New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #10 featuring Phil Zeidler of Dead Happy insurance

What’s the D word? Well when it comes to Phil Zeidler, it could be a number of things. A Dad? Yep. Disruptor? Absolutely! Death? … Well yes! Phil is the co-founder of insurtech firm DeadHappy, which aims to simply life (or death) insurance. In this episode we discuss how Phil went from being a door-to-door salesman to an entrepreneur. He tells us how his first business partner ran off with all of his money and his own near death experience.


Listen to the full episode👇


Phil Zeidler 0:00
We’ll talk about drugs or sex or racism or LGBT issues, etc, all openly now, which is fantastic. But death. Don’t talk to us about the D word. 100% guaranteed we are dying right now we’re all dying, different rates, you know, but we’re all gonna roll gonna end up the same way to know who you are, how rich you are, the middle call you are, what sex you are, you name it, we’re all gonna die. And yet, we can’t talk about this stuff. Death related products are sold either based on fear, or they’re just sold at a really more bitter than any sort of almost apologetic way. And we thought, well, this is crazy.

Manish Verma 1:06
In today’s episode, we’re in conversation with Phil zeidler. Originally from the west of London, who’s building his death startup, here in Leicester. We discuss how he caught the entrepreneurial bug. Why he hasn’t retired to the Bahamas yet. And of course, his inshore tech firm, dead happy. I’m Manish Verma, and welcome to the Leicester startups podcast.

Phil Zeidler 1:36
Through university, I was back in the days where we had granted and have to work through university but I did a few I always did work in the holidays, etc. And then I did a sales job aerial selling aerial photographs door to door, which is a fascinating experience to do as a student as a student programme. And definitely learned a lot about yourself and rejection and all sorts of stuff on that. Yeah, so they basically because of course this is all days before internet and everything like that. And so they used to go up in plain small planes and take aerial photographs of small sort of area, beautiful areas. Normally they’d have a lake in a church and you know, so picture village, etc. But there was really quality photos, so you could see the detail, you know, someone’s in the garden, you probably just about making them out to conceal your details, perhaps. And of course, the only way you could sell these is door to door because you can’t put them in a shop. You know, it’s because it’s so specific. So they got a holiday student to get around, knock on the doors and literally show the photograph and and ultimately sell these things. amazing experience I had a bit of money doing that and went travelling and and then came back and they helped them set up an operation in the US doing the same thing. So I was looking after a whole lot of students who we took out there became a divisional director of that business. But it was all very good, just having fun really doing it. And then I came back to the UK and just I don’t know, I just as people do I fell into insurance. My uncle would be very successful insurance. I had a mate from university who had a small insurance broking business, and sort of said he needed some a partner and helps Hi. I joined them. You know, knowing absolutely nothing about insurance. It was a classic example of the impetuousness of youth. You just think you have all the answers, you can do everything. So naively, yeah, I joined them. And and that was my first lesson in life because the partner who I saw the guy, this friend from university cleaner wasn’t that interested in insurance. In fact, he was more interested in stock broking. And we borrowed some money against a building. So we’re taking out a mortgage, some borrowing to fuel the business. So the business was on the hook for this money. And I came in about eight months, having sort of joined the business and started up to discover that he had disappeared off to Hong Kong. And not only has he disappeared, Hong Kong kid emptied the bank account. So so I’m sat there at a business I don’t know where the part that having disappeared and taking all the money. We had two employees at the time, I’ll always remember there was one time I in February. So there’s a few a few months into this. And it was it had been really hard. And it’s all touch and go. But a wet February evening, I walked out to a village called Ross It was about a four mile walk in the dark in the rain to get to win this bit of business that was worth a few hundred pounds of commission. And bear in mind this is 30 years ago. So that’s you know, it was a reasonable sum of money but and yeah, and I want the business walking back at it at that point. I just knew, I just knew that we were going to be on, I knew that would make it, you learn a lot about yourself. And I always say, and that was an amazing experience for me and something I would never ever change. I learned so much about me about the art of what was possible, about how to just, you know, in the art of a crisis in the middle of a crisis, just think clearly and think, well, what are the options?

Manish Verma 5:26
Well, did you hear from your partner, former partner?

