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IGNITING THE SPARK with Andy Tait, Collider

Caroline Sherrington

Founded 4 years ago, Collider is an accelerator dedicated to marketing and advertising start-ups. The business works alongside investors, coaches, business partners and brand mentors to facilitate the growth of the MadTech industry, and the companies within it. To date Collider has invested in 35 startups over four cohorts totalling £2.8M. The alumni have gone on to raise £4.5M in follow-on funding, and this year the number of applications had rocketed to over 260. We caught up with one of Collider’s co-founders, Andy Tait, to find out more about the business, and the reason that he is passionate about championing UK MadTech as a world leader.

The moment that ignited the spark in me to start Collider was…

Previously, my colleagues and I had slightly different backgrounds, though predominantly entrepreneurial and investing in marketing, advertising, technology and media. Drawing upon our combined experience we were united in the view that the UK is the world business and talent centre of the marketing and advertising sector, so it was a natural venture for us to set up a business that would, invest support, maintain and develop that talent and so the next generation of MadTech businesses. Collider is what we created.

Today, Collider has an excellent team delivering a great programme, offering new solutions in marketing and advertising. We focus specifically on this sector, which is huge. We look for start-up opportunities from across the world, and currently we go through the exercise of recruiting new start-ups annually. In December, we had applications from 43 countries and 4 continents. These are very early stage investments, mostly UK based, but we have had some companies originating in Israel, Portugal, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy as well.

The thing that’s most surprised me since I made that move is…

Well – it all works! The appetite and response to the concept from the market was really positive. Not only from start-ups, but also the large corporates, bigger marketing brands and potential investors. They all ‘got it’, how participating is good individually and contributes to the big strategic picture.

The toughest challenge I’ve faced is…

Collider spun out of another business. Whilst we were setting up we kept our other business going, but in April 2014 we completely stepped away – we wanted to get completely into start-up investment. The biggest challenge was following the advice that we give our start-ups; to focus on one thing, and do it really, really well. We chose to do that, leaving the security of a personal income, and so we had to make it work.

The largest part of my career previously was co-founding what started out as a video game; a first generation virtual reality business, then into mobile. We went from 4 people in an industrial unit in Basingstoke, to a listed company on the London stock exchange, with operations in California, Paris, Tokyo – all that kind of stuff. I’ve been there where these start-ups are, growing a business from scratch, which really helps with my work now.

My biggest success has been…

For Collider, the best is yet to come. We are, in effect, a start-up business ourselves. Our lovely start-ups are growing, and we’re at the start of year 4 of what is likely to be an ongoing 10- year cycle. The success of our partners, and the companies we work with, is very important to us. If the start-ups are successful, then so too are our partners. The goal that we are striving for is the amalgamation of our start-ups, business partners and investors, all achieving big things together. When that happens – that’s what success looks like.

I’m very good at…

My answer to that has to be – ask somebody else! My business background is in business development and sales, so I’d like to think I’m quite good at making friends with people, understanding their challenges and what they are looking to achieve. Then, hopefully looking at ways that through working with me and with Collider, we can help them to achieve great things.

The type of person I look to recruit into my organisation is…

We look for people that clearly have the core competencies that we’re hiring for. Yet more than that, it’s also really important that they have that spark of enthusiasm and good nature that means they will muck in and get on with anything that they need to, to grow our business. It’s a lively spark, and those that have it will always enhance and have a far wider impact than their job role may specify. When you get those great people, it’s so obvious.

The part of my day I most look forward to is…

Coaching our start-ups. No two days are the same. My days are a completely mixed bag of helping start-ups, making sure our current partners are happy, and then being out in the market connecting with more partners. Connecting people is my role, and it’s something I enjoy very much. I live far away from the office, so I’m typically out of the front door at 6am and getting back anytime between 7.30pm and 11pm, depending on what’s going on. It’s a long day, but I love it.

If I could give my 18-year old self one piece of advice, it would be

A bit philosophical, but I think that life is a journey, and you have to make the most of ‘the journey’ rather than slaving away to a single destination or goal. To love what you do – that’s so important. If you do that, you won’t ever do a day’s work. I’m fortunate in that my journey has been diverse. I started in a totally different business discipline and trained as a mechanical engineer. At weekends I worked in a record shop, and got a passion for the music industry, which was fun. I then got into my previous technology and marketing business, which led me to where I am now. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve done what I love – marketing, entertainment and video games. And it’s all worked out very nicely!

Outside of work I can be found…

I have two or three passions, and then one thing that I can’t avoid. Running, cycling and photography I’m very keen on, because I love being outside. Then there’s the unavoidable. Between us, my wife and I have 6 kids – and they keep visiting! They’ve all grown up and left home, but they seem to keep coming back, which makes our house a small hotel! In all seriousness, it’s wonderful. Christmas was very busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are benefits to them having grown up of course – you can’t play ‘Cards against Humanity’ with 6 year olds!

My philosophy on life is…

My philosophy is very much ‘you reap what you sow’. If you are positive and kind to people, that may well ensure that people are kind in return. By doing this, you make your journey a good one to follow.

If I was asking the questions, I would want to know…

What’s next? And how can I help you? It’s ok to look backwards, though you can’t change anything. I like to look forward – what can we make better? How can we make future projects successful, and have fun along the way? Positive, but challenging.

What I like about working with Ignition Law…

We see Ignition as a start-up. It’s not an old business, it’s a new one and we have massive empathy for that. David’s response times and the whole team’s keenness to work with us is really positive. Like I said, you reap what you sow, which makes us keen to work with them as well – so it’s great. They are an early stage company, but one that’s hungry to do big things, and we admire that.

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