Perpetual motion: The forces driving Adam Norris

03 July 2023

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From helping propel Hargreaves Lansdown into the UK’s biggest pension company, to guiding his son, Lando Norris, to Formula 1 success, Adam Norris’ drive for success shows no signs of slowing down. He talks to us about his new e-scooter venture, Pure, and explains why his unrelenting work ethic and global perspective separate him from many other entrepreneurs.

Can you tell us what entrepreneurial spirit means to you?

Adam Norris (AN): Every entrepreneur is different which makes comparisons hard. That said, I think I’m very different to many UK-based entrepreneurs because I judge myself against Silicon Valley rather than my UK peers. It’s something I’ve done from a very young age.

When you consider how small the UK is on the global map, it makes it a tiny universe to hold yourself up against. It’s a bit like saying you’re the most successful ballet dancer on your street, or the most successful tennis player at your club. I find it interesting how many people have a small view. 

My perspective has always been global. Early on, I recall telling my son that he doesn’t just want to be the British (driving) champion, but that being world champion is the goal.

How formative were the early years in your career?

AN: Without a shadow of a doubt, the time I spent with Hargreaves Lansdown was invaluable. It was a great place to undertake my ‘apprenticeship’ and learn about running businesses, profitability, accounting and managing people. I felt the founders were great guys to learn from. I picked up the best bits from them that I could go on and use in my life.

Do you think your entrepreneurial spirit will ever die down?

AN: I can’t see why it would as there are a lot of people who are still very successful in their eighties, and I realised I still have a long time to be involved in business. Even now I have maybe another 20 or 30 years.

So, while I achieved financial success at a very young age, I realised that I get more pleasure from building something than I do from spending money. I enjoy building things and I enjoy solving problems, and I wanted to put that problem-solving skill towards helping our planet. For me, the best way I can do this is by building a global business. With scale and profitability, you can then potentially have a really big positive impact, more so than if you were to make a simple small donation.

Your new e-scooter business, Pure, is built around solving a massive global challenge – the pollution, congestion inefficiencies and costs associated with city travel. Has this always been your end game?

AN: The end game is to build a global business that’s good for the planet. Global warming is such a big problem facing society and urban transport is a big contributor to it. I’ve historically been very good at spotting future trends and so what I was looking for as an investor, was an opportunity that crosses over between an upcoming new technology and old-world challenges – such as congestion and pollution, but also storage and parking. These are fundamental problems.

What role could e-scooters play?

AN: E-scooters represent a new, smaller form of transport, which is low cost, environmentally friendly versus a car, easy to store and will, in my view, ultimately become a product that everybody on the planet owns – in the same way that mobile phones have become ubiquitous.

The industry is still in its infancy, the e-scooters in development are becoming lighter, more convenient, smaller and safer. Users won’t have to worry about yearlong waiting lists to store bikes at their local train station, they can pop an e-scooter in their backpacks and bring them along.

You’ve been quite involved in trying to change e-scooter legislation and attitudes in the UK. How is this progressing?

AN: We’re a global business so we looked at two sides. One was to try and help the UK government introduce appropriate legislation and safety measures.

But we also had to acknowledge that the potential for growth was greater outside of the UK, and so we have been building our business internationally. Cities with congestion are just one of the factors we consider, but we also look at those with an existing cycling infrastructure that can be leveraged. In Europe, Barcelona has a much better cycling infrastructure than Madrid, for example. Actually, nearly every city worldwide is increasing the number of cycle lanes.

At present, we’re already in France, Spain and Belgium, and have just signed contracts for Australia and Finland, we’re also having really good conversations in the US.

Surprisingly, we are seeing less uptake in developing countries. In the Western world, it is normal to have a car but in lower-income countries, people aspire to have a car before they consider other alternatives.

You must be incredibly driven to continue to take on new entrepreneurial projects. What is the secret to business longevity?

AN: Loving what you do is really important. My son won’t mind me using this analogy, he doesn’t exactly enjoy going to the gym, but he loves racing cars, and he knows that he needs to go to the gym in order to be a top Formula 1 driver.

There are certain things you have to do every day which maybe you don’t always enjoy. There are definitely days when I think I could be sitting on a beach drinking champagne. Yet, actually, I know if I was sitting on that beach drinking champagne, I would be wishing I was doing something more interesting. I love the challenge, I love solving problems, I wouldn’t choose to do anything else.

Do you think your upbringing has played a part?

AN: I think everything goes back to work ethic. My father is a farmer, so growing up I worked Saturdays and Sundays because we had livestock and I even worked on Christmas Day. I think that’s different to many people.

Most people don’t want to work on weekends – to sacrifice their time. But to me, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because I genuinely enjoy it and so I generally work every day, even on the weekends.

If you’re trying to do something exceptional, you can’t operate on a normal working week and this willingness to go the extra mile is normal for very successful people

I think that’s the difference between being just an entrepreneur, and being a successful entrepreneur. The early stages are quite hard and you’re making mistakes and still learning. You have to put the time in to make sure your team gets better, to gain more market share and for your systems to work

Finally, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

AN: I always say this is a difficult question, because the advice that would be right for me, may not be the right advice for somebody else.

Lots of people ask me if they should trust their gut instincts. I’m highly dyslexic and I was bottom of the year at school, but I think that dyslexia gave me strong pattern recognition skills and the ability to process lots of information subconsciously, meaning my gut instincts are really, really good. So my advice to my younger self would be to trust my instincts, be more ambitious and do what I think is right rather than what society leads me to believe is right.


Inspired magazine

Featuring incredible insights and experiences of inspirational people from around the world, we explore some of the ultra-high net worth interests and passions that are thrilling and fascinating in equal measure. 

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