Phil Zeidler 5:29
Yes, it took a few lawyers and four years, but eventually, we got all that solved. He never came back to the UK. But ultimately, by effectively, I mean, I built the business up to start a small business, but it was all value, and then I basically took your shares. So, you know, I get value of it all. And it was a commercial insurance business was that commercial insurance? Yes, it started as a personalised, we actually started with motorhome insurance. And it was, this shows you how long ago in those days, people still used to get books out for every insurer and used to literally have to get a car insurance, you go through Norwich union or as it was then as now Aviva and work out based on their age, the type of vehicle, whether had a claim, you don’t work out the rate from a book, you do that for one, and you do that for as many companies as you have agencies, what we did with the very first early adopters of the technology to obviously computerise at all. So we had one of the early mindset systems that enabled us to do proper computer code. So that was that was a that was the start of my inshore tech career, way before inshore tech was even a thing.

Manish Verma 6:44
Yeah. And insuretech wasn’t the only sort of business discovery he made. After growing his commercial insurance company, he saw the rise of direct line looming. But what he realised was that they were spending massive amounts on advertising to get customers, Phil, though, had another approach.

Phil Zeidler 7:05
At the time you could only buy insurance through insurance brands. And I thought, well, the best way of winning business is with businesses that have customers already. So they’ve already built a trust. And they often call it affinity marketing or so I saw I thought to myself, why don’t we set up a business that has a that that can provide motor insurance to the customers of other existing businesses. And so I set up and I thought, well, what’s the strongest, most passionate group of customers that I can think of was actually all related to sport, and particularly football. So the fans are Premiership football clubs. So I then went to set up business good direct club, where we literally went to the football clubs. And we said, we would like to set up a business in your name, to sell car and home insurance to your car to your fans, because they have to have this it’s a legal requirement. So if they got to buy it, why would they buy it through spurs for the services, not forest insurance, etc. And then some of the profits come to you, which ultimately helps them as a club, you know, which is the one thing they love, because it was trying to get over the fact that insurance was a distressed purchase. No one likes it. Well, at least they get some sort of feeling good feeling out of it. So we set this business up and we went round. And sure enough, we signed up a lot of clubs, we had Aston Villa, Darby Nottingham, spurs also, I don’t know about 10 different clubs West Ham. So I actually i was growing so fast, I ended up selling that business, I still have this other business, but I sold that business to a big broking business called john Thompson. And they were going to make it as a centrepiece for all of their what they called affinity or brand marketing for insurance. Long story short, they didn’t invest in the big in the contact centre they promised and so forth. So I actually helped them set it on to commercial union.So so I was then free again, still have the other business and then what I did was set up my third business, which is a final business at that time, which is definitely most successful one. This is back in 2000. Which did exactly what we did for football clubs, but we did it for really, really big businesses. So we did it for the banks, the building societies post offer smarts and Spencers etc. So even today, if you buy motor insurance or home insurance, etc. through most of the banks or m&s or post office, what you’re actually doing is buying it from the company that I set up.

Manish Verma 9:56
This third business called junction became part of the bgl group best known for compare the market, which he became director of, he left in 2007, after it grew to a million customers. After that, Phil had some spare time, he became Chair of a hospital invested in a few businesses. Oh, and he kind of helped reinvent the music industry,

Phil Zeidler 10:20
you know, is pretty well known that record labels sort of fairly abused the relationship with with that find young bands that have great success. But the record label will take the majority of profit. So we set up a fund where we raised some money, and then we signed up some bands. And we started with some sort of established bands like madness, or libertines, or Charlotte church, one of ours. And what you do is all the revenue that we help them pay for and produce the records, etc. But then, rather than taking the vast majority of the revenue and the profit for the record, and leaving the artists, all these sort of touring merchandise publishing revenue, and that’s how it used to work, we said, No, everything goes into one pot. And then we share it out equally, it’s called a 360 model, which is definitely which is now being adopted by most of the most of the record labels that I’ve got. So I’ve got a gold disc on my wall for that little venture. So I had a hasten to add a small part, minor part to play. But I think the point is that what I enjoy and what I have come to enjoy is just any business model that’s generally disruptive. That’s just just making things better generally, for the customer. But consumer. There’s a lot basically lots and lots of stuff along the way, and I really wasn’t planning on doing another business,

Manish Verma 11:42
I would have thought that you Yeah, it sounds like you’ve come to a point where you become an investor yourself. I imagine, you know, a mansion out in the Bahamas, and that’s often retired.

