One loss, seven draws and an outright victory: an interview with Russell Buckley

 

“In 25 years, mobiles today will be the size of a red blood cell and one billion times more powerful. 3D printing will mean that consumers own the means of producing anything they want. Other technologies ranging from energy to clean water will mean affluence for everyone on the planet. Everyone will have a life envied by the richest monarch of the 19 century,” explains Russell Buckley, the founder and ex-MD of the now Google-owned AdMob.

"Businesses need to change decision making to accommodate this now or perish."

The tech entrepreneur sold AdMob to Google for $750million in June 2010 and now runs an early-stage venture fund in between running a blog and hanging out at the ‘Singularity University’ with American author and futurist Raymond Kurzweil. We spoke to him about his background, emerging technologies and advice for budding entrepreneurs.

You’re a leading expert on mobile marketing but probably most famous for your pivotal role in AdMob in Europe. What is the secret behind AdMob’s success?

“I think timing is always the most important factor of a company’s success. Two years earlier and AdMob would never have got off the ground, two years later; there would have been too much competition. We did, however, have a brilliant team at all levels of the company, led by the talented Omar Hamoui – I’m still watching with interest to see what he does next - as well as some great investors, ranging from angels through to world class VCs, which makes a real difference.”

In your view, what is the future direction for mobile advertising?

“I think the fundamental shift that’s going to happen is that the mobile will become the most powerful marketing medium in history – so far, anyway. Most of us will be using the mobile as our primary digital device in the next five years and ad budgets will follow the eyeballs.

“That said, I think we’re only at the beginning of mobile advertising and new formats are going to emerge that engage the consumer and genuinely add value to their day-to-day lives. The mobile will find deals that they want, share information of interest and amuse or entertain them within a mobile ad format.

“I’m still very interested in where location will go next – no one has cracked this yet, but I’m still a believer.”

The concept of 'the singularity' has long been an interest of yours and you recently graduated from the executive program at the Singularity University, founded by futurists Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. Could you explain this idea?

“It’s a hugely complex idea to explain in a few sentences. But 'the singularity' is normally used to describe the result of artificial intelligence development in the coming years. As computers get exponentially more powerful, they will dwarf human intellect and eventually we’ll either merge with them to create a super-race or they’ll take over. Ray Kurzweil suggests that this will be around 2045.”

Based on this, what are the business and social implications of a future marked by the exponential growth of information technologies?

“The basic implication is that change is going to happen increasingly and bafflingly fast. Fortunes will be won and lost in quicker and quicker cycles – we’ve already seen Instagram sell for $1 billion, two years after launch – and this will be the first of many.

“In 25 years, mobiles today will be the size of a red blood cell and one billion times more powerful. 3D printing will mean that consumers own the means of producing anything they want. Other technologies ranging from energy to clean water will mean affluence for everyone on the planet. Everyone will have a life envied by the richest monarch of the 19th century.

“To summarise; great change and businesses need to change decision making to accommodate this or perish.”

What do you think is going to happen in the next decade or so in technology, with the caveat that it would have been difficult to predict the iPad or the rise of the smartphone?

“I’ve already written above about 3D printing that is potentially hugely disruptive but another one is the rapid increase in life extension over the next 20 years. The combination of real-time health monitoring and personalised drug treatment based on DNA is going to be transformative.

“I still however worry about humankind’s ability to soil our own nest and possibly be the only species that we know about to self-destruct. Nuclear war is always a danger, but there’s also a possibility of another health epidemic, which may or may not be invented by humans in the first place. And there might be the odd comet that knocks us off course. So it’s not all gold at the end of the rainbow – there’s no room for complacency.”

Given your view of the landscape of the future what would your advice be for young people that are interested in starting their own business?

“Just get going. There’s never been a better time to start a business from availability of funding to access to a vast array of technology tools at minimal or no cost.

“At the same time, there is going to be disruption in many established professions, ranging from teaching to banking to military to legal – you’re much better off being in charge of your own destiny.”

And how did you start?

“I started pretty young, with my first social entrepreneurial venture at about 10 – organising jumble/garage sales at my house for local charities. I also had a market stall as my holiday job at university, selling household goods. But I was about 30 when I launched my own first company.

“In all I’ve been involved in about 10 start-ups over the years as founder or among first employees. In a sporting analogy, this has resulted in one loss, seven draws and one outright victory – with one still too early to say. This is roughly the proportion of successes and failures that VCs experience.”

What did you study at university and, given what you now know, what would you study if you were starting university again?

“I studied business (well, managerial and administrative sciences at Aston University, to be precise).

“Today, I'm not actually sure I'd go to university at all actually; some of my thinking around this is on my blog. In exponential times, I'm not sure what a university can teach that might be relevant. And what they could teach, they don't, as they're a long way behind where they should be too.

“I suspect that joining a start-up right out of school might be a more valuable way to go. And in some cases, people might even start their own business from the start - but that's not for the majority, I think.”

Is there anything you would have done differently in terms of your career?

“I think I was actually in the right place at the right time, which always helps! But, actually, no I wouldn’t have done anything differently as I would have ended up in a different place and that wouldn’t necessarily be a better one.”

What are the key attributes of what makes a ‘good’ entrepreneur?

“That’s a tough question, especially as I think that timing is a major factor in success and even the best people get that wrong from time-to-time.

“I’d say the fundamental characteristics are the ability to gather and lead a team that share your vision, the ability to stick with it when things get tough (which they will) and to be passionate about learning. Every scenario, good and bad, is a learning opportunity.

“You also need the ability to overcome the fear of starting in the first place – actually, this is illusory for most people. What exactly have you got to lose and look at what you could win in terms of learning, experience, quality of life and that’s without a potential financial upside.”

Russell Buckley is the founder and ex-MD of the now Google-owned AdMob. Read his blog here or follow him on Twitter.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: A Junior Developer /...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss