Q&A: Lastminute.com founder on eBay, mobiles and tech hates

We chatted to entrepreneur Brent Hoberman about his role in driving the UK tech industry forward as well as the things that make him happy and angry about the tech world.

It's easier now to have a good idea, not get funding and to get some traction. Word of mouth, the viral [nature]... if your product is differentiated enough you can get big hits and get massive traction. One of those levers is a lot of luck. It was in our time and I think it is still.

When you ask many entrepreneurs what the real tipping point for them was it's a bit of luck but also the fact that most of the great ones, like Michael Birch and Niklas Zennstrom, are so in tune with their products and they're refining them constantly and they're adding no middle men and no layers.

Anything you wish you'd invented?

I remember getting very annoyed seeing Stelios asked that question during an interview and he said he wished he'd created Expedia!

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The one that got away from us actually was a beautiful model that we had in our initial business plan, which was TripAdvisor. I took it out of my initial business plan because my dad said he didn't understand it, that it was too complicated and "how many things can you do well?"

I think he was right but as a business model those that are so user generated, so capital efficient [work well] and TripAdvisor is a really good example of that. It's unfortunate that Barry Diller owns it, but it's still a good business.

What would you be doing in a parallel universe work-wise if you hadn't co-founded lastminute.com?

Retail has been in my blood. My grandfather was a retail entrepreneur I organised a party society at university called the French Club so maybe I would have taken that and been a promoter, but I don't think that's really me.

What's next for you?

It's really feeling that one is disrupting industries. The limited time I have for disrupting and helping the way government is run and lowering the cost is also very interesting but I don't think I'm going to be the person doing it. There will be others who will hopefully drive that, but that could be very beneficial to the UK.

Being at the cutting edge for me is pretty exciting. Helping the UK challenge the dominance of Silicon Valley and be a centre for European internet excellence.

How far away is that or will it be a pipe dream for some time to come?

One of the challenges we have is scale. How do we help UK companies scale not just in this country but also across other geographies? That's a really interesting, big challenge.

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