Phil Zeidler 12:00
Well, I think one thing you learned and I sort of, I suppose the biggest check that I got was when I sold my interest in the junction business back in 2007. Money in the Bank, and I didn’t intend to do anything particularly. But you learn pretty quickly that you’re an awful long time retired, you know, I was sat around for six months thought I go and play golf and do some sport and all the rest of it and just get bored really quickly. I mean, I enjoy I enjoy doing this stuff. It’s challenging. You need that sort of you need that challenge yourself. Towards the end of the the business with junction I became very seriously ill. So ill I was on intensive care for for a week, I don’t remember anything because the drugs you get some retrospective amnesia. So I know it was basically I had an infection that went septic so my body went into septic shock. Shut down and I very nearly didn’t make it So yeah, so that sort of, you know, I had children of four and two at the time you recover from that, and that does make you think about life differently. And I had insurance, you know, I was I had insurance, so that’s fine. The will wasn’t 100% up to date, but it was okay. But you sort of start. And I thought, well, actually, maybe I’ll probably, maybe I should just have a bit more insurance, because you just gonna think, wow, I want my children. You know, at that age, they’ve still got all their education ahead of them, and we want them to go to private education. So that’s quarter million pounds a pop, you got to replace the income that I was earning, you know, and I didn’t want my wife to suddenly be, you know, if I died, you think about it, that’s difficult to deal with. And then just to suddenly find that you’re in financial ruin, as well. So I just wanted to increase all the covers that we had. And I then really came to discover the life insurance, as a product is entirely inflexible. And it’s really a very long winded process to take it out. And then I’ll want to adjust the will. And that was another process that just took forever. And it just, you know, there’s always one thing that stuck in my head. So fast forward a while and I sort of tinkered around looking at life insurance and saying, well, Surely there’s a better way of doing that. For a few years, I just poked around, had a few meetings with people, you know, not not doing anything too serious. And then I met my co founder, and he had a similar experience in terms of challenges of getting life insurance and getting worse. And we got together and we said, Look, there’s got to be a better way, you know, you don’t sell any other products this way. Why would we? Why would we go around avoiding the D word death? You know, because they’ll know it’s called Life Insurance. No Life Insurance is death insurance. insuring against death, you know, but everyone avoids. So we thought that this doesn’t make any sense. So both the attitude around death is, and that’s our core vision for dead happy is changing attitudes to death. We want people just to be able to be more open to talk about it. plan for it. You know, think about it. And then when you really know and and this is possibly the biggest driver for me, there’s 12 billion people in the UK who have life insurance. There’s eight and a half million people who have dependents who have families mortgages who don’t. So there’s eight and a half million people who, if they were to die tomorrow, would not only would that be an absolute personal tragedy for that family, but their family would be in financial ruin. We come back to that question. You know what, it probably won’t be you. But it might be.

Manish Verma 17:40
So Phil and his business partner looked at the current life insurance model 25 year policies gone, long, tiresome forms, gone, even speaking someone in person or on the phone, gone. Instead, customers go online and search for simple questions. And instead of saying how much covered they need the answer a quite profound question. What do you want to happen when you die?

Phil Zeidler 18:07
And yes, you’ve got those sorts of responsible, maybe the more dull usual ones, like paying off the mortgage, and the bills and the funeral costs and things like that. But actually, we want people to reimagine what the life insurance thing could be. So if you if you think about, you know, after death, what happens? You know, and I’ve certainly done this myself, I, you know, there’s a part of me, that’s going to be delighted that actually, I’m going to send up, you know, a group of my really good mates off on a trip in my name, where they’ll always, you know, they’ll, in my memory playing goes to Las Vegas, and they will have an amazing time. And maybe it’s fantasy, I don’t know, probably is, but I know that that will be some joy out of what is a difficult, you know, maybe for me, I’m dead. But for my nearest and dearest is a difficult time. So you can create some in some rays of light in some of the darkest times through just reimagining lots of different stuff. And so we really got inspired to pick one, there’s not a better way of just getting laid, and getting the crowd getting customers to create own death wishes, and inspire different people. And along the death wishes you see a customer inspire death wishes. And it’s sharing those different thoughts, you know, sending your ashes into space. Brilliant. Fantastic, why not? You get the whole thing on video. And then when you look up the stars at night, you know that your loved ones look out your partner looks after you really are up there, you know, somewhere up there. So it’s just trying to that’s where it was inspired from is is saying that actually that amazing death products that don’t get to see the light of day? Well, let’s put them all on this Death Wish platform. Let’s give people the opportunity to see see these things and inspire them to think about, you know, actually what’s going to happen.

Manish Verma 19:58
Dead happy is a Different kind of insurance company, not only in the way they operate, but also in their presence search their Facebook page. And posts are often have funny animations, quirky graphics, many with 10s if not hundreds of likes and shares. Then you go to their trustpilot and read their reviews an average score of 4.9 out of five stars. But for some real entertainment go to the very very very few bad ones. Someone called Zelda complained about dead happy so naturally did happy social media team had fun replying to her with references to the video game. Someone anonymous posted that they were pretty terrible. Did happy replied with the transcript from Liam Neeson and taken I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for life insurance, I can tell you, I don’t have the perfect policy for you. But I do have a very particular set of skills. But does this online brand persona ever get them in trouble?

