Callum Negus-Fancey: 'Put people and talent first'

Callum Negus-Fancey has no regrets over his decision to drop out of school and start an events management company.

Work colleagues brainstorming in creative office
(Image credit: Kelvin Murray)

At the age of 17, Callum Negus-Fancey informed his parents of a life-changing decision. He wanted to drop out of school and abandon his A-levels to set up an events company.

Other parents might have had their qualms, to say the least. But in the event, they gave him "strong support", which was "extremely helpful", says Negus-Fancey, 24 particularly as he now admits that his youth had certainly made him "less aware of the risk" he was taking on.

Let's Go Crazy was founded in 2008. Negus-Fancey had spotted that "no one else was focused on creating the rave experience for under 18s", so its initial focus was on putting on mass-market dances for 16 to 18-year-olds.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

His idea was to sell tickets in advance, meaning he could pay for both the bands and the venue without needing start-up capital. To save on marketing costs normally a big part of events budgets he would get people to sell tickets to their friends in return for commission and free tickets.

Negus-Fancey's biggest challenge in the early days was a lack of experience. He hired his first member of staff a month after he left school, but his team remained small. While the raves were big hits, selling out, he realised that his key innovation wasn't the events themselves, but his approach to marketing and selling tickets for them.

So in 2011, he wound down the events side of the business and set up two separate companies. Physical Network organised person-to-person sales of festival tickets, while Yourvine (now Kami) was a branding company.

He then started a third firm, Freemavens, in 2013. Of the three, Physical Networks is the most important. Callum has raised over £4m from investors to date to build and develop the automated platform that now manages sales and forms the core of the company's business model.

Let's Go Holdings, the umbrella company, now has a fast-growing turnover of £5.5m, and employs 70 staff. Personnel account for more than 80% of the company's running costs, and Negus-Fancey admits that finding people with the right expertise has been one of the big challenges.

"I've had to become very good at interviewing people and quickly assessing whether they can add value." Indeed, he opened an office in Poland primarily to take advantage of the cheap software engineering talent.

The company is now so large that Negus-Fancey is only operationally involved with Physical Networks, leaving day-to-day management at his othertwo firms to hand-picked executives.

He has ambitious plans for international expansion, based around partnerships and deals with other companies. A big fan of the "sophisticated" technology industry in the US, he already has a sales office in Los Angeles and hopes to set up others in San Francisco and New York.

His advice for potential entrepreneurs is to "put people and talent first". It's also vital to raise enough money to survive, without constantly seeking investment or being forced to give away too much of the company.

And delegating less important tasks so that you can focus on the key decisions is something all successful entrepreneurs need to learn to do, since "it is better to do one thing excellently, rather than five things well". What about his A-levels? It's one decision that he "certainly doesn't regret".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri