The Dragon is incredibly proud of ODs continuing to reach for the sun and who, in doing so, have become hugely successful in a wide range of fields. From writing Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year like Robin Stevens (OD 2001) to winning the Grand National like Sam Waley-Cohen (OD 1995), capturing snow leopards on camera like Dan O’Neil (OD 2005), and playing for England like Maia Bouchier (OD 2012), the diversity of our Dragons is testimony to the character and ambition encouraged at the School, demonstrating the breadth of opportunity a Dragon Education provides. Read on for the first feature in our Diversity of Dragons series …
What three words save a life?
Downloaded over 30 million times by individuals, businesses, and NGOs in almost every country in the world, what3words is regularly referred to as a ‘life-saving’ app. Dividing the world into 3 metre squares with a unique combination of three words, emergency services, and disaster response organisations are using the app to find people in need faster. We caught up with co-founder Michael Dent (OD 2002), whose decision to reject conventional careers and choose the life of an entrepreneur led to life-saving assistance reaching people in need.
When my parents visited the Dragon, as the bell rang, Desmond Devitt warned them to “stand back”. Hordes of dishevelled children emerged from every crevice at breakneck speed, chatting and laughing at high volume. Needless to say, they were instantly sold, and my sister and I were both enrolled.
“The Dragon’s emphasis on individuality over conformity and on independent thinking over convention makes it the perfect training ground for entrepreneurship.”
The Dragon’s emphasis on individuality over conformity and on independent thinking over convention makes it the perfect training ground for entrepreneurship. Well-known OD entrepreneurs include Brent Hoberman (lastminute.com) (OD 1982) and Nick Wheeler (Charles Tyrwhitt) (OD 1978). I followed the example of these ODs, as well as my father when I rejected a conventional career and chose a life of varied entrepreneurial projects. I’ve been involved in many businesses as a founder or investor. The majority have been failures, but a few have achieved success in one form or another.
The most well-known is what3words, which I co-founded in 2013. I was the fourth of four co-founders – the other three are individuals who I admire greatly. The business is something of a ‘moonshot’ high-stakes proposition. We’ve raised more than £80m of investment, have growing traction, and have literally saved lives in emergency services use. But, it’s fair to say that revenue and profit have been a little more elusive. My current day job at PropertyData, which I founded in 2017, makes for a rather more boring dinner conversation but is perhaps a safer thing on which to rely to fund future Dragon fees for my sons Edward (3) and Rory (1). We provide data and analytics on the residential property market, helping property investors and developers in the UK become better informed as they make investment decisions.
“I’ve learned more from the failures than the successes”
My entrepreneurial career so far has been hugely fulfilling. A variety of projects have allowed me to learn about a wide range of industries and meet many brilliant people. I’ve learned more from the failures than the successes, and I’m sure the resilience and persistence required were solidified during my five happy years at the Dragon. Entrepreneurship can be hard work, but it also gives you unique flexibility and total control over your time. I love having the freedom to spend time with my family and on non-work projects, such as renovating the eighteenth-century farmhouse we recently bought near Oxford. I’d recommend an entrepreneurial career to any creative young ODs thinking about their early careers, and I’d be more than happy to hear from them.
P.S. We did ask Michael if we could update the Dragon’s location to //arduus.ad.solem, but much to our disappointment, and Michael’s, the words were all permanently fixed in 2013!
Diversity of Dragons
What have you been up to since your Dragon days? We’d love to hear from you for our next Diversity of Dragons feature, contact [email protected].