NextAdvisor Cat Purvis: Money Money Money!

"Think of every stumble as a learning experience and enjoy the ride!"Cat Purvis is one of the NextAdvisors signed up to advise our community in our Business Advice Programme.

Cat is the Founder of Exicon, a cloud platform for App and API Managment, with global clients including Handset manufacturers, Operators, Brands & Enterprises. It is a 2012 Red Herring 100 Global tech companies winner. 

During her career, Cat has built companies, teams and divisions all over the world, in the UK and US as well as in China where she was based for 5 years. Previous roles include COO at Icon Medialab and GM at a start up in Beijing which was later sold to a global player. She set up Exicon in 2001 and specialises in mobile and internet.

Born and raised in China, Cat is truly an international woman. Fluent in English, French, Mandarin and German she has lived, worked and studied in many places. A firm believer in the power of education, she studied Management and Statistics at St Andrews University and also a Diploma in Marketing and qualifications in Process Re-engineering.

Cat is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

TNW: Tell us about your current role/venture?

CP: My days are currently consumed by the company I founded, Exicon – The App and API Management company. It’s a technology company, a cloud platform designed to help companies manage all the components that go into building an app – the analytics, the text, the images, the licenses, the binary, the developers contact numbers and profiles, the internal project mangers details as well as all of the APIs associated with the app.

There is an extraordinary amount of wastage in this area as probably 50% of people we talk to have lost an app – I kid you not, and if you have spent an average of USD50k – 100k on that app it is going to hurt. Additionally once your company gets a bit bigger and you need apps for specific territories or client types we find that clients are starting from scratch as they aren’t aware of the other apps that are already in their “stable”.

Our web platform allows clients to manage all these assets and analytics from one place.

TNW: What’s at the top of your mind with regard to your business?

CP:

 What keeps me up at night is always “Money Money Money”.

We are in a new fund-raising round as we speak and we have to make sales to prove the model to investors as well as to line our wallets. There is so much more we want to be doing but we need the cash to do it, the old chicken and egg. Every entrepreneur has heard the old “If you were more established we’d invest in you, come back to us then.” If we were more established we wouldn’t need you, dude. So all of my energy is really going on sales of one type or other other – getting more great clients onto our dashboard or getting people with the money to part with it.

TNW: Which business topics are you most interested in providing advice on?

CP: I have just taken Marcus Buckingham’s Strengths finders test online and found out that, among other things I am an “Arranger” and that “Positivity” is a talent. 

Hardly surprising then that I have put Starting a business at the top of my list as I have not long set up divisions for other people but have started and built about 10 companies around the world (hence International business making it onto my list too).

Starting a company is very exciting but it helps to be able to get your mind around the billions of things that you need to learn how to do or to find other ways to leverage the brilliance of others.

My brilliance? Being able to arrange things to harness the brilliance of others.

As my husband says “You need to know enough to be dangerous but not enough to be deadly” so I like to find the best and let them do it.

I feel a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman when he could tell exactly how many matches or toothpicks there were on the floor just by looking at the pile. I feel I can do the same when I get handed a problem with thousands of moving parts, they all just kind of line up in a row for me which is also a help in Business planning.

Monetization is core to any business. Our company was initially a mobile consulting company and we morphed into a product company as we wanted to find ways that we could build a scalable revenue stream but also that we could monetize the knowledge and tools that we had built for our consultants to support our clients.

Having advised brands, big and small, as well as most major handset manufacturers I’m in a pretty good position to provide advise on Mobile too.

TNW: How should a NextAdvisee approach their relationship with you, to get the best out of you?

CP: I am very straightforward and the “Positivity” strength mentioned above means I love getting people charged up and ready to get out there.

I love inspiring women to get back into the workforce to help people to realize what they can achieve, and to help them move past the fear that some of them have about not being good enough.

We all have those concerns and its those that accept it and move on that achieve great things.

I work well with people who want a hand getting to the next level, who are just looking for a bit of a push and some very practical advice.

It helps if you have a clear idea of where you need help and you’re open to ideas.

You don’t have to follow my suggestions but I’m not a fan of “Askholes” – those who regularly ask your advice and then do the opposite ;) or, even worse, do nothing.

TNW: What do you see as the benefits of an advice relationship, for the advisor?

CP: Believe it or not I get a kick out of seeing people succeed, particularly if I have had a hand in helping them get the confidence or to take the practical steps to move towards their goals.

I also feel that I had some great advisors who take time with me at key points in my career so its my turn, maybe a kind of “Pay it forward”.

TNW: Do you currently have a mentor?

CP: I have been lucky enough to have some great mentors over time but I have been dumb enough not to be systematic in how to work together or even shy about asking. The best relationships have been when I have had a clear problem or something I’d like to capitalize on and then set up a regular time to meet/talk. That has allowed us to have very specific conversations (usually wrapped in some great general conversations) which gives us both immediate, powerful feedback on our ideas, where we may need to focus attention and for the advisor they can see the value they are adding.

I currently don’t have a mentor but I have a group of high-powered women from different fields that I meet with regularly and we usually have a specific topic to discuss (spawned after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”).

It doesn’t matter which role they hold in which industry, our problems are often very similar. 

Sometimes their experiences provide a totally different perspective that I have been able to apply to my business.

TNW: Which business matters have you most needed advice on during your career?

CP: When there is trouble is when you realize how lonely it can be running your own company. You are often averse to telling family and friends how bleak things may be looking as they may have invested in you, or you may just not want them to worry about you. And sometimes you think that you have been a particular idiot, so you aren’t keen to tell the whole world.

Mentors were all able to make me realize that “Shit happens. Learn, move on but importantly, don’t do it again!” as well as providing practical steps as to what to do next.

TNW: What is the most useful lesson you have learned from a mentor?

CP: Really, one of the best gems that I was ever given was by Mike DeNoma, (mentioned him before in a previous The Nextwomen article because I learned so much from him):

Never negotiate for something you can’t afford to lose”.

It has encouraged me to take a step back to see if I can find an alternative before I get to the negotiating table to put me in a stronger position as I know I can walk away, or if I can’t that I am really just in to find the best price and to build as strong a relationship as possible.

TNW: Who would be your dream mentor in a fantasy world (they can be living or a historical figure)?

CP: Well, in my fantasty world I’d look like Cindy Crawford and would need a different kind of mentor for my modeling career, but lets assume that I’m still me and I’m still doing this kind of job.

In my fantasy world, I think it would be J.K.Rowling who wrote Harry Potter.

The story of how she was so broke she was living in a bedsit and she’d take her child to the local coffee shop to write to how she created this incredible global empire of books, films and merchandise before cutting loose and having the courage to write a completely different genre of books, also successful.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our community?  

CP: Entrepreneurialism can be a fabulous journey. There are, however, naysayers at every turn willing to tell you that you should have stuck to the safe job.

Surround yourself with ardent fans who will cheer at your every little success and will get you back on your feet quickly when you trip.

Think of every stumble as a learning experience and enjoy the ride! 

Cat is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

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