Phil Zeidler 21:00
Absolutely. We have definitely we have certainly, you know, we were advertising. So we obviously we continue to advertise in the pandemic, particularly. And we use we had an advert which we sent out with a child wrapped up in toilet paper, right. And, of course, all the toilet roll thing going all the time. And you know, and the line of the advert was saying there are better ways of protecting your family. Life Insurance, you know, and some people thought that was all insensitive. We had an ASA a complaint for an advert. But it was one complaint out of 400,000 people viewing there was only so you know what you’re gonna go through life, you’re not going to please everyone all the time. And we understand that. What I think is important and why we can sleep at night is we know that what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to do for the right reasons. And it’s a really important thing. Ultimately, we’re just trying to make sure as many families as possible have protection, so that if the worst happens, you know what, they’re their family, they can slightly ease the pain of the most difficult time. So, you know, yes, we won’t get it right all the time, of course. But that’s just you know, if you try to break an egg, or break an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs, we are doing something very different,

Manish Verma 22:25
Dead Happy seems to be very different in every aspect, whether it’s them scrapping traditional life insurance practices, being an extrovert brand personality online, or even in their image, I mean, the logo is a laughing skull. But they’ve instilled a different ethos for their 25, strong team based in less than two, for example, they have something called Monday morning leap, which is making sure each of them are motivated to want to get to work at the start of the week.

Phil Zeidler 22:55
One thing is really clear to me that people do their best work when they’re happy. And for people to be happy, they have to be valued, their opinion has to be heard. And it doesn’t matter whether they are, you know, paid, you know, 10,000 pounds, or 100,000 pounds, their opinion is of value. So I don’t believe that hierarchy is generally helpful. And it does this, because I think it prevents people sharing their views and opinions. So we’ve created this culture, where hopefully first number one, everyone’s opinion, everyone feels valued. And everyone’s opinion matters. And our role in my role as a suppose a co founder of business is to enable people to do their best work. So we get rid of everything that superfluous. So all the sort of traditional rules, we don’t have dress codes, we don’t have hours of work, we don’t even have holidays. We just say you do what you want, when you want, we you know, it’s our job to make really clear, this is the vision of the business. This is your role within it in terms of the contribution, the main function, but you can contribute to any part of the business. And they do we set up these things with projects or missions where we have a broad range of people involved in that. And, and our focus is in is just stripping back all the constraints for them to be, you know, to ensure that they can deliver to the best of their ability. It’s a culture that’s drawn from a load of other a load of different sort of recent management, cultural thinking. But it’s just strictly that we hadn’t actually we, we say we have no rules. Now, we have to have some rules. We’re a regulated business, we act in the financial sector, but outside of those rules that we have to comply with, you know, we just say that the only thing that we have to do is get behind a common name. We want to encourage debate because that’s how you get better outcomes. So it doesn’t mean that you know anyone’s got the monopoly on the right answer. We want people to really contribute in every element. And it doesn’t matter if they happen to be what we call a honcho, that someone who’s one of our customer service agents, they may well have a really valid opinion on the product, or the marketing on a tech development. So let them if they want to get involved, get them involved.

Manish Verma 25:20
And finally, the last question is really just about Leicester. How is it been important to you? How has it been? How have you found it? And how do you see the scene here in the city,

Phil Zeidler 25:31
The geography was the root rationale for setting up in Leicester. But genuinely it has been, it has been a fantastic place for us to set up our business, I had no idea of the sort of some of the talent that definitely you know, we have come across, we built a really top Cass Tech team, as a brilliant pool of tech talent around which we’ve been able to draw on which I suppose historically, you know, most of the particularly VC backed businesses end up in London, but you didn’t, you just don’t need to be blessed has been a really amazing place for for talent perspective, there are lots of great businesses that I’ve come across. So lots of support, that you can go out and, and seek. So it has been in that sense, a delight. And a decision that we haven’t for a moment regretted setting up a master, you know, it’s we rather hide our light under a bushel in Leicester. I think there’s loads of brilliant businesses being developing here. And the more that we talk about them, the more that we get them out there in the public eye, the better for the city and the better for everyone.

New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #9 featuring Saleem Arif of Review Solicitors and Spacemize

What makes an economics graduate from the University of Cambridge ditch a lucrative career in banking to move to Leicester to set up a business he knows nothing about?! Saleem Arif did just that 12 years ago. He’s since set up two further businesses in the city and now calls Leicester home. In this episode we discuss having confidence in business, being a master of persuasion and having his business featured on ads during the FA Cup Final, Coronation Street and on GMTV!

Listen to the full episode👇

Help shape support for start-ups in the East Midlands – MIT REAP / LLEP Project

As part of a project called REAP which is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) is gathering information on how it can better help entrepreneurs in the region (more info here).  If you have thought about setting up or have started a business recently, have your voice heard by answering this short survey:


New! Leicester Startups Podcast: Episode #8 featuring Oscar Ford from Anuncia

Ask Oscar Ford from Oadby what his passion is and you get a very thoughtful response “I’m skeptical about the passion argument”. It’s a typical answer from an entrepreneur who’s conservative (with a small c), cautious but very considerate. How does someone with this approach grow and scale his digital marketing business? Do the risks outweigh the potential profits?

Listen to the full episode👇



Manish Verma 0:52
Oscar Ford is in his mid 20s and from Oadby, and he’s a thinker. He’s the CEO of an Anuncia, a marketing agency that specialises in pay per click. What’s that? It’s essentially where advertisers pay a fee. Each time one of their ads is clicked on.

Oscar 1:16
There’s something very satisfying about mastering something, and then being able to do that for the people to make something or device something that, you know, there may be loads of other versions of it, but someone’s chosen to buy yours for one particular reason. There’s something really satisfying about that.

Manish Verma 1:35
Oscar’s also the co founder of a couple other businesses Merch Business a venture with his brother making t shirts, and a brand new company called virtue, which is another marketing firm specialising in pay per click, but that one isn’t an agency.

Oscar 1:51
So there’s a lot of talking across the board in entrepreneurship around passion, and I’m always quite sceptical about the passion argument.

Manish Verma 2:01
On this pisode of the Leicester Startups Podcast I talk to Oscar Ford about building two businesses that he decided not to scale and building one that he is trying to. And we try to figure out what his passion is. Manish Verma Welcome to the Lester startups podcast.

Oscar 2:29
Grew up in a quite an entrepreneurial family. My parents ran a business together in Leicester for about 12 years. So they did a quite specialist leadership and management training company. And they’ve always been involved in things like property and kind of just investments and it just interesting stuff. So growing up around them is I guess you grow up is that as your default? I suppose. So, yeah, it’s very different. I imagine if you grew up in a family where Everyone’s a doctor or, you know more. It’s kind of traditional roots. So I think for me, that was always the path that I assumed would be the normal path.

Manish Verma 3:10
And they were doing business leadership. So they were almost experts in kind of teaching others about business. Where did their expertise come from?

Oscar 3:20
Yeah, they’re a really interesting kind of pair actually, they very complementary skill sets. So my dad worked in the public sector for a while and the kind of third sector and became very good at kind of a thought leader and I believe, wasn’t really making a very profitable enterprise out of it. And then after being with my mum for some time, she then got involved in the business and is much more operational. So he’s more strategic and I guess visionary, to some extent, there. This is the long term view and that sort of thing. And she’s far more nuts and bolts, project management deliver profitably, that kind of thing. So as a duo they’re quite a force of nature. So, yeah, I think they’re an interesting combo, mainly because I think it really reiterates the fact that everybody has strengths and weaknesses in their approach, especially in a business context. And if you can find other people to get involved to cover your weak spots, and you cover theirs, it makes it very, very effective.

Manish Verma 4:32
So right from the beginning, Oscar was brought up around business, and it was at university, he decided to flex his entrepreneurial muscles for the very first time.

Oscar 4:43
When I was at school, one of my best friends, we went to university we had a conversation the first week and we said, there’s a lot of people who need fancy dress for freshers events and there’s loads of different events. They’ve all got different themes. So initially, we thought why don’t we just rent a van and sell costumes out of the back of a van on campus and it eventually evolved and took on a bit of a life of its own. So we created this brand called Dress Fresh. We worked with this guy. He was a friend of Malin, who was my co founder, who was really talented web developer. And we knew nothing about the internet at this time or how to build an e commerce website what was going on? He helped us build a website and then we basically partnered with colleges at universities. So we give them a commission for sales and then they’d help us sort of promote it to the freshers as they came in you know this will give you face pain accessories, and then you could you know people who want to go crazy they can obviously get their own outfits as well but we we tried to make this really cost effective package that would cover them for their specific colleges events.

Manish Verma 5:49
So give me a give me an idea on a paint the picture of what sort of things people will be able to dress up as.

Oscar 5:55
So if your whole year say you know, had an army theme night, or cowboys and Indians lots of different themes. We’d have items in there that would you could use in different ways. So we might have a bunch of camouflage material and a headband and dog tags and then face paints in loads of different colours. And if for neon night might have, you know, go in the dark bracelets and glow sticks and that sort of thing.

Manish Verma 6:20
Did your fancy dress stuff like make much money or any money?

Oscar 6:24
It kind of broke even and I think whenever you start a business like that, particularly around product, you, myself and Malin, my co founder were quite headstrong. So at the time, we, you know, people would say, okay, just make sure you put in a really strong product margin because you’re gonna have all these costs you haven’t thought of yet. Like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we were we were and then you don’t realise that it’s gonna happen. You kind of have to go through that experience to figure out why you do that in the first place. So there was a lot more work required. If we ran out of certain things. We’d have to go and buy extra from somewhere and pay more in this time. Stuff like that that came up. So it was successful in the sense as a learning opportunity, but not really as a profitable business. And there was a guy who started a similar business at the same sort of time, who I think I’ve seen on LinkedIn a couple times, I think they’ve scaled quite dramatically and got seed investment, that sort of thing. Wow, we’re in an interesting market. So that was kind of my first I suppose proper business. Got a taste for it through doing that.

Manish Verma 7:26
During summers between uni Oscar did two stints of work experience. It was at a company in Litchfield, in the West Midlands, which did affiliate marketing, building websites and they dabbled in working with startups. And it was here that he began to realise the power of the internet. He saw the opportunities of scaling a product online, and the profits that could be made. Once uni ended, he ended up back there for two more years. And after that, he began freelancing specialising in pay per click and while freelancing would have made him comfortable. He wants to grow, scale and diversify. That’s when his agency Anuncia was born. It’s a business which aims to help organisations increase sales and charities increase its donations and impact through pay per click. It’s a team of three at the moment and have clients in the UK, US, Canada and Israel to name but a few.

Oscar 8:27
I suppose it’s it’s building a repeatable process that I mean, you could do that as a freelancer as well, but you it’s twofold. You build a repeatable process for different processes. So where are you going to find the organisations you want to work with? What do you send to them at different stages to make, you know, give them information to make decision about working with you, what you’re going to do around delivering what you’ve said you can deliver. And I guess the fundamental differences with a freelancer, you can do Up to a level where you run out of time. So there’s only so many hours you can sell in a year. Whereas the idea with an agency model is that you move past that because you no longer rely on your own solo hours. You have other people who can kind of you sell their time as well. That was really the decision behind it.

Manish Verma 9:21
It doesn’t sound particularly sexy, right, repeatable processes. I mean, when we listen to podcasts, we often hear from super charismatic, ultra passionate, incredibly dynamic entrepreneurs. But you don’t always hear from the type of entrepreneur that I think Oscar is. I think he represents the other side of business, the functional, the operational, he’s the guy that makes things work. Well,

Oscar 9:48
There are plenty of people who can build a very successful business that they enjoy in an area they’re not necessarily that kind of wow, I love this so much. And I think you can’t, you know, obviously if the topic makes you miserable, then this you shouldn’t build a business in it. But, you know, I think my interest in business is getting the most out of other people in a team and process efficiency and, you know, building a business that can, I guess, evolve with changing market conditions and how you get an edge over other businesses with how you do things and how people respond to certain offerings. So I ended up in marketing saw the potential saw the ability to kind of build businesses online, and that really excited me.

Manish Verma 10:37
I’m now getting a better picture. So it’s not necessarily I mean, you’ve seen like Rockstar marketers, right? They’re known world renowned. And actually, you can see the absolute passion, like when did this all content marketing, this is what you need to be doing that sort of, but actually, from your perspective, tell me if I’m wrong, but it’s more than almost the science behind it. Like you’re interested in kind of getting a business or a charity, the edge and actually PPC you thought pay per click. That was the process behind it and that’s what interested you.

Oscar 11:10
Yeah. And I think I’ve always had a real balanced interest in data and kind of creative side. So, you know, always been quite balanced across sort of English and maths. And I think things like PPC and digital marketing in general, is it’s a nice balance between the two. It’s very data driven, it’s very analytical, but it’s also quite creative. So how can you, you know, make an ad stand out over others in a congested auction? How can you make a landing page that makes people go, Wow, I’m gonna sign up for this or whatever it is.

Manish Verma 11:43
I’m getting a theme here from yourself. The word efficiency just keeps coming to my mind. You just seem like a very efficient guy. Is that a fair thing to say? You’re really trying to trim the fat here. And actually, you’re trying to make people spend a bit of time extra, do something because at the end of it, they’ll be able to cut out all that waste, hopefully, but and just be left with the good stuff. Is that fair thing to say?

