Richard Farleigh was bom one of eleven children in the Australian outback and is now a full time business angel who has possibly invested in more new UK companies than any other British investor. He first made his millions trading in the world's financial markets and now lives in Monaco with his family. Here, he gives his tips for success and reveals a few business secrets.
What do you look for in a business venture?
I start with the person and I'm looking for someone very credible, honest and driven. And I'm looking for an idea that is different, that is going to change the market rather than just compete with lot's of similar companies.
What qualities do you think distinguish a successful entrepreneur?
You have to be optimistic, you can't be a pessimist. You have to welcome the unknown, but you also have to be able to assess risk where it makes sense. If you are too timid it won't work. You have to be driven and you have to be able to handle failures because everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you ever planned. It's a bit like doing house renovations! You have to be prepared for that and you have to be flexible.
What's the best business decision you've ever made?
It was probably during the Tech Wreck (When the dotcom bubble burst and it affected a lot of hi-tech companies in 2000/2001). I continued to invest in some very good technology even though the whole world and markets were abandoning the companies involved. Two of those companies - Wo/fston Microelectronics and Clearspeed are now very big companies and they are listed on the stock exchange and if I hadn't persisted they may not have been at this point. I believed in the technology and, like I said before, I'm an optimist, I believed the Tech Wreck would eventually finish and business would resume for the right companies.
Do you have to be a workaholic?
It depends, I work part time now! For the entrepreneurs on Dragon's Den, for someone running a business, they will definitely have years where they have to put in hard slog and they shouldn't underestimate it. It takes a lot more than you would imagine.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
It might sound corny but it's 'think for yourself and be yourself. A woman I worked for in Australia, one of my bosses at an investment bank when I was in my early twenties, gave me the advice, which has really stuck with me. It gave me confidence to believe in myself.
Which business do you wish you had been responsible for?
Easyjet is a very good idea and the implementation has been fantastic. In terms of Dragon's Den entrepreneurs, I was very impressed with the electric egg cooker, which doesn't need water. It started out of a simple problem which many of us have experienced and probably lots of people could have figured out how to do it but he had the drive and the nous to figure out how to crack the code.
Who do you admire most in the business world and why?
Apart from Stelios (Haji-loannou Easyjet's founder), Bill Gates, he started out, like a lot of businesses we get on the Dragon's Den, with nothing, just a concept and took it all the way to become one of the world's biggest companies which is incredible. I admire that from start to finish.
I'm looking for an idea that is different, that is going to change the market rather than just compete with lot's of similar companies.