Ambrose Cooke is co-founder and COO of Fanbytes. Fanbytes is a social influencer advertising platform which helps brands such as Universal, Disney and Apple Music engage with millennials in the most creative ways on social media. It has become a multimillion pound platform with the largest network of Snapchat influencers in the world.
Who are you outside of being co-founder and COO of Fanbytes?
Before Fanbytes, I was very much a by-the-books person, very academic, aspirational and I loved Maths and Sciences. I have always been the type of person who chases achievements, which in one sense pushes me to achieve great things, but it also means that I’m never satisfied.
Now, I personally enjoy balance and view it in four accounts:
– Material wealth
– Emotional health
– Mental health
– Physical health
I want to have a healthy body so I’m in the gym two days a week additionally I want to have good relationships with family and friends; I want to nourish my mind so on average I play three games of chess everyday and have been doing so for the past year – I love the learning process and achievement.
Whilst you’re running a company it is very useful to have other things which clear your mind and allow you to recharge every now and then.
For you, what is the ‘why’ behind Fanbytes and how did it begin?
The ‘why’ has changed over time.
Initially, I was in my first year of university, hungry to get into business and I went on a leadership course (Aleto Foundation formerly The Powerlist Foundation) during which I was mentored by Piers Linney (a former Dragon’s Den investor).
During a talk, the speaker said:
“Look to your left and your right. You could be sitting next to your future business partner. “
I looked over to my left and saw Timothy, he later became my business partner. It turns out we had and still have so much in common. We are both Ghanian and had similar aspirations. He was business savvy having started his first business at 14 years old and was looking for co-founder with a technical background, which I had as I was studying Mechanical Engineering.
He invited me for a meal and he explained everything to me all at once and when he finished, he asked me:
And it begun from there. In the early days our goals were emotional, we wanted to make money to help our family and this fueled us with passion which really propelled us forward.
In all honesty, initially I wasn’t so passionate about the business model although I thought that I would grow to love what we were doing. A couple of years ago, I read a book that summarised this idea:
Don't focus on your passion, focus on the skills instead. Once you become really good at something and start performing at a high level, then you become passionate about it.
Over the years we have pivoted the business model to it’s current form, raised money along the way and here we are in an office of 10 full-time employees, running the business full time for two years since graduating from university.
How did being a student aid the journey?
In fact, being students slightly slowed us down. Perhaps, if we weren’t students and working on the business full time we may have got to where we are now even faster. But, having said that, we made the most of our student status.
We raised our first investment from Nicholas Wheeler owner of Charles Tyrwhitt, who at the time was specifically investing in student ideas and in terms of PR, being young worked in our favour.
Due to our flexible student timetable, we could take meetings at 12pm or go to Cambridge during the week to meet a client because we didn’t have lectures.
Book Recommendation: The War of Art: Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle
Given that you’re approaching four years into the Fanbytes journey, how would you sum it up? Was there a moment when you were certain it would be a success or when you wanted to give up?
I had my doubts. I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket. In my final year of university, I was still applying for internships, I even interned at Goldman Sachs for a few weeks. I received a job interview from a different firm but instead of pursuing it I decided to solely focus on plan A: Fanbytes.
In my final year, I did my dissertation on Fanbytes. I created an algorithm to measure ‘influence’ which we use in Fanbytes. I was determined to build something which by the time I graduated would allow me able to pay myself a full-time salary.
I don’t believe it would have been possible if I didn’t take the leap to solely focus on plan A. Once I had the internal belief, my mindset shifted and I knew I was going to work on it full time.
“The moment you fail is when you give up.”
On a macro level, we could see that every single year, the revenue, our learning and experience was increasing incrementally even though on a micro level there were many ups and downs. There was never a ‘what if’ option. It was simply down to how much energy we were willing to spend on solving the problem.
PRACTICAL TIP: Just write down the problem and figure out all the possible solutions.
If there was no resistance – there wouldn’t be an interesting problem to solve and there would be no value.
With everything you have done and what you are yet to do, how do you live in the moment?
Mindset is key. For me living in the moment is about setting goals, breaking down those goals into daily/monthly tasks and being present whilst completing each task; essentially I’m placing one foot in front of the other and fully enjoying the process. I know that all I need to do is focus on the next task because the overall plan is clear, structured and laid out.
PRACTICAL TIP: Every Sunday evening I do a weekly review, which allows me to recalibrate and be on task for the week ahead.
What’s next for you?
I prefer not to plan too far into the future, a three month sprint is the maximum.
For me, I want to continue growing in general. I don’t think there is a grand destination. Previously, we were of the idea that we would build the company and eventually make a huge exit. But over time, we modified our mindset and decided:
Let’s focus on doing what we’ve always done, create more value and keep customers happy. Knowing that inevitably this will allow us to be in a good position where we can make a tactical acquisition or begin a new venture in the future.
I don’t like to think too far in the future. At times, committing to a very long-term plan can create pressure. As long as I’m improving and enjoying life, I’m happy.
"If something is important enough, or you believe something is important enough, even if you are scared, you will keep going." -Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX