revenue and has a community.
Q – What are you working on at present and what will you be focusing on for the rest of 2020?
More of the same – I am really excited about what I am working on. We will do more deals with Pringle Capital. I may try and launch a more formal fund. I will continue to work with Viqeo to help publishers make money from video.
Q – What’s the first website you check each day for industry news?
First thing I check is Apple News. It personalities all news from all sources in one place. I am subscribed to the Propeller PR newsletter which is also a great summary of the top stories with a media/advertising slant. I also like Morning Brew and I check the BBC Sport gossip column every morning religiously with a distant hope that Arsenal are signing Kylian Mbappe.
Q – What has been a surprising positive you’ve experienced from this lockdown?
Using more voice messages. I don’t always need to schedule a call but a lot of things are said better than written and I have used my voice a lot more to communicate with friends, families, colleagues and clients.
Q – Anything else you’d like to include/plug/add?!
Basically, if you are interested in anything I have mentioned, contact me on LinkedIn. I will reply.