'I had to create my own birthdays and Christmases'
Steve Bartlett is the king of the Social Chain - and his castle is something to behold.
The office dreamt up by the 24-year-old CEO has a slide, sleep pods and fully stocked bar.
There seem to be no limits to Bartlett’s imagination – which explains the success he and his company have achieved.
The ‘influencer’ business claims to be able to reach more than 300 million people with its viral marketing campaigns.
Bartlett, who promotes his company in part through public speaking, expects it to turn over £9 million in this financial year.
It’s all a far cry from his childhood in Plymouth, which Bartlett says didn’t involve birthdays or Christmases.
“My parents had no money,” he reflects.
“I’d be lucky to get a card. I came to realise fairly quickly that if I was going to have stuff in my life, it was going to be down to me.
“I wanted to have a good life. I wanted to have all the things that my friends have. I wanted to create my own birthdays and Christmases.”
He says he wants interviewees to "roll in with whatever they wear on the weekend so I can get to know the person, without the wrap”.
Bartlett, one of four children, was born in Botswana but raised in Plymouth. His parents were hardworking, but hands-off.
“My parents would leave the house at 6am and not get back until 1am,” he says. “I developed a real independence.
“I’d be pretty naïve if I didn’t think that inadvertently they’re completely responsible [for my success].
"I was born a blank canvas, right? If you have the parents and childhood you’d always wished for, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. I’m very thankful.
“I realised I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was 12. The skills I had were 100 per cent tailored to running a business.
"At the age of 14 I started running a website selling clothes from Japan to the UK market after witnessing this whole Superdry trend. I borrowed £140 off my dad to pay for the hosting and domain.
“Then eight years ago [at age 16] I was throwing these big parties in the South West for under-18s. When I say big, I mean for like 2,000 people.
"I’d always throw a big one on my birthday and make about 10 grand.”
At school the young Bartlett realised his brain was wired up in a different way to other students.
He arranged commercial deals for the school – for example persuading a coffee company to pay for the privilege of selling its products on the site – which made it tens of thousands of pounds a month.
He says his money-making exploits earned him the nickname of the ‘Harry Potter under the stairs’ from his grateful headteacher.
“I stopped going to school. I never did my homework,” he says with no obvious regret.
“I didn’t even attempt to do it. And I didn’t really apologise for it either. I was just too preoccupied with other things.”