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What I’ve Learnt: Ben Davies, founder, Vypr

Ben Davies

Ben Davies is founder at Manchester-based product intelligence platform Vypr.

Gearing up to celebrate its 10th anniversary at the end of June, Vypr works with big brands such as Iceland, M&S, Co-op, KFC, Leon and Ella’s Kitchen.

The tech firm raised £3.4m to scale its operations at the end of 2022.

Here, Davies shares all the lessons he’s learnt.

 

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

The main thing I swear by nowadays is some form of daily exercise, even if it’s just a decent walk through the city centre on my way to or from the office. I do a lot of cycling, both mountain biking and road biking, including commuting into Manchester 1 or 2 days a week outside of winter. I also do some light yoga to keep everything nice and flexible.

What’s been your luckiest break?

I don’t believe in luck. You generate your own breaks by constantly creating opportunities to speak to people and engage with businesses, particularly in the early years of starting a business. The old adage that you have to kiss a lot of frogs is particularly true.

What’s your best failure?

My first start-up, a food brand called Crumbs, which did really well and then went bust at the peak of the first credit crunch in 2008. I learned more about sitting with pressure and risk, and coping with failure, than I have done since. As a young entrepreneur it was an incredibly valuable lesson.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, financial or time?

Investing time with my wife and children, not overly obsessing about the business at evenings and weekends. In the early years of starting a business you have to put the out-of-hours time in, but you absolutely need to maintain work life balance, otherwise the sacrifices you make will be ultimately pointless. So time, for sure.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why? 

The Lean Startup is a seminal book for young entrepreneurs, putting in place some core principles about proving a young business in the most efficient and lean way. Zero to One, by Peter Thiel, has some quite strong but really interesting principles that are super relevant for those trying to scale big global businesses.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t specialise too early, keep as many things in play as possible. Industry experience is invaluable, particularly for entrepreneurs who are interested in B2B start-ups. You won’t understand the nuance of a sector if you don’t spend some decent time in it.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Simon Hathway, who was my first boss as a young buyer at Sainsbury’s. He taught me that high flying, successful people can be fun, positive, supportive and empathetic leaders. He later became an investor in Vypr.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’ve always been massively into music, and from the mid 90’s onwards have been DJ’ing and collecting vinyl. I’m currently slightly obsessed by collecting early to mid-90’s hip hop albums on vinyl from a period known as the Daisy Age – think Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul etc. I spend far too much time in record shops and hunting down vinyl bargains online…

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

It’ll make people use and allocate their time more wisely, and realise the value of family, friendships and communities. I fear the ‘Teams or Zoom’ creep that I see a bit now – people spending long hours on their own in a room on video calls, never actually meeting people face to face. We’re trying to encourage people back into our Manchester office, albeit with a totally flexible policy on when and how frequently they do that.

What does success look like to you?

It’s building a long-lasting company that impacts our industry for the better, hiring and working alongside brilliant people who love working for the business. But make no mistake, success is hard earned. Today Vypr is a market-leading product intelligence platform providing customer insights to many of the most recognisable FMCG and supermarket brands – but what’s so important is to regularly step back, along with your team, and recognise success at each step of the journey.

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