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Alumni Stories > Alumni Stories > Oliver's Journey to Tech Entrepreneurship

Oliver's Journey to Tech Entrepreneurship

Find our more about successful tech entrepreneur Oliver (2016 Cohort) who set up Compiled, his own social media tool business.

Like many Tanglin Alumni, Oliver has many interests he wanted to pursue, and IT was one of them. He said, “I always had an interest in technology when I was young, but I didn’t fully understand how it could be used in a business context. Since I’ve seen how technology can really make an impact, and often change the way we work or live, it’s definitely been a dream to start a business in this space.”

With his skills and interest, one might expect Oliver to work in one of the more prominent tech companies like Facebook or Amazon, but he chose to strike out on his own instead. Oliver explained, “I have done work for larger tech companies in the past, and I still do, but I personally don’t find it quite as rewarding. When building your own tech product, you’re able to oversee all areas of the business (the product design, customer journey, customer success, etc) and continuously make improvements to these. As a result, you build a real community around the product. It’s being a part of a community like that which excites me because I’m able to hear about how the product has helped a customer to grow their own business, save time in their day, or make their life easier. It’s true that you gain exposure to some of these business functions at larger tech companies, but I think it’s rarely to the same extent.” 

Going into IT

Oliver’s venture into technology started back in Tanglin when he developed an interest in coding. As part of his CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) in Sixth Form, Oliver developed a small online video game and presented it to his peers during a Senior School assembly.

He reminisced, “at that time, I wasn’t too keen on public speaking, but it’s a good example of how you are always encouraged to try new things at Tanglin. After the assembly, it was great to see Year 7s playing the game online!” 

Shortly after graduating from Tanglin at Sixth Form, Oliver had the idea for his current business called Compiled. It allows brands and public figures to share all their online content with a single link. Although it wasn’t his first project, Oliver was thrilled to have found a substantial problem that people had and he wanted to find a way to solve it. 

Working through the speed bumps

Setting up a business on his own is not easy and Oliver learned early on that he had to face a really steep learning curve. He explained, “it’s often said that you have to ‘wear all the hats’ and I think that’s true - there’s nobody else there to cover the marketing, customer support, accounting, etc on top of the actual development. For example, I didn’t focus enough time on marketing and sales at the start, and this led to months with no users at all. After realising this, fast forward to 2022 and there are now over 25,000 registered users on Compiled, including the UK government and well-known brands like DogsOfInstagram.”

Given a choice to do it again, would Oliver have gone down the same path? He said with a smile, “I’d definitely consider funding options available to the business. I had bootstrapped Compiled which means it has never had a funding round or any external investment. The benefit is that there is no pressure from investors but ultimately it means that competitors could get ahead through large cash injections. That said, I have enjoyed the freedom that comes with being self-funded, so it does depend on what makes sense at the time.”

Building a solid foundation

Some say the key to success is building a solid foundation and this often takes place at school. In Oliver’s case, he felt that his teachers at Tanglin always went above and beyond their role. “They really cared about a student’s wider education, and it wasn’t just about ticking the boxes within a syllabus. By the time I was at university, it felt like I’d been prepared well, and I had a good understanding of the modules in my degree. I remember being supported through any particular subjects I found interesting, and co-curricular activities (for me, it was cross country) were always encouraged.”

Now that he has some experience under his belt, what advice does Oliver have for Tanglin alumni or students who want to set up their own business or develop their own app? He said, “I’d encourage them to pursue their own ideas and persevere with them. I had several failed ideas before Compiled, and I definitely still don’t get everything right. It’s easy to focus on success stories, but everyone was in the same position at some point, and it’s important to keep persevering if you fail. I’d also encourage them to focus on the skill that they don’t naturally enjoy (for me it was marketing), because they'll likely avoid that area without realising. Alternatively, I’d recommend that they find somebody with complementary skills to co-find the business with.”


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