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Best of Bootstrapping: How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million

Posted on Friday, May 17th 2019

I am very bullish about market opportunities that are large enough to build sizable businesses but not large enough such that VCs end up funding numerous competing companies. This case study shows you how a niche player with a $150 million TAM is growing nicely without outside financing.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

David Lloyd: I’m from the UK. I was born in London. I spent the first 22 years of my life in London before spending approximately the last 10 years of my life between London and Latin America.

Sramana Mitra: How did you end up connecting with Latin America?

David Lloyd: I always wanted to learn another language. Very few of us speak second languages. I decided to learn another language to keep myself out of my comfort zone. That was the logic behind leaving London and doing many internships overseas which led to living overseas.

Sramana Mitra: Where in Latin America did you end up living?

David Lloyd: I lived in Argentina. I did an internship in Argentina. I learned Spanish there after university.

Sramana Mitra: In Buenos Aires?

David Lloyd: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: I’ve spent a lot of time in Buenos Aires.

David Lloyd: Have you? When?

Sramana Mitra: That was in the late 90’s. I went back in 2007 because I had a client there – Mercado Libre.

David Lloyd: Very interesting. So you saw Argentina both pre and post the 2001 crisis.

Sramana Mitra: Yes, and there seems to be another crisis.

David Lloyd: Yes, very sad.

Sramana Mitra: It seems to be a country that brinks on the edge.

David Lloyd: Yes, lots of booms and busts. The overall trend is, quite shockingly, downhill. The only country, I believe, that has gone from developed to developing.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s come back to your story. Tell me a little bit about when you were coming out of school and when you were entering the professional world. What year was that?

David Lloyd: I studied History at the University College London. I did a postgraduate degree in International Relations at the London School of Economics. After going to South America and learning Spanish, I had a change of heart on the career I wanted to have. Previously, I wanted to work in politics. It was a beautiful experience in South America, but I thought, “If I stay here forever, I’ll be locked in a South America salary scale.”

Now I view it as foolish. I thought, “I need to go back to London and get a real job.” I was speaking to my friends about what job I should get. They all seemed miserable with their jobs. It didn’t matter which sector they were in. They were all pretty much homogenously unhappy with their jobs. I said, “If everybody is unhappy with their jobs, I might as well get a very well-paying job.”

There was very little logic to my thinking really. I applied for lots of very competitive jobs. I applied for lots of multinationals. I applied for lots of investment banks. I ended up getting a well-paying sales and trading job with Merrill Lynch. It was because of my overseas work experience that a history graduate was able to stand out from students with top GPAs. The recruiters loved the fact that I had been outside of my comfort zone.

They loved the fact that I hadn’t just been on the conveyor belt of university. I ended up not liking the job very much. It was ultimately not right for me. That taught me many things. One of them was, don’t go after a job just because it’s well-paying and competitive. What was of interest was the fact that my internship overseas really opened up many professional doors for me and ultimately led me to founding the company I started in 2011, The Intern Group.

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping

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