In this episode of the Pioneering People podcast, Ray Bugg, entrepreneur and the founder and director of DIGIT FYI, talks about his career and thoughts on the startup scene.
Growing up in Essex, Ray didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur. But while working in a catering agency, he was inspired after seeing a job ad for a role in publishing, and landed a job in publishing sales.
“It was a complete shape shift from putting someone's dinner in front of them. But I liked it. The earning opportunity was high and it was fundamentally quite interesting as well.”
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After working in publishing, in 2004 Ray was headhunted to run a high profile event, the World Youth Congress. “It gave me the flavour for events. You could see the value in engagement and the value in meeting to talk about issues. It also taught me that these things need a strong legacy.”
Following a successful event, he secured a role at Holyrood Connect, a periodical publication about government policy to hold conferences and major stakeholder events for government initiatives.
After spotting a gap in the market for events and news catering to the enterprise sector, Ray pitched his idea to Holyrood but it was not taken forward. “It was an idea I didn't want to leave on the sidelines.”
He secured clients at Holyrood to come to his first IT conference which provided seed funding to start his business. The first event in Aberdeen was a big success: “There was a big appetite for business to be kept up to speed in their sector.”
In 2013, Digit was born, a media and events company for the technology industry aimed at both consumers and producers.
Ray attributes part of his success to gradually growing his business due to his self funded approach. In the initial stages, he calls his strategy 'bootstrapping' where he did everything himself instead of outsourcing things.
“I created a culture which was quite hard to shift. When I did have the resource to let other people get involved, it's quite hard to let go of things that you've been doing for so long.”
In 2013 Ray launched DIGIT FYI, a stakeholder industry news site with events focusing on ICT and technology. This has allowed the business to go paperless for both its conferences and publishing.
Today, he has ten staff working for him and says: “They are as much decision makers in how this business evolves as I am.”
Another factor he credits for his business success is the strategy of being open source: “In business a lot of people think they have to put their arm around what they do. At Digit, we've always been about sharing.”
When looking to the future, Ray would like to get more involved in the startup community and helping others succeed. “I don't think we should be too unicorn crazy," he says. "I’d rather see ten £100 million companies being created in the tech sector than a one billion pound company. I think that’s healthier.”
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