A Company for the Sake of Innovation

Posted by Trevor Owens on

This is my interview with Neil Hutchinson, Founder and Managing Director of Forward Internet Group (http://forward.co.uk) in the UK. As the host of Lean Startup Machine London, Forward is a Lean Startup Machine, allocating up 10-20% of their workforce to completely new products at any given time. Founded less than 7 years ago, Forward is now earning revenues approaching £120M ($190M) annually. The company was bootstrapped with no outside funding and is profitable. Forward appears like a mix of Google, IAC, and Betaworks, with it's own Venture & Internet Marketing Divisions that foster synergies with half a dozen internally incubated web properties, some of which are still in stealth. When asked what Forward does, Neil says, "We are trying to have an innovative environment to help startups to build within a secure corporate background." Forwards' innovation at a glance:
  1. Half a dozen projects on the go at one given time
  2. Innovation leave, up to 20 days
  3. 10-20% of the company, 30-40 people on new projects at any given time
  4. Inspired from practices like Google's 20% time
Forward's History Forward is an evolution of Neil's earlier company, TrafficBroker. Neil decided to start the company in order to pay off his college loans, ironically his approach at the time was typing in google: "make money online." I love this story because it shows how far Neil's come and how much he's learned to get here. Originally founded in 2004, over several years Neil bootstrapped the company while starting several new business units from scratch and acquiring others. The last words we hear from Neil, "You've got to innovate, you've got to try new stuff, you've got to take risks, even if you're a reasonable sized company like we are now." The Lean Connection Lean has significant implications for companies like Forward. They are already incredibly successful in their own right, I can only imagine what will happen as they continue to embrace Lean methodologies. Forward has been an awesome host. Thank you Neil, Antonio, and the Forward employees for having us. It's been great getting to know you, and look Forward to more in the future.