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‘I stole £30,000 from my mum to make tens of millions’

When Andrew Michael become 17 he gambled on changing his existence via spending £30,000 on his mother’s credit card without her understanding.

A self-confessed “computer boffin” who returned in 1997 turned into living at domestic with his mum in Cheltenham, within the west of England, he noticed an enterprise possibility.

Wanting to installation his personal website with a college pal, he realized that only a few of the present internet-web hosting organizations were aimed toward small groups or individuals of the public.

“All of the web-website hosting groups in the UK at the time had been pitched at tons larger organizations,” says Andrew, now 39. “But we noticed that small companies and individuals wanted something self-carrier and smooth to apply.”
So he and his buddy determined to fill the gap inside the market, and installation their very own web-hosting corporation called Fasthosts.

 

“We had the computer systems we needed in my bedroom at Mum’s residence, and we had created the software program ourselves,” says Andrew.

“But what we absolutely needed was a high-velocity internet connection, which in the one’s days concerned digging up the street. It price about 30 grand, however, we had no cash.”

Thinking he had no other choice, Andrew swiped his mom’s credit score card and ordered the internet upgrade. “We kind of blagged it over the phone,” he says.

Also reserving a few mag advertisements – and explaining away the large new pc modem – the gamble was that the enterprise might earn enough in its first month to pay off the credit card invoice whilst it arrived.

Amazingly it labored. “By the give up of the month we had enough customers and money to pay for the net line and the marketing,” says Andrew.

And simply as importantly, his mother forgave him for the subterfuge.
While his pal went off to university, Andrew canceled his personal plans for better training to attention complete-time on developing Fasthosts as an alternative.

He ended up selling it 9 years later for £61.5m. Aged only 26 at the time, his seventy five% proportion of the commercial enterprise intended that he pocketed £46m.

Two years later Andrew set up a cloud garage company known as Livedrive, which he subsequently sold for an undisclosed sum also believed to be tens of hundreds of thousands.

While both organizations proved a success, Andrew additionally made newspaper headlines for throwing lavish, no-price spared events.

His paintings Christmas events at Fasthosts had been stated to have blanketed performances by using the likes of girl band Girls Aloud and Sugababes, plus rockers The Darkness, and chat display host Jonathan Ross as the compère.

And he admits that he once paid for US R&B singer Usher to carry out at a girlfriend’s birthday party.

“I love a celebration, I love enjoyable human beings,” he says. “And I don’t do matters through halves.”

Born in Cyprus however raised in Cheltenham, Andrew thinks he inherited his enterprise power and focus from his father.

“My father came over from Cyprus, and became very a whole lot a small businessman,” he says.

“Like many Cypriots, he spread out fish and chip shops and cafés, and so a number of my adolescence become spent riding around those sites, gathering takings, and discussing business thoughts.

“From a totally young age, I had a buying and selling, money-making, get-up-and-cross mentality.”

Looking returned on how he accelerated Fasthosts, he says that he became “laser focused”, and that “not anything else mattered”.

While the sale of the enterprise in 2006 made him very wealthy, he says it additionally left him feeling unfulfilled.

“I consider being within the office whilst the money came into my bank account, and I concept it’d make me absolutely happy,” he says.

“But I honestly had a sinking feeling, as I walked through the workplace and realized I’d offered all of it, that it all got here right down to a number on a spreadsheet.”
As an end result, Andrew admits he “was given bored and probably drank and ate too much” for some time. Keen to get returned into the business he launched Livedrive two years later.

Unfortunately, the organization to start with struggled in a crowded market.

“We located that lots of other people had had the identical idea on the equal time, so just advertising wasn’t operating,” he says. “It became my first experience of capacity failure, and I became worried I became going to be a one-hit surprise.”

And so it’d have turned out if it wasn’t for a night in the pub.
“I ended up turning into quite pleasant with a person from [electronics retailer] Dixons, who I met on a night out with a mutual friend,” says Andrew. “We then began running with them.”

Dixons determined to help Livedrive to broaden its product, after which to bundle it with laptops and pills that it bought.

“It turned into a destroy hit,” says Andrew. “And we went on to copy the model with different outlets. Eventually, the business became bigger than Fasthosts.”

Following the sale of Livedrive in 2014, Andrew’s brand new commercial enterprise is Bark, a website that permits people to book neighborhood carrier professionals, the whole lot from a plumber to a guitar instructor, dog walker or non-public trainer.

Independent era analyst Chris Green says: “Fasthosts changed into a conventional example of the bedroom laptop innovation that the UK was so top at in the 80s and 90s.

“Not simplest become it an on the spot success for a 17-12 months-old Andrew Michael, however it additionally simplified the manner of registering domains and gaining access to net hosting for plenty.

“Meanwhile, Livedrive become truly a pioneer in the personal and small business cloud storage and backup marketplace.”

Looking ahead, Andrew says he nevertheless has masses of ambition.

“I’m the form of the individual that the greater I actually have, the more I want. And despite the fact that my first two businesses did properly, I do not magnificence myself as wildly a hit.”