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Joe Saumarez Smith (OH 84) - Orginality
13/12/2016
Betting odds and racehorses are not usual parts of the prep school curriculum unless of course you are being taught fractions by Mr Fitzmaurice. For one former pupil, Joe Saumarez Smith (OH 84), Mr Fitzmaurice’s weekly betting challenge based on the races proved to be a very formative part of his education. It left him with a lifelong passion for horseracing and a hugely successful career as an entrepreneur and consultant to the betting industry.

It all starts at The Hall. At 11 years old, Joe worked out that he could stock up with sweets as he travelled to school and then sell them on to his classmates. He soon negotiated a wholesale deal with the sweet shop owner and persuaded his class teacher to issue him with a ‘special sweet license’ in return for supplying him with diabetic sweets at cost price. At the height of this enterprise, Joe was selling over 1,000 sherbet dib-dabs and 1,000 cola bottles a day, making a penny profit on each one (you can do the maths). It all came crashing down when the Headmaster (Mr Heazell) discovered a desk full of dib-dabs, and a number of very hyper active boys. Joe and the form teacher were called to account.

Joe went on to Winchester and from there to Bristol University to study politics. His first move was to visit the statistics department to find a mathematician interested in horseracing. They worked on a statistical approach to betting odds but their frequent visits to Bath, Cheltenham and Worcester racecourses do not appear to have detracted from his studies. Joe graduated with a 1st in Politics and then quickly found his feet as a journalist. He spent five years on Fleet Street and was the education correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph and deputy political editor for The Sunday Express.

He continues to write regularly for the press but left his professional job as a journalist in 1999 to go and study for an MBA in the USA. How did he finance his studies? Well, with an accumulator bet on the first round of the Wimbledon Tennis tournament, backing eight players with form on grass against those with form on clay (simple , but do not try this at home!). His winnings paid for two years at business school.

His first investment was as the co-founder and chief executive of Schoolsnet, an online education company which he sold in 2001. He then founded Sports Gaming, a management consultancy to the gaming industry and has worked as a consultant to some of the leading gambling companies in the world.

Joe is now a serial entrepreneur and has invested in over 45 start-up companies which range from the film’ Private Peaceful’ to premium cycling clothing retailer, Rapha. Cycling is another passion.

His latest venture is Bede Gaming, a developer of gaming platforms used by online and land based gaming operators. It is quite a step up from his first experience learning programming at The Hall on the Apple 2E computer in the tiny room next to the library. As a former winner of the Sunday Times Young Computer Brain of the Year,

Joe thinks that all our current pupils should learn how to code even if it is just to understand how coding can be used. And what does he consider are his greatest achievements?

• Building companies that others can take on and grow
• Paying for an MBA with one bet
• Being appointed as a non-executive director of the British Horse-Racing Authority – the regulator of UK Horseracing.
• And, most importantly, having a settled family who give him stability and perspective.

His advice to our current pupils is simple from a man who clearly loves his life and what he does
‘Don’t focus on the money. Find something you are passionate about and if you are an expert in your area, you will be successful’
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