Round

Southend-born Ethan Martin started his first business – Ethan’s eBay – when he was 13, selling unwanted items from loft/wardrobe clear-outs on eBay for 20% commission. While at the University of Essex, he created ROUND, an app which enables users to buy food and drink in any participating venue, including advance purchase of take-aways.

ROUND’s first investor was City grandee Sir Laurie Magnus, who gave his backing to the then 19-year-old Ethan after a 45-minute pitch. The app launched across 500 venues simultaneously on 4 July 2020, when venues were able to re-open following the first Covid lockdown. It topped £30m in orders within the first year of trading.

He lives in Brighton, a short walk from ROUND’s HQ in the North Laines.


What set you on the road to success?

I have always been creative and not one to follow the beaten track. What set me on the road to success was my first taste of the impact entrepreneurship can have on people.

With my first business aged 13, I can remember so clearly the incredible feeling when my customers would thank me for creating this service. It was a win for all, as my neighbourhood was able to get rid of unwanted items/clothing, customers could pick up bargains on eBay and I could make enough pocket money to not have to do a paper round.

From this point I was hooked. It has set me on a course where my brain is entirely focused on solutions, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Did you have a hero when you were younger?

Growing up as a young entrepreneur I was obsessed with Apple and Steve Jobs. I bought my first iPod in 2008 and was obsessed. Jobs illustrated to me the passion required to create something incredible and to stick with it right the way through to a global success story, creating products that have truly changed the world forever.

Do you have one now?

Jobs will forever be an inspiration to me. Nowadays, I am hugely passionate about young entrepreneurship and therefore find huge motivation from the success of founders such as Ben Francis of Gym Shark and Steven Bartlett.

Anyone who works with me knows how much I speak about Elon Musk. Elon is an enormous inspiration to me and my style of entrepreneurship. I am hugely passionate about what I do, and his tenacity and absolute commitment to his vision inspires me in what I do and how I do it.

Do you get bored easily?

Absolutely. Luckily for me, over the past few years there has been very little opportunity for boredom. I love what I do at ROUND and the people I work with. Like most start-up CEOs, no two days are alike, and that’s how I perform best and maintain my complete passion and commitment to what we are creating.

Who do you admire in business and in life generally?

I am always inspired by and admire those who go for it, people who take a risk and give it absolutely everything they’ve got, whether that be an entrepreneur creating a new business, an artist breaking conventional boundaries or just someone making a big career change – I admire the risk takers who back it up with laser like determination.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I am extremely creative and collaborative – I always want to ensure that every member of our team feels as though they have a voice. Through this we hear ideas and solutions from across the business, enabling us to improve constantly across the board.

We encourage any kind of feedback in our weekly all-hands and monthly all-day meetings, where at each we have anonymous questionnaires where any of the team can ask any questions they may have.

Additionally, I lead from the front, I try to set an example as to how we want everyone to work and that for me is simply typified by giving 100% every day. It is my responsibility as a leader to create the conditions for openness, which empower our entire team to remain solution focused.

I would say that my style of leadership can be simplified down to ‘solutions-based’ – we want to flesh out issues and then turn our attention to solving them.

What are your ambitions?

My ambition is to create products and services that really do change the world.

With ROUND, my ambition has always been to truly create one platform for food & beverage venue ordering, wherever you go – in the same way as Uber has done with transport, Airbnb with stays, Google with search and so on.

I can see how much impact and improvement these platforms have had on my life and I would love to be able to do the same for more customers and businesses through ROUND.

Do you believe in luck?

I truly believe in Gary Player’s saying, “The more I practise, the luckier I get.”

I do not believe in luck for luck’s sake. I believe that if you try to create something amazing, for the right reasons with the appropriate determination, it is only a matter of time until good fortune comes your way.

What qualities do you look for in colleagues?

I am asked this question a lot. When hiring I always focus on attitude over aptitude – you can train skill, but in my experience, it is extremely difficult to change someone’s attitude if it is countercultural.

I look for people who are passionate about what we do. They see that we are only at the beginning of our journey but recognise the traction we have achieved to date and the enormous potential with our business. With a small team (fewer than 40), it is essential that we are all pulling in the same direction and have a shared passion and vision.

Micro-manage or big picture?

I think that there is a time for both and there is also an evolution of the role of a scale-up CEO.

Obviously when creating the concept for ROUND I was immensely big picture and filled with pure optimism. But as the idea becomes a reality and you begin to onboard investors, clients and users, you naturally become micro as you want to ensure that you have your finger on the pulse of everything that is happening, so that you can assist and support immediately, whenever needed.

Now, my role is beginning to return to the big picture thinking as we look at ways to grow our business into new sectors and new geographies. This cannot be done with too much of a micro lens – but it is worth mentioning, this is only possible due to the fact that we have a team of incredible individuals who own and live for the micro detail, enabling me to think big.

Do you think business is valued by society?

I do think that business is valued by society, however I don’t feel that enough attention is given to the people that make business happen.

When I speak with young entrepreneurs through my work with Sussex University or the Young Enterprise scheme, my message is that people change the world. I think that sometimes we forget that, especially young people. Someone is going to create the next Apple, the next Uber, the next McDonalds – why can’t it be you?

So, I think that we should value business more, but moreover we should value ourselves – if you see a problem, create the solution.

How do you think business will change from 2021 onwards?

From 2021 onwards I think business will change as more young people will start focusing their career on what they love to do rather than what will look good on a CV.

I think the pandemic changed the world irreversibly for good and bad, but one positive thing is that people realised how fragile our world can be and that life is finite, so spend your time working on things and with people that you love to work with – you will be more fulfilled and far more successful in whatever you do.

How would you like business to change from 2021 onwards?

I would like business to be more inclusive at both founder and senior management level. Whether it be age, race or sex, diversity fuels ideas, sparks debate and ultimately makes entire organisations more successful through diversity of thought and experience.

Here’s a magic wand – what are you going to do?

It may sound  cliché but it would simply be to provide equal opportunity to all. There are almost eight billion of us on the planet and, with truly equal opportunity, we would have the conditions for everyone to create and thrive, which would result in incredible advancement for the entirety of human kind.

What’s your favourite time of day?

I have two: my morning walk to the office and my evening walk home. It’s only about 10 minutes but it is the perfect time for me to mentally plan and prepare for the day ahead – I create a mental prioritisation of what I need to get done that day and then in the evening I reflect on what has been achieved, cross checking it with my morning list, which often sparks ideas for that evening or the next day.

Where next?

Next for me is focusing on growing ROUND to the point at which it maximises its potential.

When I create anything, I often start in complete eutopia – how is it going to be the biggest, how is it going to be the best. With ROUND, the initial idea was to have one app for ordering food and drink wherever you go – from a pub in London, to a street vendor in Mumbai. We have an enormous opportunity as in-venue dining is larger than both the transport and delivery market, and I will not stop until our product is truly ubiquitous.

In the short-term, we are just about to kick-off a crowdfunding campaign, which for me is really cool – it is a fantastic opportunity for us to give back to our business and consumer community that have supported us, enabling them to own a share of our business.

Source : https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/personal-finance/2021/10/20/quickfire-questions-ethan-martin-founder-ceo-round/

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Quickfire Questions: Ethan Martin, Founder CEO, ROUND

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