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Successful entrepreneurs come from all walks of life – just ask Sam Burgess.

The proud Mancunian left home aged 16 to join the Army with just two GCSEs to his name and a fire in his belly.

“I was seeking my fame and fortune – and found neither!” he jokes to TechBlast. “At that time I was bags of energy and zero desire to spend any longer sitting at a desk. I needed to run around a field, digging massive holes.”

Burgess – not to be confused with his namesake, the England dual-code rugby legend – honed his skills around engineering support systems while travelling the world as a team leader with the Royal Engineers. Coming out after nine years, he spent another three working with non-governmental organisation Mines Advisory Group in former conflict zones including Sudan, Congo and Somalia.

“I joined the Army when I was 16 – it was a huge part of my life and to not have it any more left an empty gap. Lots of guys really struggle with it,” Burgess, now 43, confides when I mention a friend of mine who struggled to adapt to ‘civvy street’ and opted to rejoin.

He continues: “When I was at MAG, there were lots of ex-military guys there: while I wasn’t wearing a green uniform, it was still a very military environment, so it was easy to deal with. When I left to work as a consultant, that’s when I realised I was a full-on civvy.

“I just felt like I didn’t have anything in common with anybody I was working with. So I rejoined the reserves.”


Now out of the reserves, he is putting all his energy into building SamsonVT, a star of our sister website BusinessCloud’s recent FactoryTech 50 ranking.

“People talk about social mobility and the Army – I’m living proof that it does give you that confidence,” he says. “I was able to educate myself through the military system; I got good leadership skills. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that experience.”

SamsonVT – which Burgess believes could be Manchester’s next unicorn – is targeting a $400 billion market with its digital after sales and workflow instructions platform for manufacturers.

“Wherever we were in the world with the Army and MAG, when things broke we would blame the mechanics. But in most cases, it wasn’t their fault,” says Burgess. “It was down to this industry standard, this void between the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the user. 

“That’s the same in aerospace, automotive, plant, machinery… you name it.”

A conversation over a beer in a Welsh pub with friend Ed Brunyee, then a corporate finance adviser specialising in cloud technology at Deloitte, sparked the idea for using immersive tech to solve this problem on a global scale – and SamsonVT was born in 2017.

Burgess says both customers and manufacturers are crying out for digital product catalogues and repair instructions, whether it be for a lawnmower or sports car.

Imposter syndrome

On his co-founder, he says: “Ed went to a private school and university. In the early days, if you sat us down next to each other and we both started talking, people would gravitate more towards Ed because he’s got the voice that sounds like he’s been educated. 

“I suffered from imposter syndrome until an old Army friend of mine gave me a pep talk: he told me ‘it’s impossible to be an imposter because nobody knows as much about your experiences as you do’.

“It was so obvious. I’m not trying to explain something I don’t know anything about: all I’m doing is relaying stories, the experiences I’ve dealt with. And it just so happens I’ve got lots of them – ‘from my perspective and experience, this is what works’.

“The impostor syndrome just sort of drifted away. I’m a fairly confident guy anyway: I’m highly driven, very competitive. You mix all that together and there’s a budding entrepreneur there!”

Entrepreneurs must have ‘true passion’ for tech


SamsonVT has been backed by funding from an unnamed angel investor, a £400,000 crowdfunding round on Seedrs, an Innovate UK grant and, at the start of this year, a $5.1m VC seed funding round.

With 20+ customers across several industries – including global businesses Lotus, RS Components and Norton Motorcycles – headcount recently reached 40, up from 15 last year, while the startup has opened a European Centre of Technology in Poland. The vast US market is on its radar.

Commit and persevere

Asked for tips for fellow budding entrepreneurs, Burgess answers: “First of all, commitment. 

“When I was in the Army, I did a lot of parachuting. They talk about a positive exit or positive step: when you leave the aircraft, despite the terrifying feelings, you need to have the ability to commit.

“If you hesitate when you’re leaving the plane, you’re going to set yourself up for something to potentially go wrong; whereas if you fully commit and believe that it will work, you’ll have a chance of success. I’ve carried that little mantra with me all the way through.

“The other thing is perseverance. There are times when you think you’ll never get past a certain milestone but, if you do whatever it takes, you’ll make it happen.”

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