Misha Gopaul, CEO of Fabric Technologies How I Made It
From the early days of building computers in his bedroom, Misha Gopaul has turned his passion for technology into a multi-million pound business. Bored of education, Misha decided to skip university and focus his efforts on expanding his I.T. company. Here Misha tells us about the rapid expansion of his business, the importance of having a mentor and why you should just get an idea and go for it…
I started my first business, Psychosis, when I was still at school. It started out as a hobby. I had a next door neighbour and both of us were really into computers. We basically embarked on an ‘I.T. arms race’, where we both kept upgrading our computers to be bigger and better than the other one. By doing that, we learnt a lot about technology.
Armed with this knowledge, we started building computers for other people. At that time, in the early nineties, there were lots of people who were trying to get their own PCs. There was a rapid growth in the wide scale adoption of PCs in people’s homes, and people wanted to use them as more than just a word processor.
A friend in need is a friend indeed
Friends-of-friends and family friends started asking us if we could help them, so we started buying hardware and building custom-made computers for a small network of people. At the time, computers were really expensive, and having gone through the experience of building our own machines, we realised that they didn’t need to be. We could build something for people for less than half the price.
We didn’t really have a business model because we were school kids. We were just introduced to people who had a need and we happened to have the knowledge to help them.
Our reputation spread through word-of-mouth and things started snowballing from there. We realised that we were onto a good thing and so started thinking about the other ways that we could help people.
The next group of people that were looking for PCs were university students, so we started targeting halls of residence. We supplied PCs that were decent, but at a fraction of the cost of what the manufacturers were selling them for at the time.
Building a network, literally
After I left school, I started doing more than just building computers. Through my own network, people introduced me to other people that ran small businesses and needed help with their I.T. problems. Consequently, I started helping businesses with their I.T. systems and computer networks.
University wasn’t something that I thought was essential. My Dad did. But I was bored of being at school and being in a classroom all the time. Therefore, I decided to give my business a go. I recognised that there was some potential in Psychosis and it would’ve been silly not to have given it a shot.
It was an easy time to take the risk of not going to university because I was just out of school and I was still living with my parents. Indeed, it’s not like I had a mortgage or a family to feed. Worst case scenario: I was still going to be fed and I could always go to university at a later date.
I had some real knowledge that not many other people had, and I made the observation that there wasn’t really any quality in the market. There weren’t many quality technology providers out there for small and medium-sized businesses. Having spotted that, I realised it was definitely something worth getting into.
Investing a serious amount of time
My success with Psychosis Ltd is testament to the fact that you don’t necessarily need financial investment to prosper. I didn’t need a lot of money to live on at the time, so we literally re-invested every penny we made back into the company.
I really believed in the potential of the business. In my mind, there was almost no question that the path we were on was the right one. Therefore, as well as re-investing our retained profits, I invested a serious amount of time into the business.
I think there’s an inverse proportional relationship between time and money. You can make up for not necessarily having a huge amount of cash by investing a lot of time in your business. More than anything, it’s about doing a lot of hard work, but it’s also about doing things differently, drawing on different resources and getting people to help you out.
Words of wisdom
When you start a business, it’s important not to have a fear of the unknown. When you’re starting out, you don’t necessarily need to know everything. You just need to know how to find the answers to the things that you don’t know.
I had two mentors at the time, one of whom is still involved in the business as a non-executive director, and they were fantastic. They were there to challenge me and ask me questions; they acted as a sounding board for major decisions; and they made me consider things that I hadn’t thought about before.
They also helped by introducing me to people. Their network, from a business perspective, was a lot bigger than mine and that was incredibly useful.
Psychosis merged with Open Business Systems in 2007 and Fabric Technologies was born. We were a small business at the time, with around 20 members of staff, and we realised that we couldn’t build all the capability that we were dreaming of on our own.
Our market was going through all sorts of rapid transitions. Technology was becoming way more pervasive and complex within our customers’ businesses and within businesses in general. And, as a small company, we didn’t have all the skills and expertise that we needed.
Psychosis was involved in networking and unified communications, while Open Business Systems had expertise in customer relationship management and document management systems. All of our customers were asking us about their document management problems, and Open Business Systems had people asking them about IP telephony and other networking demands. Consequently, we each had the answer to each other’s problems.
When we came together, we very much agreed on what our goal and our vision was for the business. We knew that we had to make it work, so it was just about putting a lot of energy and determination into achieving our shared goal.
A stitch in the fabric
Ultimately, we’re a technology business and I’m an engineer at heart. Consequently, I’m still very much involved in developing solutions, finding new technology partners, identifying emerging technologies, testing them and seeing where they can fit into our business.
Even as the CEO of Fabric, it’s still very important for me to understand the underlying technology of the business. On the other hand, a large amount of my role involves management responsibilities. I speak with our customers every day in order to understand what they want from us, what their business challenges are, and how their companies are evolving.
Advice for budding I.T. entrepreneurs
If you’ve got an idea, go for it. You’re more likely to regret what you didn’t do than what you did do!
Just because lots of people take the university route, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for everyone. I’ve personally got an aversion to doing what everyone else is doing. There are plenty of other ways to have a successful career and university isn’t essential. It’s more about having the right attitude, the right approach and the right mind-set.
Find a mentor who is enthusiastic about what you’re doing. But don’t ask them questions like “How can I be successful?” Instead, ask them to help you with specific problems, such as finding new customers, managing cash flow or raising money.
Take small steps, set small goals and keep your costs variable. Finally, remember it’s up to you to make things happen, no-one else is going to do it for you.
One of the best definitions of an entrepreneur that I’ve come across is from Chris Oakley, OBE:
“An entrepreneur sees an opportunity which others do not fully recognise, to meet an unsatisfied demand or to radically improve the performance of an existing business. They have unquenchable self-belief that this opportunity can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way.
They are not diverted or discouraged by skepticism from 'experts' or from those from whom they seek backing and support, but willing to weigh all advice and select that which will be helpful. They are prepared not just to work seriously hard, but to back their judgment with personal investment.”
By Misha Gopaul as told to AllAboutCareers
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