Oscar 12:09
Yeah, it’s interesting. I think that says a lot about my personality and framework as well. You know, going back to what we talked about at the very early stage, I’m more like my mom and my dad. So she would look at things and go, okay, within the remit of what we’re already doing, how do we make everything more efficient and deliver more outputs? That might, you might miss something else that’s going on at a wider level, because you’re looking at this one thing. And so actually, people who are a bit more expansive and strategic, would be less flustered probably missed that operational efficiency, but they go, Oh, wow, look at that massive thing that you’re not looking at, but I can see. And so actually, that comes back to you need a balance between the two and actually expecting one person to have both is not realistic. And that’s one of the challenges of building businesses. You have to do everything, but you’re not good at everything. So it’s trying to find ways of Either by paying people who know how to do these things, or finding partners who kind of can approach it at a similar level. So I think there’s a combination of being aware of your limitations in mindset and finding people, advisors, you know, everybody, friends, anyone who can look at it in different way, and sort of give you that boost to move in your direction a little bit.

Manish Verma 13:24
One thing I’ve been asking people is just about mistakes that they might have made. And you know, all entrepreneurs make mistakes. Is there anything that you’ve, you’ve thought, actually, we should have not done that with your own business? Or is there something you think, oh, I’ve done that and changed the business massively? Is there been any any mistakes that you’ve made that come come to mind that you think actually other people could learn from or can you learn from?

Oscar 13:49
Generally my mistakes come back to my personality type. So I would rarely point to a specific moment or decision because actually, it’s rare that one decision makes a huge impact. But it’s generally a combination of things. So actually, it’s more of mindset, I think often I can be too conservative with a small c in terms o rather than just going for it, I’ll take a slightly sort of less risky, slightly safer approach, because that’s what feels a bit safer when actually, sometimes you have to find your natural instinct and do something which is different.

Manish Verma 14:30
Do you go big on your current business and, and how?

Oscar 14:35
Yeah, so I think in the short to medium term, you know, we want to get the basics right and, and really nail those. So really deliver what we say we can and be kind of best in class that pay per click and what we do and running those kinds of campaigns, build the client base, you know, keep doing that. Keep delivering reliable results and get more people involved to do that. And then I think in the future, the longer term it’s looking at, okay, well, we’ve now built this big internal set of skills. How can we use that for slightly more expensive projects, so stuff that’s maybe our own or trying our own projects, building automation within what we do, and then maybe offering that as a separate thing. So I’ve seen loads of agencies do similar stuff. So, you know, they, they start as an agency, and they go, okay, we’ve built our own optimization product, and we’re going to spin that out as a separate entity. And I think Williams Commerce which is a big agency based in less than I went to a talk by the founder, Robert, and he was saying they had built this agency and then they diverted some of the agency time to building a, I think it was a B to B, they were specialists in Magento. And they realised it wasn’t great for b2b. So they built essentially their own platform to fix some of the issues that they kept running into. Or the I was really interesting case where That was a very ambitious project. I think it’s still doing quite well, but he was running us through some of the challenges in setting that up. But, you know, that’s, it seems logical to me. They’ve built this team cross specialism online. And they can say, okay, we’re going to divert some of the agency resource into slightly more speculative projects, I think, in a very fast moving world. One that appeals to me because it’s kind of it there’s that diversity of things you get to bring new ideas into the business. But it seems sensible to say you’re not too heavily reliant on a few,

Manish Verma 16:34
You’ve had businesses business in York, you’ve operated in Birmingham, you’ve operated in London, but Leicester. What is, if anything, the unique aspect of being based in Leicester, how has it impacted your business if in any way?

Oscar 16:52
I think it’s been really interesting seeing Leicester having grown up here. He’s gone through a really nice Phase of investment and kind of pride in the city and that kind of thing. You know, there’s a lot of good metrics out there around new businesses and businesses operating in Leicester, which is great. I think, Ben at Leicester Startups is doing really good job trying to bring that community together. It’s very hard work and takes a long time. But there’s some great events going on. It’s really interesting people. I like the atmosphere. It’s, it is quite collaborative. My feeling around business investors, there’s definitely a cultural element around just quietly getting on with things. So I think there are a lot of businesses in Leicester who are doing very well in particular field, but they just, they just kind of get on with it. They don’t want to shout about it. And they’re quite hard to uncover. So you know, it’ll take a long time for them to decide it. I’ve quite liked go to this event and meet some more people, but yeah, I think it’s, you know, it’s well connected. It’s relatively cheap cost of living. It’s a nice place to be. So you know, there’s a lot of new talent from the universities. In terms of graduation, there’s actually quite a big catchment as universities because you’ve got a lot of the Midlands unis as well. So that’s good for any growing business

Manish Verma 18:15
And what would help it grow more.

