We had the privilege to interview Mike Lawton, a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of Oxford Space Systems, Oxford Labs, and Oxford Dynamics. Lawton’s journey through the world of startups has been nothing short of extraordinary, making him an ideal guest to share insights about the software development industry, entrepreneurship, and the trials and triumphs of leading innovative businesses.
With his unique take on the importance of empathy in leadership and his golden rules for young entrepreneurs, Lawton offers an invaluable perspective to anyone daring to venture into the fast-paced and unpredictable realm of technology startups.
In our in-depth conversation, he navigates through his entrepreneurial journey, revealing the lessons learned, challenges faced, and the enduring passion that fuels his success. Delve into this enlightening interview where Lawton underscores the essence of delighting customers, the necessity of enjoying the journey, and the importance of resilience in entrepreneurship.
The Entrepreneurial Journey: Mike Lawton Reveals the Power of Empathy and Navigating the Unpredictable Waters of Startup Success
Ever imagined entrepreneurial journey akin to white water rafting? You’re not alone. Mike Lawton, the serial entrepreneur and founder of Oxford Space Systems, Oxford Labs, and Oxford Dynamics, shared his unique perspective during a recent interview on Bright Founders Talk at Temy. The highs and lows of entrepreneurship, he says, can be just as exciting and terrifying as navigating the tumultuous waters of a rushing river. “The highs are incredibly exhilarating, the adrenaline’s in the bloodstream, and life could not be better. But gosh, the lows can be crushingly low. You’ve got to enjoy that journey. You’ve got to be in it for the long ride.”
Known for his relatable, real-world insights, Lawton took a moment to reflect on his early days in the business. If given the chance to go back in time, what piece of advice would he give his younger self? Interestingly, it isn’t about working harder or chasing more investments. It’s about shifting focus from competitors to customers. “Worry less about the competition and focus more on how I’m going to delight the customer, how I’m going to exceed my customer’s expectation,” he advised.
His philosophy has always been centered around empathy, which he believes is a vital trait for entrepreneurs and leaders. Moreover, he explained that the real trick of entrepreneurship isn’t just about generating great ideas, but it’s how quickly and cheaply these ideas can be validated. Lawton’s practical advice for other tech entrepreneurs is to get out of their comfort zones and interact more with their potential customers, which he states is the “golden rule”. “You’ve really got to get out there and test your ideas against your competitors and obviously make sure your first potential customers are going to buy that product.”
Through his gripping analogies and practical advice, Lawton makes entrepreneurship an open book. He presents a real-world narrative where the entrepreneur is both the captain and the crew of his ship, battling through storms and enjoying sunsets, always with an eye on the horizon. His experience reaffirms that entrepreneurship is a tough but thrilling journey, one that requires resilience, empathy, and, above all, an unwavering focus on the customer.
Embracing Challenges: How Mike’s Tenacity and Bold Visions Propel the UK’s Space-Tech Future
As our conversation took a deeper dive, Mike, the entrepreneurial stalwart, started to discuss the crux of being a young entrepreneur. He expressed that startups can’t just be built with money, but also require qualities that inspire people to work with you. With a grin, Mike likened this to solving a jigsaw puzzle, stating, “So it’s a jigsaw that you need to work out how you put together.”
Tackling the subject of motivation amid failures and challenges, Mike’s eyes shone with a fire forged from years of navigating business hurdles. “We all have our own personal qualities,” he began, placing an emphasis on empathy. However, the strength to persist is what truly makes the difference. “The only certainty is there will be a challenge,” Mike shared, his voice steady. “But I embrace challenges because I see them as learning experiences.”
Reflecting on his own entrepreneurial journey, he elaborated on a particularly bold decision: the inception of Oxford Space Systems. Despite initial skepticism from a space agency and an investor who deemed the space industry too slow and costly, Mike pressed on. “I set the team, the challenge, very small team, only four of us at the time. I set ourselves the challenge of developing a new product and getting it demonstrated on orbit within 26 months.”
This daring venture, to prove that space technology could be delivered faster and cheaper, not only captured the investor’s interest but also made a global impact. As Mike puts it, “And we achieved it, which is something that never had been done before. And it literally trebled the value of the company overnight and put us in a fantastic position.”
Capping off this part of the conversation, Mike shared the most impactful quote of the day: “It’s amazing what a really motivated team can do with you.” His words resonate with the power of unity and the tenacity to defy odds, painting a vivid picture of an entrepreneur who dares to think beyond the stars. As our interview continued, one thing became abundantly clear: Mike’s entrepreneurial journey is indeed an instructive roadmap for any ambitious startup, but more importantly, it’s a testament to the resilience of human spirit.
Unraveling the Fabric of Success: Mike on Technology, Teamwork and Transformation
In a riveting conversation, Mike, the tech maverick, shared his secrets of successfully navigating the business labyrinth. Contrary to popular belief, he emphasized, it’s not just about the technology; it’s about the people. Mike, a self-proclaimed engineer at heart, opened up about the complexity of building a strong team. “You need to recruit the smartest possible people to work with you, and not just those looking for the highest number on their paycheck,” he said. This statement alone challenges the conventional business approach, underlining the importance of the team over tangible assets.
His insights took a deeper turn when Mike underscored the difference between being a leader and a boss. He discussed the often-overlooked element of entrepreneurship: the human side of things. For Mike, a boss is a legal default, a leader is a beacon of trust and vision. He stressed that success in entrepreneurship mandates leading people and cultivating personal qualities that inspire them to follow your vision, especially during tough times in a startup.
Mike’s entrepreneurial journey has seen him establish a globally recognized space company, starting with no strong space background. This journey, he admits, has been marked by an equal measure of luck and the assistance of some fantastic team members. Reflecting on his personal growth, he emphasized the importance of humility in leadership. The road to being an entrepreneur has taught him to prioritize his team’s welfare over his own, a quality that he believes attracts and motivates people to work with you and follow your dream.
Mike on Breaking Barriers: Dismantling Stereotypes and Championing Diversity in Tech
Mike, our engineering maverick, is no stranger to the gritty world of tech startups. He’s seen it all, from the exhilarating rush of ideation to the nail-biting moments before product launch. However, he strongly believes that the trickiest part of the process isn’t the technology – it’s the people. “Building the team, that’s the hardest bit,” Mike shares. He asserts that while it may be tempting to chase the allure of high salaries, the secret to assembling a stellar team lies in hunting for qualities beyond mere financial gratification.
Championing a unique perspective, Mike steps away from the conventional notions of leadership. He differentiates between a boss and a leader, reminding us that leadership isn’t an inherent privilege granted to company founders. Instead, he highlights that being a leader demands the cultivation of personal qualities that inspire trust and exude empathy. “Being seen as a leader is different from being the boss. A boss is something you get by legal default… but that doesn’t mean people see you as a leader,” he muses.
This insight extends into his quest to shatter the norms of tech industry demographics. Mike’s passion for diversity fuels his mission to challenge the tech industry’s dominance by white males. His proactive participation in STEM activities and programs is aimed at amplifying underrepresented voices, particularly females and people of color. His belief in empowering women is clearly manifested in his latest venture, Oxford Dynamics, where women lead the charge. His advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs is candid and powerful: “The common theme is a general lack of confidence when there really shouldn’t be. There’s plenty of grounds and evidence to show that they should be more confident.”
Throughout the conversation, Mike’s narratives encapsulate his deeply ingrained belief in empathy, humility, and the power of diversity. His words not only echo his leadership ethos but also unveil his relentless pursuit of a more inclusive and dynamic tech world.