THE BIGGEST mistake of my career also created the biggest opportunity. My mistake was to get involved in the entertainment industry, something to which I am temperamentally unsuited.
I joined Philips Media in marketing: they produced video games, films and music videos. But making and marketing video games is something only some people can do. My brother is one of the godfathers - he founded Eidos - and he has the knack of making puzzle, fighting or racing games interesting and exciting. I couldn't do it.
I was marketing a game called FX-Fighter, and made a good fist of it. We had a lot of money to spend, and the game was great. But I never felt I cracked the message or the reason why people should buy it, the reason being wish-fulfilment, and wanting to beat the crap out of some aliens. I got much too scientific about it, getting into marketing theories. One lesson I learned was that unless you are well-trained, it's very dangerous to start trying to do things you know you are not good at. The thing is to trust people who can do it.
I joined Philips because I discovered I could do exactly the same job I'd been doing in the book trade, for 50 per cent more money. It was the wrong place to be: Philips didn't understand entertainment. They were trying to market their own CD-platform and blinded themselves to the Internet.I left with nowhere to go. If I had done research, I would have found they are extremely good at making razors and televisions, but not at entertainment.
The experience galvanised me out of a slow-moving industry - the book trade - which I absolutely adored, but which had a nasty habit of paying people far less than they were worth and rewarding them with ridiculously pumped-up job titles. It woke me to the Internet, and I realised there was an exciting career to be had.
I thought Britannica was a bunch of people selling by knocking on doors. But just over a year ago, they let go all their sales force, to build up the electronic business. It brought me to a place I felt I should have been in all along.
The trick is that if you make a mistake, you use it to your advantage, admitting it and asking yourself: "What am I going to do?"