Getting to know you: Paul Toon

What do you currently do?
I am CEO and Co-founder of Elevate, an online property marketplace. We’re making it easier to invest in or buy property, in addition to making home ownership more flexible. Our marketplace enables people to access attractive buy-to-let opportunities across the UK from just £100, without the hassle of being a landlord and with the opportunity to trade in and out of property deals at the click of a button.

What is your inspiration in business?
I am passionate about innovation and how it can be used to improve peoples’ lives. Prior to setting up Elevate, I managed venture capital funds and was fortunate to have the chance to invest in a number of cutting edge biotech and technology companies across Europe. One of the companies I backed is about to have its product approved for the treatment of melanoma and has already saved many lives in clinical trials, which has been very fulfilling to see. I’m excited about the chance to change the property market for the better using similar technology to that used by stock exchanges. Property is far harder to own and as an asset, far more more illiquid than it should be. We’re building a trading environment and innovative products to bring some much-needed solutions.

Who do you admire?
I admire people who are game-changers in their environment and who have had to go through considerable adversity to achieve their goals. One example is Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who faced strong opposition from his Board and was ousted for a period when product sales dipped. When he returned, he introduced a series of new concepts which radically altered and impoved the music and mobile phone industries.

Looking back would you have done things differently?
We built our technology platform for both property and business finance, which meant delaying our time to market. We prioritised property as we got closer to launch, as the sector was less well served and there was evidence of much greater demand from customers. With hindsight, I’m not sure we would have done things differently, but it was important to recognise what the market wanted and needed the most, and to make appropriate changes to deliver that.

What defines your way of doing business?
We try to listen to our customers as much as possible and act on their input in order to improve user experience on the platform. We strive to innovate with our products, to provide genuinely useful solutions.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Firstly, research your market very thoroughly, talk to customers to shape your product and offering before committing a lot of money to it. Secondly, get the right people on board to help you execute. The quality of your team will determine how quickly you launch and how successfully you scale up. Thirdly, commit to providing the best possible customer experience at all times with good communication and high operational standards.