It’s still possible to build a business in a recession

THOSE of us who were there in the early part of this century when Alastair Lukies was walking the streets of the City of London with his vision for Mobile Money can remember the days before the banks adopted the Monilink platform.

Last Thursday, the Aim-listed firm announced a new joint venture (JV) deal with Carphone Warehouse with its 800 stores to establish a mobile money network to extend mobile banking into the world of retail. Carphone Warehouse will use the Mobile Money Manager platform, now supporting more than 200 financial institutions with more than 1.3m customers in the UK and the US.

Monitise’s rise over the past seven years gives us a chance to reflect on a couple of truths in building a new industry.

Truth Number One. If everyone is patting you on the back – you’ve missed the opportunity. You have to be early. It was in the depths of the technology downturn of 2001, that Lukies realised that the building for this new mobile money ecosystem would have to be done, and that it would be a lonely road where many would underestimate his staying power.

Truth Number Two. “You can’t build an ecosystem without humility,” Lukies says. I see this again and again as large companies believe that they control the pace at which change is going to affect them. Lukies a gruelling process of building bottom up a global infrastructure and industry. When he signed one of the early first banks, he texted me this message: “178 meetings, 65 trips to Edinburgh, 34 nights away from my wife.” That is what it takes to adopt a new customer if you are an entrepreneur.

Truth Number Three. Hire extremely good people. Monitise’s senior management team is a Rolls-Royce team pulled from the banking and telecoms industries.

While the financial services industry has been shaken over the last years, the UK has given birth to a new industry, mobile banking, and one of its own firms, Monitise, has led the way.

The UK was uniquely positioned to own this industry. Because of our historical footprint, and our leadership in trade, financial services, and international relations.

Julie Meyer is the Founder of Entrepreneur Country, the CEO of Ariadne Capital, the Managing Partner of the ACE Fund, and a Dragon on the BBC's Online Dragon's Den. She has been an advisor to Monitise since 2004.