Nick Bell, a young rich lister who has made his fortune in the digital marketing space, has gained a new perspective of the Gold Coast.
The Melbourne-based entrepreneur was among a host of entrepreneurs to speak at the second annual Gold Coast Business Week and took the opportunity to engage with the founders of local start-ups and established companies attending the signature Way Ahead event.
Bell, who started his business journey aged 24, is estimated to be worth $170 million.
Two years ago, he sold the domestic arm of his digital marketing agency WME to the ASX-listed Melbourne IT (now known as Arq Group) for $39 million. Since then, he has expanded his interests with a global network of digital agencies that employ a combined staff of 1000.
Despite his business success, Bell doesn’t pretend to know it all. Although he is a regular visitor to south-east Queensland, thanks to a holiday home in Noosa, his participation in Gold Coast Business Week has given him a new perspective of a city on the move. The entrepreneurial drive on the Gold Coast, and the scale of businesses based in the city, caught him by surprise.
“I was surprised at how much business is developing on the Gold Coast,” says Bell.
“There’s definitely a lot happening here, there are massive opportunities, but I didn’t realise how much.”
Now in its second year, Gold Coast Business Week showcases the rising stars of established businesses and innovative start-ups on the Gold Coast. The event draws some of the world’s leading experts in a range of fields to provide insight into the challenges and opportunities of an ever-changing business landscape.
For Bell, engaging with entrepreneurs and learning from their misses and hits is integral to his success.
“I meet entrepreneurs every day and I’m always asking questions,” says Bell.
“I leave my pride at the door to ask them what they would do in this situation or that. If I didn’t do that, I would have made a lot more mistakes.”
The digital marketing genius concedes his first business, an online skincare products distributor that he persisted with for four years, was ‘definitely not successful’.
“I was only making a couple of hundred dollars a week,” he says.
“I actually fell into digital marketing by chance. It was meant to be a side hustle until my skincare business took off, but the marketing business really took off instead.
“I started the business with $350 by cold-calling potential clients from my bedroom. Within a few days, someone sent me a cheque for $3000. I turned over $100,000 in the first month.”
Bell operates five companies in Australia and overseas, including Thailand and Singapore. Each of the companies are very much locally focused, catering to clients in their respective domestic markets.
Their operations are a combination of digital marketing, which involves lead generation for clients, and app development, particularly for the banking sector.
The newest venture involves reputation management which works with online publishers and platforms to remove content that is false or misleading.
Bell’s business started growing rapidly five years ago and internationally two years ago.
It really took off when he took business agility to a new level. Rather than 12-month plans he operates on three-month ‘sprints’.
“When we were doing 12-month plans our growth was quite stagnant, so the three-month plan was an absolute game-changer for us,” he says.
While Bell has no immediate plans for the Gold Coast, his advice is to keep working to retain and attract talent to the city.
“When the talent is here, businesses will come,” he says.