Inspirational Woman: Alex Farrell | Co-Founder of Gift Wink

Alex Farrell

Alex Farrell, is a serial entrepreneur and a Co-Founder of Gift Wink.

Alex was one of the early adopters of the web when she launched The IT Job Board in 1999. She grew it to become the largest tech careers platform in Europe and sold it to Dice, an NYSE listed company, in 2014. She launched Gift Wink because she kept forgetting her nieces birthday (and now she has no excuse).

Alex considers the gifting sector ripe for an overhaul and thinks a combination of technology and data will ensure the perfect gift is one click away. Alex is an active angel investor in the tech and digital space and is a NED of Source Breaker, an HR tech start-up. She passionately believes there should be more women in tech and mentors a number of different female founders in the tech sector. She has an eight-year-old son, lives in London and is addicted to spin classes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I studied law but very quickly realised that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, so I started my career in sales. One of my early jobs was selling advertising in the computer trade press which I loved. However, this sector was disrupted pretty much overnight in the late nineties when the internet took off commercially and tech professionals started looking for jobs online instead of in magazines.

What could have been a disaster actually turned into an opportunity, as that’s when I launched my own tech careers platform called The IT Job Board, which was the making of my career in the digital space. We grew it to become the biggest tech careers site in Europe, with offices in London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and in 2014 I successfully sold the business to Dice, a NYSE listed business.

I started Gift Wink soon after as I felt that the gifting industry was ready for a technological overhaul. Our mission is to match the perfect gift to all gift buyers and our platform does that by feeding relationship and birthday data into a smart algorithm. My day to day role involves a lot of product development to optimise the website. We are genuinely passionate about using technology to delight our customers and find them the perfect gift, every single time.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! And I’m not sure if I did, it would have been better. I have had some very lucky opportunities come my way, for which I am very thankful for. I was in the right place at the right time when the internet first became commercially mainstream and I happened to be in an industry where the first technology platforms were built and used. I don’t think I could have planned for that.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

I tried to sell my tech careers business in 2008 and spent nine months on due diligence before the world fell apart with the global economic crisis. I didn’t get the deal done and it took me five more years to weather the storm and build it back up so that it was ready to sell again. It was tough but everyone went through that crisis together. Many businesses didn’t make it out the other side but thankfully we did and I had a great team that I would credit with that.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

My first boss Russell Clements was an enormous inspiration. He backed me from day one and continues to support me even now, as he was an early investor in Gift Wink. He has achieved an incredible amount in his career, taking a startup through to a FTSE250 plc, yet he has always had time to support me. I would say that he completely shaped the person I am at work, and I would absolutely not be here without him.

I have formally mentored a number of people over the years, mainly women, which I really enjoy and get huge amounts out of . Right now, I’m really busy with Gift Wink as we are still at such an early stage, but I am pretty active in the tech startup community in London and I meet women on a regular basis to help them, often advising on fundraising at an early stage.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Cheaper childcare. Much much cheaper childcare.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Just go for it. There has never been a better time to start a business, with the tax breaks for investment and tech becoming cheaper and more accessible. Plus, be obsessive about the data – it never lies!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Taking a startup through to a successful exit was pretty cool.

I’m also really delighted to have seen a number of weddings and babies happen as a result of having great people and a great culture in my last business!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to revolutionise the way people buy gifts. It’s a big challenge but I think the tech and data can get us there. I would also like to crack the US. I’ve only ever built European businesses before so it’s a new one to have a go at.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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