The power of collaboration when quitting corporate for startup

Many of us dream of leaving the corporate world behind and flying solo but there’s always the fear, will it work?

More than three years ago this is what David Page did when he swapped his suit for his trademark hoodie and created his own innovation consultancy called business mix. David not only swapped his clothes, but also his environment - he left his corporate office to hang out in a shared working space filled with pot plants and young hipsters in London’s Shoreditch district.

Having spent more than 20 years in the corporate world, and a large part of his latter years in the innovation space, helping startups to scale up, David realised there was a gap. The corporates were doing their thing at one end of the scale, with limited interaction with the youth and vibrancy of startups. Meanwhile the startups, and those SMEs that were scaling up, had little knowledge of how corporates worked or how they could help their businesses to flourish. This led to the creation of business mix who not only operate in Shoreditch in London but also Singapore, and have partnerships in Tel Aviv and India.

David believes success for both corporates and startups isn’t possible without collaboration and added: "Over the next 15-20 years, the way businesses operate and how new ideas emerge will rapidly change. If people don’t get their heads around collaborating with each other, or different types of organisations and economic and business models, they won’t be successful."

For somebody who describes himself as a shy, natural introvert, David says he’s an open person and confesses to having a good sense of fun, humour and living for today rather than waiting to enjoy it all tomorrow.

But having carved the majority of his working life in the corporate world, how hard was it to leave all that behind?

“It was harder than I thought it would be. It took me about 18 months to realise I didn’t have to do things as I’d always done in my corporate life. I didn’t need a PowerPoint presentation to attend a meeting - I just needed myself, said David.

“I also realised that I was more defined by more corporate existence than myself. People were more interested in speaking to me when I represented a large corporate than my own company.”

David admits he wasn’t as scared as he ought to have been and admits he thought going at it alone was going to be much easier than it was. Fear kicked in about six months later when one of his mentors suggested he needed to take his business more seriously than he was. He says he’s now become more attuned to the feeling of fear - whether that’s letting people down, the business not working or running out of money. As the sole investor in business mix, he has to make this work.

When David created business mix it was to primarily drive profits but three years on, this has become a secondary ambition.  He’s started to realise the outcomes he’s trying to achieve are just as important. Getting things done remains a priority for David along with being authentic and having fun along the way, business mix is lucky enough to be in a range of sectors from sports to Fintech and are now turning their attention to sustainability, working both with FTSE 100 companies and an emerging green accelerator.

Being aware that failure is always around the corner keeps him on his toes as David added: “I think I got the timing about right for setting up my business. If I did something earlier it may not have worked as I was still learning and I wouldn’t be doing what I ended up doing. I may have ended up being an interim consultant and that’s not being an entrepreneur.

“I’ve still not stopped learning and I remain indebted all the people who helped me and who I learn from - they know who they are.”