The businessman who helped steer UK tech start-up Swiftkey to its sale to Microsoft shared his insights at The Business Magazine’s Southern entrepreneurs dinner last night.
Richard Gibson was CFO and executive chairman at SwiftKey from 2011 to its sale in 2016 for a reported $250 million. SwiftKey’s app “turbocharges and personalises predictive text” on mobile phones.
SwiftKey’s founders brought in Gibson for his accountancy and private equity expertise to help run the business. He now works with entrepreneurs and business founders, helping them build their companies and achieve their visions.
Nearly 50 entrepreneurs from the region attended the dinner in the impressive surroundings of gin maker Bombay Sapphire’s distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Whitchurch, Hampshire.
The event was sponsored by Barclays and law firm Osborne Clarke.
“SwiftKey was a fantastic experience for me – I’ve never worked so hard,” said Gibson. “Starting your own business is a difficult challenge and I’m always hugely respectful of anyone who makes the journey.”
From his SwiftKey experience, Gibson said he learned four things that you need to successfully scale up a business: commitment, faith in what you’re doing, the ability to take strong action to move forward, and a product consumers love.
“We had faith that if we did the right thing and did it to the best of our ability then somehow it would work out. And we had product market fit – consumers really wanted the SwiftKey app.”
During the evening, guests shared their experiences and business visions. They also discussed the challenges they face managing their own transition and growth.