Co-Founder and Sales Executive: Styliff Tech
Charlie graduated in 2015 with a BSc in Sports Science with Management. After appearing for the University's tennis team and winning the European Championships, he now runs his own technology company with his University friend, Lucas Poelman.
Loughborough was a natural choice for me. I was a junior professional tennis player growing up and played one year on the pro tour after school. Loughborough gave me the chance to extend my tennis career whilst laying the foundations for a career after sport.
I chose Sport Science with Management because I had a clear game plan that I wanted to become a sport agent after graduating. The relevance of the course and prestige of Loughborough in the industry would put me in a great position to pursue that career path.
Loughborough has a very unique atmosphere amongst its student population.
You are surrounded by people that have experienced consistent success in sport. Because of this there is a heightened awareness of the impact of preparation and consistent hard work on success. It’s infectious.
My time at Loughborough has helped me transition that level of preparation from an athletic domain to an academic one and now a professional one.
Preparing like an athlete every day in my career has been one of the most significant factors to our success to date.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Pick your modules with a 2-3-year game plan. This might be more difficult if you are not quite sure what you want to do after uni, but it will help you get the most value from the degree.
How did your appearances for the Uni’s tennis team, and any other extra-curricular activities, impact upon your Loughborough experience?
Some of my fondest memories of my Loughborough experience are playing for the tennis team, particularly when we won the European Championships.
Tennis is an individual sport. You spend the majority of your life competing for yourself and there is often a borderline hostile atmosphere at tournaments.
Loughborough was the first time I got to compete in a team atmosphere for an extended period of time. I absolutely adored it.
After graduating I joined an Australian sport agency called Bastion EBA. They were a big deal in Australia and were setting up shop in London. I was their first hire in the UK. I chose this opportunity because I thought it would expose me to a wide range of challenges and broaden my skillset fast.
A year later I was presented the opportunity to become a co-founder of Styliff by my former Loughborough doubles partner, Lucas. This was a Silicon Valley-based venture that presented the challenge of raising funds and breaking an innovative product into the insurance market (no easy feat).
This was the adventure I had been waiting for. I jumped at the chance and haven’t looked back since.
Styliff has now evolved into Styliff Tech which is a globally award-winning development agency that builds and launches in-house ventures as well as working with a limited number of external companies each year with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies such as Lidl to a really cool bunch of startups.
I knew Styliff was going to provide me with a rare learning opportunity professionally. What I didn’t anticipate is how much it would shape me as a person.
When everything is on the line, the consequences of your decisions are severe and mistakes are expensive. This has resulted in both me and Lucas developing very reflective and analytical mindsets.
Lucas and I discovered quickly that we had very different strengths, which is essential when you are starting a business. Lucas is hugely talented at creating concepts that provide unique value to users. This has been instrumental for our in-house concepts which are huge assets when attracting clients and providing direction for the business. My skillset is much more sales orientated.
The evolution of my emotional intelligence has been pivotal in the improvements in my performance in bringing in deals.
Selling development services is unlike any other type of sale. The majority of the time you are working with founders of startups. They have raised money from friends and family, sold their house, dug into their savings to roll the dice on a different future they are trying to create for themselves. They are putting their faith in you to make their dreams become a reality. It is fundamentally different than asking for a chunk of a company’s marketing budget.
When you consider that, particularly during the early days of Styliff Tech, we were unestablished in this space, it was a major gamble to choose us.
Understanding the power of storytelling and getting people fired up about our journey and the opportunity to collaborate with such an ambitious team is what enabled us to break through in this space.
There are no rules to this game. There are responsibilities, no question, but there is a freedom that inspires me.
We also get the chance to work with deeply talented and passionate people on a daily basis which is such gift.
One hell of an adventure!
It is easy to think of achievements when you think of proud moments but honestly, when I reflect on our journey so far, my proudest moments are of us sticking it out through some really tough times.
The grit we showed as a team to refuse to lie down when the chips are stacked against us is what I am most proud of.
Find out more about Charlie and Lucas' company, Styliff.