How to become a billionaire: Moneysupermarket co-founder Simon Nixon on earning billions despite dropping out of college

 
Shruti Tripathi Chopra
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Simon Nixon floated Moneysupermarket on the London Stock Exchange in 2007 (Source: Amelia Allen)

Moneysupermarket co-founder Simon Nixon can relate to Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.

The 49-year-old, who grew up in Wales, dropped out of Nottingham University in 1993 to launch a mortgage magazine which turned into price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com in 1999.

“Entrepreneurs aren’t always academic and university doesn’t always suit,” he says. “Zuckerberg and Gates both also dropped out of uni. I think you have to follow your gut. They both saw incredible opportunities while at uni, first-mover advantage can often steal the day.”

Nixon floated Moneysupermarket on the London Stock Exchange in 2007 and sold his shares in the company in chunks over the years. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, his wealth stands at £1.02bn.

How to earn billions

Nixon claims he became a billionaire by backing exciting fast-growing businesses across the globe with the money he made from Moneysupermarket. To date he has invested over £100m into startups including organic food and drink website The Food Market and Kabbee, a price comparison and booking app for London minicabs.

“I have made a significant amount of money from building a hugely successful internet business and selling my shares in the market. It’s what I’ve done with those funds that has made me a billionaire,” he says.

“I have made hundreds of bets on internet startups in many differing sectors and geographies. I feel comfortable investing in what I know.

“Many of these companies will shape the future of how we live, work and play. It’s so exciting to be working with such a talented group of entrepreneurs, I feel privileged to be sharing their journey even if it is as an investor rather than founder,” he says.

Read more: Moneysupermarket shares drop 10 per cent as group announces share buyback

Hot property

Nixon reveals that most of his money is tied up in tech stocks but he also thinks residential and commercial property are a lucrative sector to invest in. That’s why he set up Simonescapes.com, a luxury holiday lettings website.

“I love property and I love travel. I had this idea that if I could identify great plots in locations that I love, think beach front in Malibu, Barbados and Cornwall. Or in the Cotswolds, Lake front on Windermere and in the beautiful Majorcan village of Deia.

“I have now built beautiful holiday homes in all of these locations. I’m also hoping that long term there will be good capital appreciation,” he says.

It’s not all business that Nixon spends his money on. The most “expensive toy” he has ever bought is a 918 Porsche.

“Although I’m told it has increased in value by up to 50 per cent,” he chuckles.

Recalling his efforts to scale up Moneysupermarket, Nixon says making investors believe in the comparison concept was the trickiest bit.

“Convincing the UK’s largest financial organisations to trade with a small startup was a big challenge. We had to punch above our weight and appear bigger than we were. Building the Moneysupermarket brand in a cost effective way was obviously a huge challenge.

“But floating the business on the LSE was a major challenge and milestone,” he beams. “Persuading some of the savviest institutional investors to buy $400m [£317m] of Moneysupermarket stock was definitely a proud moment.”

Brexit is an opportunity

Nixon moved from Chester to Jersey in 2012 for its “weather and benign tax environment”. That’s why he wasn’t able to vote in last year’s EU referendum.

However if he was eligible to vote, he would have voted to leave.

“I was marginally in favour of Brexit. Entrepreneurs are control freaks, we need to be in charge of our own destiny. Brexit gives us much more control,” he explains.

Read more: No, London will not fall after Brexit

Nixon thinks that Brexit may bring some “short-term pain” but he is optimistic “we can prosper on our own”.

“I think Brexit creates a great opportunity for the UK to become a very business-friendly and larger version of Southern Ireland. Corporation tax at 10 per cent would be great to retain and attract successful businesses in the UK.”

While the quality of life in Jersey is “exceptional”, Jersey does lack culture, Nixon admits.

“I get my fixes from Los Angeles, New York and London. I have become quite international, no one place is great all year round.”

Nixon can afford to globe-trot. After all, money isn’t an issue.

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