One of the UK’s richest entrepreneurs, Simon Nixon, founder of Moneysupermarket.com talks to Wirral life in an exclusive interview.
Simon went to school in Flint, Wales and lived in Chester until recently. At the age of 20, he dropped out of his accountancy degree at Nottingham University, and in 1999 co-founded the website MoneySuperMarket.com. In 2016, he sold his last shares in it making him a billionaire.
He now runs a travel website, www.SimonEscapes.com, which offers his personal collection of luxury holiday homes for private rental. The collection includes luxury homes located in his favourite places: Chipping Campden in the heart of The Cotswolds; Cornwall’s Booby’s Bay; the hillside town of Deia in Mallorca; the shores of Lake Windermere; the Platinum Coast of Barbados and Malibu West Coast USA.
You have achieved so much, what has been key to your success?
Drive and perseverance which I feel are essential qualities for any entrepreneur to be successful – as you will receive many setbacks! Also, I was lucky to be an ‘outlier’. I was in the right time and the right place to take advantage of the internet boom in early 2000.
Before coming up with the idea of Moneysupermarket, did you consider any other business ventures?
No, Moneysupermarket was the organic progression of a business I was already running. It was a mortgage sourcing software product which we had developed for mortgage brokers. When the internet took off in the early 2000(s) I made our offering consumer friendly and provided consumers with the online tool to compare the prices of every mortgage in the market.
Why do you think Moneysupermarket was so successful?
It was definitely down to being at the right place at the right time – this provided us with first mover advantage. We recruited a high calibre executive team who were great at executing. We were very focused and kept pushing the boundaries by constant innovation. The internet moves at such a pace – if you don’t innovate you are dead.
In 2016, you sold your last shares in Moneysupermarket, did you think you had gone as far as you could?
Personally I wanted a new challenge. I now head a team of business analysts that effectively help me run my own private hedge fund. We invest in businesses and property in varying sectors and geographies spread all over the world. Simonescapes.com is my luxury holiday home rental business and is just a small cog in the overall portfolio. We offer luxury houses in some of the UK’s prime locations including Lake Windermere, Booby’s Bay in Cornwall and Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. We also have a villa in Deia, Mallorca, two beach houses in Malibu and have just completed our latest project in Barbados opening a stunning five bedroom beach house on the island’s West Coast.
Having moved from financial services to the luxury leisure industry with stunning luxury homes in the UK and around the world, do you intend to extend your property portfolio and if so, where will your next acquisition be?
We have grown the portfolio rapidly over the last few years and are now pausing for breath. Our Barbados and Malibu properties have all opened in the last 12 months!
Have you had any famous or notable persons stay at your luxury homes?
Many premiership footballers, tennis players and TV celebrities have stayed in our properties. Celebrity chefs have filmed their shows from our kitchens to capture the sea or lake views! They book with us as they like to retain their privacy, so we don’t like to mention names.
Who are your most inspirational business icons?
It used to be people like Richard Branson. Now it’s more Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page. These are also all outliers – in that they were in the right place at the right time. However, they have built world conquering businesses in the space of very few years. The scary thing is these businesses, although now giants, were just start-ups at the beginning.
You declined an invitation to be a Dragon on the Dragon’s Den TV programme, why was that?
I just declined an audition a few years ago. It was too much of a commitment at that time.
What is your opinion of Brexit?
Like many entrepreneurs we like to be in control of our destiny. My fundamental issue with being part of the European Union is that the rules and regulations have to fit so many diverse countries with vastly differing economies and cultures. How could this be optimal for the UK? As the second largest economy in Europe, I think we can be more nimble and entrepreneurial if we are in charge of our own destiny – obviously we want to maintain close ties to Europe – we need each other for trade!
Your normal routine includes a lot of travel and you are known to use budget airlines, private jets and helicopters. Do you enjoy the actual journey and what is your favourite way to travel?
I don’t like travel – it’s tiring, but it’s worth it to reach my favourite destinations. I spend most of my time in California, Mallorca, Jersey and three months in London. It’s a good combination – they complement each other well.
Do you still own your home in Chester?
I didn’t keep my home in Chester, I just wasn’t able to use it enough. When home I prefer to stay with family there.
When you’re in Chester, do you like to eat in or out?
We always eat out in Chester and there are some great new restaurants like The Chefs Table, Sticky Walnut and Joseph Benjamins.
Have you ever spent any time on the Wirral, what do you think of it?
I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Wirral but I think it’s beautiful – especially around Parkgate and Caldy.
Maintaining a healthy life-style is important to you. Do you have a strict fitness routine?
My fitness regime is dictated by where I am. In LA its beach walks and lots of yoga. In the UK and Jersey its more tennis, racket ball, Pilates and country/beach walks.
Apart from your luxury homes, what’s your most expensive purchase?
A Porsche 918. But I am told it has risen $500,000 since I bought it a few years ago.
Do you collect anything?
I collect art, I’m becoming more and more of an avid collector. I also collect watches but I’ve not made any additions for a while. I used to collect fine wine but I stopped drinking 3 years ago.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I sometimes watch box sets that I stream. I recently enjoyed Big Little Lies! I will also occasionally eat a super high quality pizza in Gjelina, Venice (California) – they are amazing! But only 2 pieces max!
When you’re not working what do you like to do to relax?
Exercise – mostly everything I’ve already mentioned above plus cycling and paddle boarding in Jersey. Eating in great restaurants, movies, listening to audiobooks. I also love yoga and meditation. I have found these two disciplines a godsend and couldn’t do without them now!
What do you hope to be doing in 10 years’ time?
I hope to be pretty much doing what I’m doing now – which is whatever I want to do!!