Me & My Money: ‘I’ve been buying things online since before web browsers existed’

John O’Neill, Founder and chief executive of Tickets.ie

John O’Neill, founder and chief executive  of Tickets.ie:  “Growing a business involves managing risk and return. In that sense it’s like gambling.” Photograph: David O’Shea

John O’Neill, founder and chief executive of Tickets.ie: “Growing a business involves managing risk and return. In that sense it’s like gambling.” Photograph: David O’Shea

 

Are you a saver or a spender?

I’m a bit of both, really. I’m careful about how I spend money, but if there’s something worth buying I’ll buy it.

Do you shop around for better value?

Yes, definitely. I always try to find better value, but better value does not necessarily mean better price.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

I splashed out on an expensive laptop with a top range spec, including solid state drive, about four years ago. It cost a little over €2,000 at the time, and it’s a fantastic machine that has been around the world and serves me well. It boots up in seconds, and is running as well today as when I first bought it.

Regardless of your client base, you always need to be prudent and wise on spending

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

My shopping tends to be a mixture of both online and local, but my preference is always to support homegrown enterprises where and when I can. I love the internet for its speed and convenience, and I’ve been buying things online since before web browsers existed. I would email a shop with my card details requesting a product (mainly books) and they would send the product to me. No cyber security problems back then.

Do you haggle over prices?

Of course – all the time, with the right opportunity, and sometimes to the embarrassment of those around me.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

My previous company, which specialised in website monitoring and performance, went under during the recession. Our clients included “blue chips” – banks and telecom companies – which before the recession looked like a rock-solid client base. As the credit crunch hit, they cut back on spending on the services that we offered. Regardless of your client base, you always need to be prudent and wise on spending.

Do you invest in shares?

I have invested in shares in listed companies with some limited success. My most recent investment was for some shares in an Irish fintech, because it has a great team behind it. As a company, the best investments have been in enhancing our own team and software products. These investments have had great returns for us.

Cash or card?

Cash normally for anything under twenty quid, and card for anything higher.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?

The last thing I bought was a ticket for the London Underground. I’m currently in London attending the Leaders in Sports business summit and was asked to visit a potential client at their London stadium. We had a great meeting, so it was well worth the £4.90 trip.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase? 

Personally, a deposit on a house. Work-wise, the company was built by ploughing the profits back into the company.

Have you ever lost money?

I used to promote gigs and club nights. Some events did well, others tanked, losing money. The difficulty with promoting gigs is that there is more downside risk than upside, as the artist normally gets a guaranteed minimum fee or a percentage of the profits (whichever is greater). I left the industry and started a ticket company instead.

Focusing on doing the things you love is not only very fulfilling, but quite often it leads to money

Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?

Part of my maths and economics degree was studying gambling and betting markets. Growing a business involves managing risk and return. In that sense it’s like gambling, as you’re always looking for the opportunity that gives the best return on investment.

Is money important to you?

Money is a funny thing. Not having any money makes people unhappy, but having money never seems to make anyone happy. I believe that doing things makes people happy rather than having things. Focusing on doing the things you love is not only very fulfilling, but quite often it leads to money. I’m very lucky that I do something that I love and excel at.

How much money do you have on you now?

I’m currently in London, as I said earlier, so I’ve a mixture of currency on me – €37 and £98.39.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea