Ethan Martin, Founding CEO, ROUND – Forbes Advisor UK
Southend-born Ethan Martin started his first business – Ethan’s eBay – at the age of 13, selling unwanted items during loft / wardrobe empties on eBay for a 20% commission. While studying at the University of Essex, he created TOWER, an app that allows users to purchase food and drink at any participating location, including the advance purchase of take-out.
ROUND’s first investor was the town’s tall man, Sir Laurie Magnus, who lent his support to the then 19-year-old Ethan after a 45-minute speech. The app was launched at 500 sites simultaneously on July 4, 2020, when the sites were able to reopen after the first Covid lockdown. It topped £ 30million in orders in the first year of trading.
He lives in Brighton, a short walk from ROUND HQ in the North Laines.
What set you on the path to success?
I have always been creative and not one to follow the beaten path. What set me on the path to success was my first glimpse of the impact entrepreneurship can have on people.
With my first business at age 13, I vividly remember the incredible feeling my clients thanked me for creating this service. It was a win for all, as my neighborhood was able to get rid of unwanted items / clothes, customers could get great deals on eBay and I could earn enough pocket money so I didn’t have to do a paper tour .
From that moment, I was addicted. It put me on a journey where my brain is fully focused on solutions, creativity and entrepreneurship.
Did you have a hero when you were younger?
Growing up as a young entrepreneur, I was obsessed with Apple and Steve Jobs. I bought my first iPod in 2008 and was obsessed. The Jobs have illustrated to me the passion it takes to create something amazing and to stick with it until global success, creating products that have truly changed the world forever.
Do you have one now?
Jobs will always be an inspiration to me. Today, I am extremely passionate about young entrepreneurship and therefore find great motivation in the success of founders such as Ben Francis of Gym Shark and Steven Bartlett.
Anyone who works with me knows how much I talk about Elon Musk. Elon is a huge inspiration to me and my entrepreneurial style. I am extremely passionate about what I do, and his tenacity and absolute commitment to his vision inspires me in what I do and how I do it.
Are you easily bored?
Absoutely. Fortunately for me, over the past few years there have been very few opportunities to be bored. I love what I do at ROUND and the people I work with. Like most startup CEOs, no two days are the same, and this is how I perform best and maintain my full passion and commitment to what we create.
Who do you admire in business and in life in general?
I am always inspired and admired by those who get started, people who take risks and give absolutely everything they have, whether it is an entrepreneur starting a new business, an artist who breaks conventional boundaries or just someone. one who makes a great career change – I admire the risk takers who back him with laser determination.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am extremely creative and collaborative – I always want to make sure that every member of our team feels like they have a voice. Through this, we hear ideas and solutions from across the company, which allows us to constantly improve ourselves at all levels.
We encourage any kind of feedback in our weekly and monthly all-day meetings, where each time we have anonymous questionnaires where each team member can ask any questions they may have.
Also, I lead from the front, I try to set an example on how we want everyone to work and that for me is simply characterized by giving 100% every day. It is my responsibility as a leader to create the conditions for openness, which allow our entire team to remain solution-oriented.
I would say my leadership style can be simplified to “solution-based” – we want to flesh out problems and then shift our attention to solving them.
What are your ambitions?
My ambition is to create products and services that truly change the world.
With ROUND, my ambition has always been to create a real platform for ordering restaurants and drinks, wherever you go, the same way Uber has done with transport, Airbnb with stays, Google with research, etc.
I can see the impact and improvement of these platforms on my life and I wish I could do the same for more clients and businesses through ROUND.
Do you believe in luck?
I really believe in Gary Player’s saying: “The more I train, the luckier I get. “
I don’t believe in luck for luck. I believe that if you are trying to create something amazing, for the right reasons with the right determination, it is only a matter of time until good fortune comes to you.
What qualities do you look for in your colleagues?
I am often asked this question. When hiring I always focus on attitude rather than aptitude – you can develop skills, but in my experience it is extremely difficult to change someone’s attitude if it is. counter-cultural.
I am looking for people who are passionate about what we do. They see that we are only at the start of our journey but recognize the traction we have achieved to date and the enormous potential of our business. With a small team (less than 40) it is essential that we all shoot in the same direction and have a shared passion and vision.
Micro-manage or big picture?
I think there is a time for both and there is also an evolution in the role of a scale-up CEO.
Obviously, when creating the concept for ROUND, I was immensely tall and filled with pure optimism. But as the idea becomes reality and you start to bring in investors, clients and users, you naturally become micro because you want to make sure you have the pulse of everything that is going on, so that you can help and support immediately, whenever needed.
Now my role is starting to return to a big picture as we look for ways to expand our business into new industries and geographies. This cannot be done with too much micro-lens – but it should be mentioned that this is only possible thanks to the fact that we have an amazing team of individuals who own and live for the micro-detail, which allows me to think big.
Do you think the company is valued by society?
I think business is valued by society, but I don’t think enough attention is paid to the people who make business happen.
When I speak with young entrepreneurs through my work with the University of Sussex or the Young Enterprise program, my message is that people are changing the world. I think that sometimes we forget that, especially young people. Someone is going to create the next Apple, the next Uber, the next McDonalds – why wouldn’t that be you?
So, I think we should value business more, but on top of that we should value ourselves – if you see a problem, create the solution.
How do you think business will change from 2021?
From 2021 I think the business world will change as more and more young people will start to focus their careers on what they love to do rather than what will look good on a CV.
I think the pandemic has irreversibly changed the world for better and for worse, but one positive thing is that people have realized how fragile our world can be and that life is over, so spend your time in working on things and with people you enjoy working with – you’ll be more fulfilled and a lot more successful in everything you do.
How would you like As business to change from 2021?
I would like companies to be more inclusive both at the founders and senior management levels. Whether it’s age, race or gender, diversity fuels ideas, sparks debate, and ultimately enhances the success of entire organizations through diversity of thought and experience.
Here is a magic wand – what are you going to do?
It might sound cliché, but it would just be giving everyone a level playing field. There are nearly eight billion of us on the planet and, with true equality of opportunity, we would have the conditions for everyone to create and prosper, resulting in incredible progress for all of humanity.
What is your favorite time of day?
I have two: my morning walk to the office and my evening walk home. It only lasts about 10 minutes, but it’s a great time to plan and mentally prepare for the day ahead. cross-referencing it with my morning list, which often sparks ideas for that evening or the next day.
Then for me I focus on growing ROUND until it maximizes its potential.
When I create something, I often start with full eutopia – how it’s going to be the biggest, how it’s going to be the best. With ROUND, the initial idea was to have a single app to order food and drink wherever you went, from a pub in London to a street vendor in Mumbai. We have a huge opportunity because on-site catering is bigger than the transport and delivery market, and I won’t stop until our product is truly ubiquitous.
In the short term, we’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, which to me is really cool – it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to give back to our community of businesses and consumers who have supported us, their allowing to own a part of our activity.