Photo credit: Paul Smith

published 15 May 2015 2 minutes 55 seconds to read

Paul Smith

Paul Smith is cofounder and Managing Director of ignite. The UK-based accelerator and educational programme supports early-stage tech startups and provides one of the largest venues for aspiring teams. Meet him in our Investor Pick.

About me. 

Ignite Accelerator

The UK’s pre-seed accelerator programme, educational events and tech meetups, co-working space, consultancy services and much more – Ignite.

I earned my first money with...
The first "business" was selling "pokes" (cheat codes) for computer games when I was 15. I'd bundle everything together from old computer magazines then sell them for Spectrum, Commodore, Acorn Electron. I made a few pounds but handwriting everything was hard!

If I wouldn't be an investor I would be...
An adhoc traveller, catching random flights to places I've never heard of. I've been plenty of things in my life so far - an astronomer, radio producer, journalist - but throughout it all has been my travelling.

I get annoyed when ...
People aren't honest with me. Startups, especially. I can't help somebody if I don't know what's happening. Keeping problems to yourself isn't a sign of strength, and in a startup it can be fatal.

You might not believe it, but we...
Prefer working with first-time entrepreneurs. It's where we can make the biggest difference. The outliers are always more likely to be people who haven't tried before.

My favourite movie is...
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Has the edge on Stars Wars (my other love as a kid) because the hero is fallible. I don't think it's a weakness to reveal your fears.

About passion and profession.

My investment fund is focused on startups in...
Any sector. Genuinely, I've no preference. It's all about the people, first and foremost.

I wouldn’t like to work anywhere else because...
I'm happy right now. As soon as I'm not happy, I'll change what I do and where I work. I can't see that happening for quite some time, though.

The investment plan for the next years is...
To work with more startups from across Europe. We're planning to expand our activity in the UK, but we've also spent a lot of time building relationships with teams and communities elsewhere in Europe, like Estonia and Romania.

Our business relationship with startups is characterised by...
Honesty, fun, creativity and a sense of family. Ignite is one of the top pre-seed accelerators in Europe, and it brings so much value - in terms of its investors, its alumni and our experience.

Besides money I offer...
A solid working knowledge of Star Trek and a love of cocktails.

About working with startups.

I was least impressed by founders that think their intelligence or experience or world view gives them a right to be rude or arrogant to others.

In a startup I am looking for...
Smart people, working with other smart people, who have big ideas but accept they don't know everything. I can't work with people who think they know it all - even if they did, then there'd be nothing I can add.

Characteristics a founder team should have are...
Urgency, open-mindedness, selfishness, loyalty to one another, coachability, a sense of purpose.

I was most impressed by...
Teams that know when to listen, and know when to trust their intuition. It's a fine line and a very rare skill, but it's a trait of all the best founders I've worked with.

I was least impressed by...
Founders that think their intelligence or experience or world view gives them a right to be rude or arrogant to others. Investors don't like working with people like that.

You get most out of relationship with me when...
You give first. I'm more likely to help you if I've seen you help others first.

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