Andrew Doe is an adept digital leader with more than two decades’ experience transforming the performance of businesses through digital technologies. A serial entrepreneur, he has directed three startups that include British internet success confetti.co.uk. He has spent the majority of his career in e-commerce, helping brands like News Corp, Thomas Cook, The Carphone Warehouse and Royal Mail build their digital channels.
Andrew is a firm advocate of entrepreneurial activities and is looking to be involved in another “big startup” in the future. “I’d recommend that every student gets some startup experience,” he explains. “It’s a very valuable thing to do, whether it’s done during through your studies, fitted into your holidays or the start of a career plan.”
An inventive spark was first identified in Andrew during his teens, when he spent his spare time making electronic gadgets and writing software for his school’s first generation personal computer. “I was a geek,” he laughs. “I made radios and passed my amateur radio exam when I was 14, that’s what inspired me to go on and study engineering. It took a bit longer before the entrepreneur in me started to come out.”
After leaving school, Andrew started working for the Ministry of Defence at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and explored his first commercial idea with a colleague. The product, an inverter for mains devices on the move, was developed to a prototype stage by the trainee engineers and pitched to customers at the Southampton Boat Show.
Andrew went on to study Electronic Engineering at the University of Southampton, an experience that included an inspirational summer placement at the European Organisation of Nuclear Research (CERN). “I was drawn to Southampton and its micro-electronics fabrication facility as I wanted the opportunity to design and manufacture microchips,” he says. “Engineers want to create new things, and that’s why I think engineering backgrounds are good training for being an entrepreneur.”
Driven to put his growing engineering skills into practice in a commercial environment, Andrew joined IBM as a Systems Engineer and spent four years with the firm in Basingstoke and Richmond.
He next accelerated his career with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the INSEAD graduate business school near Paris, learning new finance and marketing skills with added language learning. “It gave me a really interesting, international outlook,” he says. “My experience at INSEAD opened my mind to opportunities in other markets and I actually went on to do my first startup in France rather than the UK.”
Andrew spent three years as Director General of Broadsystem France, a new digital media business that capitalised on the emergence of the World Wide Web. “It was quite unusual for me to come out of INSEAD to work in a startup environment,” he explains. “A lot of people thought I was crazy but I really wanted to see what it was like.” Andrew and his team attracted funding from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and were able to use News Corp’s offices in Paris. “A big name investor opens so many doors, especially in a new market,” he adds. “We grew the business really fast and chose a good point to exit.”
A move in 1996 saw Andrew return to the UK as a Director of Business Development in Rupert Murdoch’s first web design business. Andrew ran a creative team that built the first websites for The Times newspaper and Sky TV. As a result of the work, he became part of a management team at a second startup opportunity pioneering some of the first online transactions for retailers.
The experience encouraged him to create his own consumer e-commerce startup and left the security of his job to start the venture. “I left with a colleague without a fully-formed idea of what that business would be,” he explains. “I was prepared to take that risk at that point in time and we started picking up consulting work to pay the bills.”
Spotting a need that wasn’t being fulfilled in the market, Andrew developed the idea for a website that could cover all the elements associated with organising a wedding. The result was confetti.co.uk and Andrew led the company through three rounds of funding totalling over $20m as he grew the company through several European acquisitions into a multi-channel retail business. “It was a fantastic experience to go all the way from a complete startup to the point when we were ready to float the company,” he reflects.
Since his three-year adventure with the Confetti Network, Andrew has helped several large organisations grow their digital channels as an Interim Head of e-Commerce and Consultant. Posts this past decade have included terms with Thomas Cook, Mothercare, The Carphone Warehouse and Royal Mail, before his most recent work as an Adviser for professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal and the Repairly tech network.
Andrew’s business expertise at startups and global companies is an excellent resource for the Future Worlds network. “I want to help staff and students at the University of Southampton create fantastic new businesses,” he says. “If you have an interesting startup in the e-commerce space, I’d be really keen to meet with you.” You can get in touch with Andrew using the contact form on this page.
Andrew would advise aspiring entrepreneurs discuss their business ideas with experts in the field they are looking at entering. “You must listen to people in your industry, listen to customers and – above all – listen to your mentors,” he says. “Nobody can do what is required to create a business entirely on their own, so you need to take on board feedback. You’ve also got to be prepared to work really hard.”