HE has built his career from an online football website in his bedroom to becoming the CEO of a highly-successful investment service.
From small beginnings and little academic promise, Chris Phillips has become an inspiration and serial entrepreneur, taking Fareham-based Just Develop It (JDi) to new heights.
At the age of 32, he is a multi-millionaire, a father and a highly-intelligent and respected businessman.
He has built the business from scratch, and after 16 years of working, has already accumulated an annual worth surpassing many Premier League footballers and his company’s new headquarters is akin to something you’d see at Google
When asked what’s his secret, he said: ‘I just never stop.
‘I am just utterly relentless in what I want to do and what I want to invest in. I see a business that catches my eye, I see the talent in other people, learn to trust them and then they take it from there.
‘It is very hard for me to switch off and that means every working day can be intense for me as I will never stop thinking about routes I can take Just Develop It or a business that I want to work with.’
Chris, who is dyslexic, left school without any GCSE’s or A-levels. At the age of 14, he was already looking for ways to make money and set up an online football website, providing daily updates on scores.
He said: ‘I was paying £20 a month for someone to look after the site but then I started thinking, why don’t I get someone to pay me £20 to use a site.’
This logic led him to setting up website design company Dot5Hosting in Waterlooville which quickly ‘snowballed’.
Inside two years, the 18-year-old from Denmead, had 16 members of staff working for him and subsequently sold it to American company iPowerWeb on 2003.
His quick success led to a move over to Phoenix, Arizona where he was taught how to iron out discrepancies in his business model.
He tried a few more businesses out, such as creating an artificial chatbot. None stayed around for long but in 2008, Chris struck gold after founding Just Develop It – an investment company catered towards looking at businesses and pushing them forwards, bringing in bigger profits for both them and JDi.
Brooke Bryan and Nick Baker, long-time friends with Chris who had worked on various businesses with him, were brought in to handle technology and marketing respectively.
Following a run of investments and successes, JDi pushed on and the millions began to tumble in.
Describing the essence of the business, Chris said: ‘We use our funds to place investment in certain businesses. This can be any kind of business, ran by any sort of person. We help them with their cash flow and grow them by streamlining the business and pushing forward on marketing.’
A range of Portsmouth-based businesses have seen investment from JDi, notably Mutiny Festival, The Astoria, Kassia and Red Lounge. But this doesn’t extend to just leisure companies or food restaurants.
Cloud-based business platform Fortifi, Bishops Waltham-based letting agents Bishops Estates, Skylark Golf & Country Club in Whiteley and private aviation operator Xclusive Jets have all seen investment from JDi.
In total, JDi has more than 35 full-time employees and more than 100 across its investment portfolio.
So how does Chris filter through which businesses and start-ups are worth investing in?
For starters, JDi have an advisory rule to invest in businesses within 20 minutes of their HQ in Segensworth.
He said: ‘I don’t believe in micro-managing everyone. For me, I have good people around me who I trust completely and they will be able to make decisions if I can’t. They also know what we are looking for which is mainly about the people behind the business.
‘You learn a lot from seeing the people who are behind the businesses and seeing if they are going to fit in with how we operate and if we would be able to trust them. That is a big thing for me.’
While Chris is no stranger to wealth – himself having been placed in the top 24 richest people aged 30 or under in the UK last year – he is not one to flaunt it or let it influence his way of life.
Chris – who casually wears a shirt and shorts in the office – explains: ‘If I have a meeting with someone and they come in flaunting their wealth in their clothes and the way they talk about themselves, I am not impressed.
‘I would not care if the numbers add up, for me it is about the person, that is the most important part of any investment.’
The group’s headquarters is based just off Junction 9 of the M27 in Barnes Wallis Road, Segensworth, just across the street from their old office.
Only opened earlier this summer, it is complete with glass office rooms right next to lounge chairs, a small library, snooker table. a kitchen with ping-pong tables, and a basketball court.
The logic is the work–and–play motive adopted by Google and Apple but also to show that brains don’t switch off when you leave your desk and that work conversations can prove just as stimulating when sat in a more comfortable chair.
Explaining his vision for the new £6m headquarters, Chris said: ‘I went to visit Google and loved the layout of what they had for their employees. It was open-plan and you could see conversations happening everywhere.
‘I like the fact that ours is now so friendly for people, where they can relax in the work environment and like where they come to work.’
Each day, workers take breaks playing snooker, shooting hoops by the car park and getting their lunch delivered by Skylark.
What’s the aim of JDi for Chris, now that it has reached significant heights already.
He explains: ‘We want to continue to invest and grow companies in the area. Our plans are always to continue to expand what we do and push our businesses on. We are meeting with potential investments on a daily basis and always keen to scope out talented businesses and start-ups.’
Would Chris like to see the business become a £1bn company?
‘That could be a target. We are some way away from there but we could indeed grow to that extent.’