Meet Social Chain CEO Steve Bartlett (& take off the wrap)
With his trademark baseball cap, tight-fitting black jumper, skinny black jeans, perfectly manicured facial hair and massive watch, image is clearly important to Steve Bartlett.
The 24-year-old CEO of the Social Chain says he chooses to wear black because it limits the number of decisions he has to make – and he has to make a lot of decisions.
Bartlett is supremely confident but insists it falls short of arrogance. “I don’t think I’m arrogant,” he says.
“I know what arrogance would feel like if it was in me. I really believe in myself.
“I’ve sucked at all of my businesses, in different ways. I’ve made loads of mistakes.
"You’ve got to make mistakes to learn: a good failure is worth much more than a good success, in my mind.”
If ever an office reflects the vision of its leader then the Social Chain is it.
From the surreal moment French Bulldog Louie sauntered into our meeting room to the office’s 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.
And he believes Social Chain could be a 'billion-pound' company down the line.
Bartlett was fashionably late for our interview and, as befits a man who has made a living through managing social media, he knows the profile he wants to maintain.
A quick look through his Twitter timeline reveals photos of him catching planes to New York, dining with clients in LA and speaking to budding entrepreneurs.
However he aims to paint a picture of someone who doesn’t give his clothing much thought.
“Someone in the company sat down with me recently and asked me what they should be wearing – for their image – and my opinion was ‘be true to yourself’,” he says.
“This is what I dress like on the weekend. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. This is who I am.
“I’ve had people come for an interview in a shirt and tie and an amazing suit on and I think ‘what is it you’re trying to do with that suit? Are you trying to tell me that you’re smart, or intelligent?’
"I’d much rather someone rolled in with whatever they wear on the weekend so I can get to know the person, without the wrap.”
The Social Chain office is 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.”
The Manchester-based firm has been accused of plagiarising content for its hugely popular social media pages – including @BeFitMotivation, which has 1.67 million followers, @BritishLogic and @PrimarySklProbs – in recent months.
It openly admits to reusing content from Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit. However Bartlett says that it’s a two-way street.
“Any publisher which puts out thousands of pieces of content every single day runs the risk of one of those images or sentences they’ve used having been used by someone else,” he contends.
“There’s a very fine line between curation and plagiarism. Some of our pages curate images so they’ll find images online, post them and tag the person who made the images.
“We’re probably the biggest victim of plagiarism.”