Richard Conway is a multi-award winning serial internet entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Childcare.co.uk, the UK’s largest online childcare platform. Having first seen the potential of the internet over twenty-five years ago Richard began to buy domain names before most companies even knew what a website was. Richard subsequently started developing and selling websites and in 2006 sold one of his companies, Shopping.net to a US listed company for an eight-figure sum. We spoke with Richard to find out what he’s learnt throughout his career, and what advice he’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Please can you give us a brief description of your background? And, your current position/s?
I’ve been in the internet business for over 20 years and am the CEO & Founder of Childcare.co.uk, the UK’s largest online childcare platform with over 1.7m members. We help connect parents seeking childcare with childcare providers, such as registered childminders, nannies, babysitters and tutors.
You have founded and grown several ecommerce businesses, what is it about this sector that appealed to you?
The power of the internet is phenomenal. It’s possible to grow a sizeable business without needing a big, expensive office or hundreds of staff. I have always been interested in computing and technology from a very early age, as well as being an entrepreneur.
When I was a student, I had a business selling mobile phones and was looking for ways to target more potential customers. I taught myself to create a very basic website which allowed me to advertise nationally. This then gave me ideas for several other internet businesses.
You are an investor also, what do you look for when choosing an investment opportunity? Is there a particular sector you like at the moment?
I’ve been very fortunate never to need any outside funding for Childcare.co.uk. For some of my previous businesses, it was a case of maxing out several credit cards and using student loans, but after having some success with previous businesses, I invested my own money to start Childcare.co.uk, however I realise people sometimes need an investor in their business which is why I look for scalable ideas that can help play a small part in changing the word for the better. More importantly though, it’s about the people in the business.
What one piece of advice would you give to a first time entrepreneur? And, one thing they should look out for?
Think big! It will be long and bumpy ride and there will be people trying to frequently knock you over but keep going. Stay focussed on what you want to achieve and take small, frequent, steady steps.
In my business, the job is never finished, we constantly have a long list of new ideas to improve our service and make changes and updates on a daily basis.
You need to build a good team and reward them well but don’t employ more people than necessary. I have seen many start-ups raise money and then recruit more staff than they really need. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a small group of the right people.
Also, don’t worry too much about your competition. If you do the best you can then they will be the ones worrying about you!
What does the future hold for you?
Having a healthy and happy family is the most important thing to me. But business-wise, Childcare.co.uk has a brand-new version of our iOS mobile app, which has been the result of months of work. Our mobile apps are an important part of our platform, with over 50% of our users also accessing our service via our apps. We also have a new look for the website launching soon and many new innovative features to help improve our platform. It’s an exciting time!