InterviewsFast growthFinTech

Like many entrepreneurs, Warren Whitfield’s schooldays involved buying and selling sweets for a profit in the playground.

He also operated fantasy football leagues for friends, alongside another typical childhood venture.

“My favourite one from this time was selling paper rounds – I’d pick up paper rounds from local newsagents, then enlist some of the other kids to operate them for less than I was being paid,” he tells TechBlast. “I think, looking back, these formative experiences are what shaped my interest in business.

“I knew very early that school just wasn’t for me, and struggled with a classroom environment. I did enjoy my social time, however, and school was my first experience with making money.”

Whitfield has since built a business portfolio that spans real estate, events and technology. Now managing director of payment service provider Modern World Business Solutions, he believes his newly launched comparison platform, The Payments Market, could be a £100m business within five years.

“I left school at 16 and trained as an upholsterer for a few years before starting my own upholstery business at 19, which gradually evolved into a furniture sales business. I realised that if I ever wanted to get anywhere in life it would be working for myself, as I didn’t enjoy being told what I could or couldn’t do,” he recalls. 

“This, and the fact that I had a very different way of looking at things, and no filter for risk have all really contributed to my path, and have been central to how I’ve made business decisions.”

He began his real estate portfolio at the relatively young age of 24. “I purchased several properties. Mortgage companies at this time gave me drawdown facilities, allowing me to draw equity as and when I needed it, and with property prices rising fast, I was able to draw equity out after the first year and use it to invest in additional properties,” he explains.

“In 2008 my other business came crashing down due to the banking crisis, and I was able to leverage this growth in property prices to stay afloat.”

He says the key business lessons he took from his first enterprise were that “failure is only feedback and persistence is the most valuable skillset an entrepreneur can have”. 

“Sometimes in business the unexpected can happen, and persistence and resilience are the only ways to overcome this. I’ve weathered the 2008 recession and then the pandemic in 2020 – without persistence, I would have quit long ago.”

Messi business

Then came bubble football, co-founding Xtreme Events in 2013 – which even attracted the world’s most famous footballer.

“A friend of mine, Dan, was the founder of Xtreme Soccer, a bubble football company. I used to enjoy helping him out on events and travelled all over the country together,” he recounts.

“With us both being ideas people, we were constantly brainstorming new ideas for the business, and when his business partner emigrated to Canada, he asked me if I was interested in helping him full time. 

“Recognising the huge potential in the business, we set about changing the brand and growing it into Xtreme Events. I had a brilliant time doing just this for the next five or six years, with highlights including having personalities like Lionel Messi and KSI attend some of our events.”

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However there were always going to be limits on that business, unlike FinTech.

I’ve always wanted to build a £100 million-plus business, and enjoy the freedom that delivers,” says Whitfield. “While the events sector was brilliant fun, it would never have allowed me to do that, so I moved to a sector with no market cap, but plenty of potential for new ideas. 

“I’ve found that within the payments sector, and believe the ideas I have could genuinely change the industry.”

Unicorn potential?

He says Modern World Business Solutions, which sells payment terminals and gateways to suit merchants, is an agnostic platform which “fits the narrative of any type of merchant we work with”. 

“We can really understand both the customer and their unique pain points, and I think that is something that is too often overlooked in the sector, and it’s something that we can address and change through technology,” he says.

However Whitfield believes his recently launched platform The Payments Market could be that £100m business he craves.

It has all of the hallmarks of a unicorn, in my opinion,” he says.Before we launched The Payments Market, there was no genuine comparison website for payments that actually understands your particular payment profile and delivers a selection of results from multiple banks. 

“Most will just capture the data and aggregate it as a lead to six or seven providers who will proceed to bombard you with phone calls. Our platform is changing that. It allows our users to search, pick and then apply directly on the site.”

He claims FinTechs have increased turnover from £500,000 to £3m since COVID’s lockdowns. “It’s been an incredible journey in such a short span of time, and I think the next five years will be about growing our direct channels and making The Payments Market the leading tool for SMEs who are looking to compare payment providers. 

“We’ve progressed so quickly that I feel our £100m goal is within reach if we keep delivering on our objectives as a team.”

Looking back, is there anything he would have done differently?

“I’m a great believer in everything happening for a reason, so while there’s quite a few small things I might have acted on quicker – hiring this person sooner or realising that was a bad deal faster – as a whole I think everything contributes to your journey. 

“I never get too high, but I’m also careful to never get too low, either.”

‘Deepen roots, branch out then remove the deadwood’