William Pryor, Innovatrs entrepreneur and Founding Director and CEO at Eclector, tells us about his business and how he started it. William, who is the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin, was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1975 he became a serial entrepreneur, starting the Airlift Book Company and The Green Catalogue. In 2002 he wrote a memoir of his addictions: ‘The Survival of the Coolest.’ William is a published author and a regular speaker at seminars, conferences and conventions.
Eclector provides 3-million-plus-title, customised, branded, on-line bookshops that pay half the gross profit on all sales. Their clients range from charities to businesses, schools to universities, bloggers to magazines. Eclector’s shared profit retailing is revolutionary in both affiliate marketing and fund-raising.
Innovatrs: What made you do it? Why did you take the plunge, become an entrepreneur and give up that cosy corporate job opp?
William: Barring a few exceptions a long time ago, I’ve always been either self-employed or running a start-up. There’s that element of masochism and then the adrenaline addiction and a need to test providence. But it’s also the thrill of making something out of nothing, building a team and the satisfaction of learning from my mistakes.
Innovatrs: What does your venture do? What was the original @ha Idea ? And when/where did it hit you?
William:We provide online, 3-million-title bookshops that pay half the gross profit on every sale. We launch our Build Your Own facility in June. Then you will be able to build a fully-fledged bookshop, for free, in just ten minutes. The original eureka idea was that the Web empowers niche audiences, whether for books, music, film or anything else. The Long Tail is profitable. It started to hit me in 1999 – but back then I was way ahead of my time. Ten years later and the time is right for Eclector and its radical rethink of online bookselling, affiliate marketing and online fund-raising.
Innovatrs:Is this your first business? What past experiences helped you take this fast route to masochism?
William: No, I’ve run a few businesses in my time, all in books, music or the Web. But let’s not call it masochism, which is, after all, the taking of pleasure from self-inflicted pain. Let’s call it a willingness to suffer deprivation and anxiety because the goal is worth it, the goal of a business that not only generates nice profits, but provides a win-win service and source revenue to hundreds or thousands of others.
Innovatrs: What was running through your head when you started up? What crises hit you early on?
William:Each business I’ve started has arisen from a heady mix of optimism, ignorance, enthusiasm and a killer idea. The ignorance is a direct effect of the optimism and is the ignorance that the killer idea might usually be thought impossible to execute. Entrepreneurism is the direct challenge to the cynicism of those of who say it is impossible. The crises that hit are when – usually at 2 in the morning – you wake up sweating and finding yourself agreeing profoundly with the cynics that it might well be impossible.
Innovatrs: What are the key lessons you’ve learnt over the past few years?
William: It’s not only OK, but good to make mistakes. If you don’t you haven’t tried enough possibilities. If you don’t you have little to learn. And if you stop learning (and listening), you are unlikely to succeed.
Innovatrs: Have you felt pangs of fear or anxiety when building your business? If so, over what and how did you deal with them?
William: All too often. Usually about money. As Roosevelt said: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear and anxiety are animal responses to the perceptions we have of the business and its habitat; perceptions, not reality. As William Goldman said of Hollywood: no one understands anything. Money is an abstract thing that seems to have so much power, but we let it drive us through greed for more of it and fear that we might not have any. I deal with these pangs by stepping back, letting go of trying to understand.
Innovatrs: What big ol’ failures have you had in the past and how have they helped you get to where you are?
William: Plenty – each failure is big when it happens – the loss of a client – the misunderstanding with a supplier – a conflict of expectations with my team. But they are all grist to the mill. Failing is OK, as long as I fail better next time.
Innovatrs: Have you looked for investors? If so, how?
William: Almost non-stop for the last 18 months. Angel networks mostly.