Until recently, the Chief Commercial Officer of highly successful Skyscanner, Frank Skivington was part of their stellar leadership team from the early days as a startup in 2008 right through to their £1.5bn acquisition by Ctrip in 2016.
Now, as an investor and startup advisor, he’s turning his attention to the world of first time driving and insurance. He recently became a Midrive investor and Board Advisor.
Midrive’s CEO, Asher Ismail, interviewed Frank to learn more about his interest in Midrive and how he hopes to contribute.
AI: Frank, can you tell us a little about your previous investments, and in particular what drew you towards Midrive?
FS: My involvement with companies, as an adviser and/or investor, tends to be reflective of my experiences with Skyscanner and the broader domain of tech start-ups and the internet economy. There are many characteristics I would look for in assessing a potentially successful business but these would include:
- A large, easily-defined addressable market
- That market is serviced by complacent incumbents, out-moded technology or (usually) both
- A simple and demonstrable revenue model
- An understanding within the business of non-traditional growth models
- And smart, energetic people with a clear vision and a willingness to learn and adapt
AI: And what in particular does Midrive offer that legacy driving education services maybe haven’t previously?
FS: With a 17-year-old son in the process of learning to drive I have recently been at the sharp end of the current services being provided, an experience which has only strengthened my opinion that it is an area ripe for disruption and that Midrive could well be the big winner. A mobile-led, data-driven business, high product utility and interactive and supported learning are all hallmarks of the Midrive model – and sadly lacking in many of the existing players.
AI: Of course, board advisors always bring a wealth of experience to bear on their role. In your opinion, what were some of the major points which contributed to your collective success at Skyscanner?
FS: There are many, but one of the most significant contributors to our success at Skyscanner over a prolonged period of time was to actually become more agile and more disruptive as we got bigger – the inverse of what you might expect and also of what tends to happen with most companies. Lean Start-up thinking and methodologies were baked-in to the business from a very early stage so we were constantly in a build/measure/learn loop in ALL functions of our business – whether in the constant development and improvement of our products or the continual development of our thinking and activities in our commercial and growth efforts.
AI: Those experiences must fill you with confidence with regards to your new board role at Midrive, then. What are some of the most valuable lessons learnt that you’ll be keeping in mind as you help Midrive progress?
FS: Constant learning and agility across the business as noted in the previous point are key. As the business grows we also need to be able to recognise those points where the business hits an inflexion point, the realisation that what worked for growth yesterday might not work at the next level of scale, and the willingness to adapt at pace. Also those constraints – be they economic, resource-led, technological – should be viewed as moments for innovation, not brakes on growth.
AI: What’s the single highest priority for a tech company looking to re-imagine an industry dominated by incumbents?
FS: To stay true to the innovation vision; don’t concentrate on doing what they do, only a little bit better, because that leads you away from the entrepreneurial goal and towards causal reasoning with constrained goals. At Skyscanner, it didn’t matter to us what the competition or the incumbents were doing, only that we constantly imagined and re-imagined the potential solutions we could offer, and strove to deliver those – and then go again. And I’m not saying you can’t learn from the competition – you most certainly can – just don’t be hypnotised by what others are doing or might do.
AI: And finally, as a parent of a learner driver, which part of learning did you struggle with most?
FS: As the parent of a learner it was/is many things: the lack of (apparent) choice; the lack of feedback (on teacher quality and success, on learner experience and progress etc). Hence my attraction to the MiDrive business, not just as an investor/adviser, but on the back of a painful consumer experience that can and will be solved
AI: Frank, it was great talking and we are very much looking forward to having you onboard.
FS: Thanks Asher. Midrive is solving a real problem for learners, parents, and instructors. I’m looking forward to being part of the next step in the journey.
Midrive is crowdfunding. You can join us on our mission to modernise first-time driving from as little as £10. Visit our pitch page at crowdcube.com/midrive to learn more. #capitalatrisk
Last modified: 20th March 2018