Oscar 18:18
So yeah, this is a really interesting topic because it’s one I came across when working in Birmingham and there was a few projects going on there. So we went out to America on a work trip and went to Las Vegas. And in Vegas, there’s there we’re trying to build kind of. So the guy who started Zappos built this community then was essentially trying to build a startup community in Vegas from scratch because he thought it’s very well connected. There, I’m sure there are other factors into why he picked there but I think a lot of the discussion there was around creating enough collisions. So kind of social collisions that create things to happen. So designing space that people naturally bump into each other, communicate, all that kind of stuff. I think the challenges is how you get that started. Because if you look at Silicon Valley, people move there because it’s a brand unto itself. So you attract a lot of very interesting people who are seeking something and then you get commonality and culture and an attitude and that kind of thing. So if you can get the engine moving, then that sort of collision process can lead to lots of interesting results. So I think it’s just something that you have to be patient and you have to have people who are invested in it and they have to be able to get other people involved so that it’s beyond just them, you know, if they suddenly can’t do it anymore. You need other people who can pick up the mantle and take on.

Manish Verma 19:53
Many thanks to Oscar from an Anuncia, a digital marketing agency specialising in pay per click, and Oscar has just started his latest venture called Virtue. It’s a no setup, no fee, no contract service for retailers wanting to get the most out of Google. And thank you for listening to the Lester startups podcast.


Investment accelerates manufacturing goal for sportstec start-up Tzuka

Tzuka are engineering the world’s most durable sports earphones and have recently completed their first equity fundraise and are developing their prototypes into a fully functional model in the next few months.

Over 45% of health and fitness club members have experienced earphone breakage during sports, resulting in over 10.4 million earphones thrown away in the UK alone each year. Tzuka, together with Loughborough University, are working on the solution.

Loughborough University graduate startup programme, the Studio, is currently recruiting

The Studio is currently accepting applications from finalists who want to launch their own businesses when they graduate – and graduates no more than five years out.

The Studio is the graduate programme of LU Inc, the University’s business incubator which brings together graduate and academic entrepreneurs with founders from across the region and beyond to create a rich and supportive start-up community.

The application deadline is midnight on 2 August 2020.

Graduate start-up company BeoBia just smashed its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in a day

Beobia,  Loughborough University’s incubator just smashed its kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in a day. BeoBia is encouraging people to turn to innovative insect-based foods. The company launched its new Kickstarter campaign this week.

Celebrating three years of the Innovation Hub

The University of Leicester Innovation Hub celebrates a three year milestone

With the biggest online Innovation Friday yet!

Join them for a day of brilliant talks, workshops, connections and more. Top academics, practitioners, startups and SMEs will join together to deliver an unmissable celebration.

Sharing results from three years of collaboration between business and leading academics. Plus announcing new projects to help SMEs and Startups grow in Leicestershire.

Plus, the next instalment of Leicester Startups World Tour in the afternoon.

Looking to the future

Use University experts, talent and resources to bring innovation to your business.

The slowdown of lockdown is coming. The economy needs to get back on its feet. It’s time to look to the future.

The world has changed

There is only one thing for certain. Covid-19 has brought a lot of change. All the customers were at home. Find out what is coming next and how you can plan for the future.

Develop new partnerships and innovative ideas

You are invited to join us for ‘Innovation Friday’ online networking. Join in the chat by using #LeicInnovation to talk to businesses, entrepreneurs, experts, researchers and students.

Talks include

  • Citizens of Change – How the University can work with business
  • Innovation and responsiveness in a time of Covid
  • What the future brings
  • Twitter Q&A #LeicInnovation

Register for the free event here.

Leicester Pitch Night registration goes live

The Leicester Startups Pitch Night registration is now live!

To book your ticket to be in the live audience, watching along over Zoom, go here

To apply to pitch in front of investors and leading business leaders in Leicester, fill in this form


Best of luck – and see you on Monday 22nd June!

Leicester Startups Pitch Night

A showcase of new ideas, and startups on the rise!

Monday 22nd June, 6:30pm.

We’re hosting a pitch night. Held live over Zoom, with an audience plus leading businesspeople and founders in Leicester.

This is your chance to share your idea with Leicester, the world, and our special guest panel of entrepreneurs and investors.

The night will be split into two categories of startup:

A: Max 3 minutes for ideas/startups that are pre-revenue/users;
B: Max 5 minutes for startups that have revenue/users already.

To pitch and share your idea with the world, please fill in the Google form here

We can’t wait to hear all about what you’re doing!