Meet Kamet's Newest Entrepreneur in Residence: Ben Prouty
1. Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey to date.
After graduating from university, I joined Lehman Brothers only to discover that endless spreadsheets and weekends spent eating Pret weren’t for me. I can safely say my friends and family thought I was crazy to leave such a coveted graduate job but was lucky to land on my feet soon after at Streetcar, Europe’s first carsharing platform. Streetcar was later sold to Zipcar.
I decided to take a year out to do an MBA and was then invited to start Lovespace, a by-the-box storage company, with some of the people I built Streetcar with. 100,000 boxes and three years later, I got an undeniable itch for starting something new, realising that my preferred way of operating is well outside my comfort zone. I then joined Carl August Ameln to help him create Shepper, a company aimed at disrupting the traditional security industry. We were lucky to raise over £5m and expand to 22 countries during my time there. The ever-familiar itch for novelty soon returned and here I am, embarking on my newest adventure with Kamet Ventures.
2. Tell me more about this itch you get for starting something new?
I love the early stage of creating something. Taking an idea, seeing it come alive building a team, getting the first customer, going through the nerve-wrecking but exhilarating experience of raising our first round…Building the foundation for something is something I am really passionate about and where I think I have the best skillset. I believe it is important to acknowledge what’s best for you and what’s best for your company. It’s not realistic for someone to be the best CEO at all stages of a company’s life - your judgement becomes too clouded otherwise.
3. What attracted you to Kamet?
Every venture I’ve ever built, I’ve done so with the same group of entrepreneurs and investors. As I never like to get too comfortable, I was tempted to see how I would fare on my own. But I also wanted to experience a new environment and approach to building businesses. Kamet’s unique venture building proposition paired with its relationship with AXA was unlike any other model I had ever come across and I was very excited to have the opportunity to build something meaningful within such an interesting framework.
4. Any hints about what venture you will be building with us?
I can’t go into any specifics as we are still in our ideation stage, tinkering with various propositions to find the perfect fit. However, one thing I can tell you is that I am passionate about helping alleviate stress from people’s lives and allowing them to enjoy key milestones such as getting married, buying their first house, starting a family etc. If I can help a venture that’s centred around that, I would be a very happy camper.
5. Given where you are now, with 3 ventures under your belt, what's one piece of advice you wish someone told you before you became an entrepreneur?
I always tell people not to go too high as while entrepreneurship is filled with “high highs”, the lows are also very low. In other words, don’t get carried away when you get a new customer contract/ have a big win but equally if you hit a really low point, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. This might sound dull, but my idea of success in entrepreneurship is to aim for the middle, as I believe that’s the best place you can be for your own mental well-being and for the stability of the team around you who are looking to you as an anchor.
6. Do you believe entrepreneurs are made or born?
Born. I don’t think it can be taught as the biggest characteristic I’ve noticed most entrepreneurs have is impatience and you wouldn’t function well somewhere where you have to wait for results which are outside your control. I don’t think entrepreneurship can be drilled into you. Either you have it or you don’t. You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
7. What is the best piece advice you have ever been given and by whom?
When I was young, my dad told me “if you are going to do a job, do it well” and I’ve tried to live by those words ever since.
8. What's been your proudest accomplishment to date?
Learning how to fly (an aeroplane) at age 13.
9. What's been your biggest failure?
I don’t have one big failure that springs to mind but I have daily failures that any entrepreneur can attest to. But that’s the beauty of this job: you know you are bound to hit walls and the most important thing is how you spring back from it.
10. What's your dream vacation destination?
Japan. It’s bee on the list for ages but keeps getting delayed. Hopefully during Cherry Blossom season one year.
11. Tell me about your favourite tech start-up.
I don’t do favourites – generally in life. I admire anyone that starts a business and sticks with it regardless of what that idea is. I know so many founders and often the ones that people have as their favourite are the ones they hear about. But there’s lots of amazing entrepreneurs building incredible businesses that we never hear about even though they are working just as hard as the next guy. Top 10 mentality often rewards the wrong people.
12. At what age did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Looking back on it now, it was probably around the age of 5 when I had my first flirtation with entrepreneurship. My dad used to travel a lot and we were living in Belgium. He would go to different countries and bring back different currencies. So I decided to open something called “Bank of London” in our living room where I would use old milk cartons to deposit coins and sort them by country (this was pre-Euro when French Francs and Deutsche Marks were still relevant). I looked at it as an evening job for when dad would come home from work so that when he was going on a business trip, I would give him the currency he needed for the country he was visiting.
13. One thing you can't live without?
Very boring but my morning coffee, a latte. I am not sure if it’s the coffee itself or the ritual of the coffee as I can’t disaggregate the two at this point. I survived quite a long time without it but once I started, I was hooked.
14. Favourite thing to do in your spare time?
I am a big fan of classic cars and was lucky enough to buy one recently, so I spend my weekends trying to restore it.