Having “dabbled” in affiliate networking sites with his own web design company from the age of 11, the digital hot shot went on to launch Corby Magazine with co-founder Louis Porter. At 16, he says he did “what any confused young businessperson would do” and applied for the final series of the BBC’s 2012 Young Apprentice show. Starting a publishing venture after being fired on a publishing task might not appear the wisest business decision, a fact which Spooner recognises; “it was questionable to exit the process and launch another publishing company, but that’s what I did” and you have to admire his confidence. Since launching the business in late 2012, initially as a print magazine and now exclusively digital, Magnate has covered interviews with a cross-sector of leading names from Richard Branson and Boris Johnson to Jamal Edwards, rapper Wretch 32 and Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing.
It’s clear that Spooner doesn’t regard his age as a barrier to success, in fact he believes it has helped him to “open more doors than would otherwise be possible”, and his plans for the future are as ambitious as ever. With “new media” a fascination for him, over the next 10 years Spooner wants to be at the “forefront of the media industry” and he believes Magnate will play a key part in that – “Magnate has legs and I see no reason why we won’t still be working on the publication in 10 years”. News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.
In 1978 when I joined my first company, information about how to start companies simply didn’t exist. The first few months of my startups were centered around building the founding team, prototyping the product and raising money.


In hindsight, startups and the venture capital community left out the most important first step any startup ought to be doing – hypothesis testing in front of customers from day one. I’m convinced that starting a company without talking to customers is like throwing your time and money in the street (unless you’re already a domain expert).
This mantra of talking to customers and iterating the product is the basis of the Lean Startup Methodology that Eric Ries has been evangelizing and I’ve been teaching at U.C.
After teaching this for a few years, I’ve discovered that subjects like Lean Startups and Customer Development are best learned experientially rather than solely theoretically. Remember your parents saying “Don’t touch the hot stove!”  What did you do?  I bet you weren’t confused about what hot meant after that. That’s why I make my students spend a lot of time “touching the hot stove” by talking to customers “outside the building” to test their hypotheses.
However, as hard as I emphasize this point to aspiring entrepreneurs, I usually get a call or email from a past student every year asking me to introduce them to my favorite VC’s.  The first questions I ask is “So what did you learn from testing your hypothesis?” and “What did customers think of your prototype?” – two questions I know will be on top of the list that VC’s will ask. At least one-third of the time the response I get is, “Oh that class stuff was real interesting, but we’re too busy building the prototype.
Over a period of three years, the magazine grew to profitability and gained national and local media coverage with Spooner and Porter named by the BBC as the “World’s Youngest Publishers”.


While he felt he “had no chance” of being selected, Spooner was shortlisted from 16,000 applicants to the final 12 and, despite being fired early in the process, rather ironically on a publishing task, Spooner was undeterred – taking the lessons he learned on board to launch London men’s lifestyle magazine Magnate. Spooner says the magazine is already profitable as a result of its ‘freemium’ advertising model and he intends to expand the offering with additional product launches in the pipeline. No internet, no blogs, no books on startups, no entrepreneurship departments in universities, etc.  It took lots of trial and error, learning by experience and resilience through multiple failures. Fundraising isn’t the product.  It’s not a substitute for customer input and understanding.
In 2012, the duo called time on Corby but Spooner was keen to continue on the entrepreneurial path.



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