Whether it was Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington or Virgin mogul Richard Branson — it’s evident that many successful entrepreneurs have experienced tremendous amounts of adversity when setting up their business. And this rang especially true for two-time cancer survivor Jack Mason. “It was a very scary time and I had to go through nine months of chemo and two operations to remove it,” Mason recollects. “After gaining my A Levels, I moved to Manchester to study for my degree but after feeling that something was not quite right, I found out that my cancer had returned.”
But Mason didn’t let it deter his ambitions. Despite the challenges, he is now at the helm of Dreamr, a startup with an annual revenue of over $600,000. “Having cancer shaped my approach to being CEO of a company,” he adds. “Life is too short for anything else and it’s important that we grasp opportunities and follow our dreams wherever we can.” Indeed garnering inner strength can be the toughest challenge at that point. Little did he expect the battle with cancer would be so essential in his entrepreneurial journey. “Although it was an uncertain time, my diagnosis has given me a new perspective when it comes to being bold, taking risks and also when it comes to looking after the wellbeing of my team members,” he declares.
Looking back, while in the midst of dealing with tumours, Mason ensured he developed the tech skills he needed during his student years at Manchester Metropolitan University. And with friend and co-founder Mylo Kaye he created web development company Bamboo. But Mason soon realised where the tech industry was heading. “Smartphones were becoming an intrinsic part of life, so with this in mind, we changed our business name to Dreamr — inspired by the John Lennon song Imagine and immersed ourselves in app development,” he says. In 2014, Kaye and Mason smashed their piggy banks and with their savings they made their Dreamr come true. The two-person team has now progressed to 19 full-time staff and two office dogs.
From sectors such as fashion and fitness to blockchain and augmented reality (AR) — the Manchester-based startup has been responsible for creating a slew of apps, mainly focusing on futuristic technology. “App development seemed to offer endless possibilities to be creative and also draw in aspects of future tech such as artificial intelligence and AR,” the tech-driven entrepreneur says.
Indeed, technology is such a driving force for Mason that he launched Dreamr Ventures which is investing £1m in tech startups over the next five years. In fact, 20% of company profits are used for funding the scheme. Along with the money, Mason is committed to provide operational and branding support to help them scale. “We wanted to use our experience and expertise to really nurture budding app developers and tech innovators and help them to develop to move their businesses forwards,” Mason says. “Since [the scheme] launched earlier this year, we have been hugely impressed by the quality and innovation from the startups that we have seen.” After months of judging many applications, he is soon to reveal the first Ventures partner to receive backing but did tease the app uses blockchain to provide on-demand curated videos, though was tight-lipped about the company’s name.
Looking at Mason’s CSR initiatives, it’s fair to say his philanthropic spirit is second to none. His passion for tech is not limited to assisting would-be entrepreneurs. Mason realises the importance of continuously improving skills and thinks the time is ripe for ensuring tech becomes a part of every millennial. “We do lots of outreach with local universities, colleges and schools to highlight the benefits of a tech career to students,” he explains.
Apart from his external charitable activities, his own company culture is a testament to his giving back principles. For him it’s important his employees “enjoy their jobs, feel passionate about company values, continue their professional development and also take time out to nurture their own passions.” With this goal in mind he introduced Pledge 10%, an initiative where workers are to spend 10% of their working hours volunteering for projects they’re devoted to. Additionally, encouraging his employees to attend wework summer camps and completing Tough Mudder with them are just a few examples which Mason has led by. Apart from fun-filled activities, all team members are expected to dedicate time every month to hone their skills in technology – a win-win for them and the company. “After all, we believe in investing in people,” he says.
And his inclusive attitude is reflected in his management. After taking the reins as CEO in January 2018, Mason has made it his fundamental goal to leave his mark by “evolving the core mission and overall vision.” The main lessons the business world has already taught him is that micro-managing is a deterrent for every entrepreneur. He also ensures his workers’ advice is taken seriously and acted upon. “I believe in being open to suggestions from my fellow Dreamrs and I have quickly implemented any creative or strategic ideas which I feel will boost morale, happiness or help to make our systems slicker and more efficient,” he details.
Looking forward, Mason plans to expand beyond app development to incorporate marketing into his services and he is bullish about achieving it by summer 2019. As part of the Northern Powerhouse, he aims to boost operations by venturing into Leeds and Newcastle in the near future. If there’s anything Mason displays, it’s ambition and the ability to see the big picture – given that Manchester has been responsible for spawning five unicorns already, it’ll be unsurprising if Dreamr was to be the next in line.