FIRST ACT: Rupert Taylor Price
Traditionally, the first act establishes character, relationships and setting; it’s where the first plot point happens. This series collects the ‘first act’ jobs, careers or businesses of entrepreneurs.
Rupert Taylor-Price was put to work earlier rather than later; “I probably first started working when I was about 11 or 12. My mum had a wholesale kitchenware business, so I used to answer the phones, go and pick orders in the warehouse. I had a pretty young exposure to work,” he says.
It might be easy to assume that it was there in his UK childhood he forged a strong, independent work ethic. After all, he is now the founder of a successful company offering critical cloud services to government organisations. But instead, his path to entrepreneurship is one full of detours.
It started at a place where plenty of ambitions are imagined and extinguished: school. “Through the ages of five to 14, I actually did terribly at school,” he explains. “I was in the bottom class of every subject,” Despite being a curious and thoughtful child, he was bored, uninterested and couldn’t see a reason to try at school. With that, came the assumption that his future would lead, well, nowhere. Or, at least, somewhere with less moral uprightness: “I would've failed my way through school but still been, probably, entrepreneurial in spirit. And you can only imagine, with a lack of economic opportunity what you end up doing as an entrepreneurial individual.”
If you look back on your schooling, you might find that there was one teacher who, in some way, changed the way you saw your own future. For Taylor-Price, that teacher shifted the entire course of his life. “My science teacher, Mr Farrow, saw that I had a good understanding of the world, and decided that it was impossible that I should be in the bottom class of science.” He was moved to the very top science class and with higher expectations and a sense of challenge ahead of him, he transformed into a star student. Within a year he had moved into the top classes of all of his subjects, and graduated with results that allowed him to pursue physics at UCL and then medical physics at Southampton University. It turned out he could play the academic game. But in between, he got a taste for the entrepreneurial too.
His first venture started “probably just out of boredom” with two other friends; a nightclub. They started selling tickets while at college and he found himself a co-owner of a successful 250-pax venue at the tender age of 17. It was a great success – for a period. Last drinks were called when the only partner who was actually old enough to license the venue decided to go overseas. Even though the experience was full of lessons, he’d followed a path of study and still needed to figure out the next move.
Like many at that twilight between tertiary study and embarking on a career, he just wasn’t sure. Having studied a science he knew he wanted to advance society in some way, but he knew that major discoveries were rare and often more than a lifetime’s work; it didn’t seem viable. He found himself adrift for a while, working as a recruitment consultant until he was fired (it turns out the correct response to your boss asking you “You enjoy your job, don’t you Rupert?” at an all-staff meeting is not: “No, not really.” He then booked a round-the-world ticket and ended up in Australia.
He started working for a charity called CoAct, that developed social programs and relied on government funding. Starting in data entry, he was swiftly promoted to examine sensitive social issues from a data science perspective, once they’d learned about his academic background. Ironically, he left behind that career path because the likelihood of making a meaningful contribution was too low, but it was that experience that allowed him to work in a space where positive change could go a long way, for many lives.
When his team was dissolved after funding changes, he continued to consult in the intersection of social support and data analytics, leading him to start his own company at the ripe age of 23. And not just your typical tech start-up, but one dealing with sensitive personal data on behalf of the government – necessitating the kind of bureaucracy that most his age would probably run from. It was also a space where a duopoly had ruled for at least a decade beforehand. His company had displaced them both in about two years.
He’s since started other successful ventures and reflects, “the journey to go from really bottom of the class, having nothing, to running several businesses now. I just don't think you could ask for more than that.”
Rupert Taylor-Price is the founder of several businesses including HiveTec and Vault Systems, organisations which offer government departments software and cloud services for highly sensitive data. He is also a member of Entrepreneurs' Organisation, a global community of successful entrepreneurs, who inspire & support each other through sharing experiences.