Derek is a generalist entrepreneur. Having built businesses in property, standard commerce, and now e-commerce, he has broad range of loose skillsets. His true passion is the business of doing business. He’s been intimately involved with the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurialism, having made, and more recently lost many millions in the process. Derek is nomadic at heart, having lived in many corners of the globe. He’s currently traveling, seeking sunshine and beaches whilst building, incubating and testing a few new start ups. He loves getting emails about collaboration ideas and opportunities: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please tell us about yourself? What’s your background?
I’ve always been entrepreneurially spirited. I was a self-employed personal trainer since the age of 16. I raised enough funds to buy my first property in London at 24, renovated it, and started property development off the back of that.
In 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis, I moved tangentially into the serviced apartment sector. Over the next nine years, i grew this company into a biggish deal, with 70 employees and c.£12m in revenues. Sadly, that company has recently closed and liquidated, and now I’m starting again.
What were you doing before you became a Digital nomad?
I have always been very mobile. I have lived large parts of my life in UK, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and South America (but i wouldn’t necessarily call myself a nomad). I built much of the London-based serviced apartment company, from Sydney. I would live/work from Sydney and commute to the London and Manila (Philippines) offices as needed. Remote working sits comfortably with me.
You had to start again from the bottom, how did you do? What were you doing?
The recent closure of my company has hurt stakeholders within the company. This has been a hard horrible journey, for many people, and I’m deeply mindful of this.
Personally, the journey has not only cost me millions, but there has been a massive-opportunity cost. I sunk nine years of my body and soul into something that now doesn’t exist. But i have learned a huge amount from this, and i am determined – and super energised – to rebuild and regrow.
I have supreme confidence that i can rebuild something bigger, better, stronger as a result of my ‘compounded’ (borrowing from the investment term of compound interest) experiences.
You are building online companies, can you tell us more about it?
There’s a formula to business. There are trends, current norms, and best practices. Little of it is rocket science. I’m just learning the trends and following them. (Few of us will create true disruption such as the Elon Musk’s or Peter Thiel’s of the world).
Much of rudimentary business success requires simply dedication, grit, and a fair dose of luck (and timing). I’m very confident i can rebuild reasonable sized businesses again in short time.
I have dozens of business ideas – but I‘m filtering these and staying focused. So I’m currently building/incubating 2-3 website based businesses – building them here in Sun & Co. They’re all subscription-based models, and all working from similar basic platforms.
I’ll build the basic model, test for traction, assess viability and decide to continue or ditch them. I’m fairly confident that all will succeed, which is nice but also a little daunting.
(btw, i strongly believe that online (and app) businesses are NOT the only, nor necessarily the best, ways of making money, but it seems to the the default approach at the moment)
How did you start working remotely? How did you do the switch?
Generally in life i crave freedom and opportunity. I resist things that limit this. Some people might be worried by not having a home, a base, or a contained community. For me, the excitement of not having these constricting obligations energises and inspires me.
Following the closure of my last business, and despite losing almost everything, the upside was that i had less obligations, which meant that i was free(r). My new businesses initially are going to be London-centric, so it’s important that i’m in and around the the region (most the time). But i can build/start the businesses from anywhere, and i prefer sunny weather, so i flew over to Europe. I’ve spent most of Sep-Nov around France and Spain.
How do you get your customers/clients?
I follow the well-trodden path. Develop a good idea/product that is genuine and of true value to people. Build a website, and the relevant social media pages. Create sufficient amounts of free and valuable content for the benefit of potential customers/clients. Once you have this eco-system in place, you can start to attract an audience/traffic, typically by FB and Google adverts etc. Once the eco-system and the following has been developed, then if the product is indeed valuable to that audience, the sales should follow.
Do have any advice for people interested in starting a business?
Many people start business as a contractor. Many people brand their business around themselves, and wrap it their identity close to it. I do exactly the opposite.
I like to build businesses where i am ideally completely irrelevant, and redundant as quickly as possible. This enables greater scalability for the business, and greater flexibility and options for the individual (me).
Businesses still need leaders and it’s fine to provide the vision and leadership, but i try and remove myself from the public eye and from the operational delivery of a business as soon as viable.
What do you like and don’t like about being nomadic? Any disadvantages?
With every upside, there are downsides.
I’ve lived all around the world and had such incredible wealth of experiences. I’ve met and bonded with countless amazing people. I’m immensely grateful. I still want to live and experience so many more places and ‘lives’, the list keeps growing.
But the downside is ‘roots’ and stability. As you continually move around you forgo depth, routine and relationships, and stability. There is a cost to this, but like with any choice, everything has an upside and downside. People that stay in one place all their lives might have fantastic routine, roots, and deeper relationships, but their life might be less deep in other senses.
Life for me is all about experiences, options and freedom. I think it’s important to consider the future and protect the downsides. I might be happy living simply and cheaply for the next year, but i might want to buy a house, settle down, or even buy a mansion and a Ferrari one day. Many people might not want a Ferrari, but it’s better to have the option and choose not to take it, then to not have the option.
The ultimate flexibility is to have the freedom and opportunity to chose the life you want – keeping as many doors and bridges open as possible. Opting into the Nomad world, shouldn’t necessarily mean that you should opt out of the standard world.
What’s your favorite destination to work remotely from and why?
Sun & Co! :)) It’s awesome. The vibe around the house is incredible. The loving attention and curation of Jon, Edu and Anita make this place something very special. Their genuine care sets the tone for all the others others in the house, and creates a really awesome community. The house itself is well designed, and is very conducive to a great community lifestyle, and also for getting good productive work done (because it’s also about getting work done).
What made you come to Sun and co? How did you hear about it?
I used this thing called Google. The S&C website appealed to me though, and i was inspired by the concept (this is the first co-living co-working space I’ve visited btw).
How do you tackle productivity when working in Sun and Co? What did you do when you were in Sun and Co?
It’s easy to be productive here. To be honest, that’s one of the biggest reasons for me coming back each time. It’s easy to get good productive work done here. It’s comfortable, great internet and no distractions.
The house is brilliant in that if you want to work a solid 80 hour week, you can. If you want to work a few hours and then go surf, or cook dinner with the ‘family’, you can. There’s always loads of activities happening, so it can be adjusted to suit any work/life preferences.
Would you like to come back?
Yes. Early 2017 i’ll be back 🙂
You can connect with Derek at email@example.com or coming at Sun and Co. in spring when he will be back 😉