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From dropout to CEO: the 'Happy Sexy Millionaire' tells his story

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By Jane Witherspoon
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From dropout to CEO: the 'Happy Sexy Millionaire' tells his story
Copyright  euronews   -   Credit: Dubai

Steven Bartlett was just 23 years old when he became a millionaire having started the social media marketing agency Social Chain in his bedroom. He left the business in 2020 and it’s now valued at around €350m, with his personal wealth estimated to be in the region of €60m.

He went on to write his bestselling book, Happy Sexy Millionaire, appear as the youngest dragon on the BBC television series Dragon’s Den and now hosts Europe’s number one podcast on Spotify, The Diary of a CEO.

...I went through some hard times in that journey.

The son of a Nigerian mother and British father, Bartlett struggled at school. He was expelled but went off to university where he thought “things would be different”. He dropped out after one lecture. “My parents very much sort of disowned me because wasn't following the conventional path my brothers and sisters had followed in going to university. And I went through some hard times in that journey,” he told Euronews.

He says that his passion for business was never properly recognised throughout his formative years. “I could have got there faster if I had a higher degree of conviction, and the infrastructure around me, when I was 16, had noticed… But the system isn't designed to do that and systems heavily dictate outcomes,” he says.

You can say that it's awful, you don't like it, whatever. But my right is to live on my terms.

Speaking to Euronews at Dubai Opera House where he was hosting an evening ‘Steven Bartlett and Guests’, he discussed his number one podcast The Diary of a CEO. He describes it as “the thing that gives me the most joy” firing back at recent criticism that he uses it as a space to platform people. “I've said about expression and the importance of,,,I’m going to do what I want to do, right? That is my right, and your right as a listener is to not listen. You can write in the comment section below. You can say that it's awful, you don't like it, whatever. But my right is to live on my terms.”

Since his success he’s repaired the relationship with his family. “What you come to learn about your family is you actually both want the same thing. You just have a disagreement about the pathway to getting it. So, my mother wanted me to be happy and safe and successful. She thought the pathway to getting there was university, and I thought it was pursuing myself and my dreams.”

All the unknown unknowns were solved and it was pivotal.

He has some advice for budding entrepreneurs and says, “the most important thing I came to learn about business is that your outcomes are actually more correlated to how good you are hiring than you'll ever know... As a young entrepreneur, you kind of think it's about you or your talent... And then I remember that the moment in my business where we hired really exceptional people and it changed everything. I had no stress, they knew things I didn't know that I didn't know. All the unknown unknowns were solved and it was pivotal.”