Mike O’Shea, founder of online toy site Wicked Uncle and this year’s the missiontm GWG winner of People’s Choice Award, shows us around his web.
It came out of years of being a single uncle and having no idea what children even eat, let alone what they might want for their birthdays. After several goes at calling up Hamleys for help, Mike decided there was a need for a site dedicated to solving the present buying problem for other people’s kids.
‘We scour the world for interesting, unusual presents that you mostly won’t find elsewhere. The toys work, are fun and good value. You get huge street cred as the cool person who bought a Plant Pot that plays piano tunes or Glow in the Dark Body Paint,’ says Mike, who tests each and every gift. ‘We make it as simple as possible to find a present, have it gift wrapped and sent with a hand written card. Then we send you a Reminder so you never forget. We also include a pre-printed Thank You card, which kids love.'
We were delighted when Wicked Uncle picked up the People's Choice Award in this year's missiontm GWG Awards.
Here Mike talks about the evil empire of Amazon, why he’s not on Instagram, RL dating and the best online coverage of politics.
My favourite website… Firebox. - It has been around since Dotcom 1.0 and it is still one of the wittiest and most amusing sites around. Their style is a little too risqué for Wicked Uncle, but it is light-hearted and they love their business. And if you really want to buy a jar of Espresso Marmalade, this is the place. When people ask me where Wicked Uncle stands, I like to say we are somewhere between Firebox and Hamleys. I also love Freddie’s Flowers – it is a great new startup that sends a box of fresh flowers to your home every other week. Brilliant, because you can never buy too many flowers and they are really good.
My favourite app… the Santander Cycles app - It is a great way to get around London and you find yourself discovering all sorts of things you would never see from the tube or a taxi. Last week I discovered the statue of the Golden Boy of Pye Corner in Smithfield where the Great Fire of London was finally stopped.
My blog of choice… by Marc Andreesson (the founder of Netscape) - I followed this religiously for years, as he is one of the foremost Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and then became a tech VC. He is super smart and gives great insights into business strategy and what the future will look like.
My internet hero… Jimmy Wales for founding Wikipedia - It is a fantastic resource and proves how effective crowdsourcing can be. It is a different business model for how something can be done. If you haven’t yet donated, and use it, you should. Closer to home, Mike Smith for founding Firebox and then Moshi Monsters which grew out of another brilliant idea which didn’t quite work and then was a huge success.
My favourite podcasts... Anything by Storynory - It is a brilliant free site for audio stories for kids. If you ever run out of bedtime stories, go to the site, choose one and hit play. They are well written and beautifully read. And they have a great series about a fun character called the Wicked Uncle.
My most recent buy online… stacks of books - The Kindle is the best thing ever and I take mine everywhere. Amazon has been a great bookseller. It is a pity that they are now also the Evil Empire.
Book just downloaded/ read… ‘Homage to Catalonia’ by George Orwell - I listen to audio books on my rowing machine and given the news from Spain I thought I should read this. I recently re-read ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville’; it is fantastically well written and when you are listening, you can really appreciate the language. And find out who Starbuck was.
Favourite tweeter… James Breakwell @XplodingUnicorn because he is very funny and reassuring if you are not a perfect parent. Like everybody else, I follow Donald Trump to get advance warning. I also follow Goldman Sachs Elevator, which is hilariously awful, and I suspect is not made up.
Favourite instagrammer… I don’t have one. My son Patrick (13) uses Instagram because it is how kids communicate. He would be shocked if we used it.
Social media allowed me to meet… Absolutely nobody. My generation was too late. We even had to do RL dating. Totally weird, you meet people, you talk to them, later on you call them up on a telephone (like an iPhone without the Apps) and then you meet them again.
Most worthwhile newsletter subscribed to… Red Box - It is a brilliant summary of everything happening in UK politics and all the most interesting articles. It is really well written and keeps you up to date. And it is very witty. There has been a lot of politics lately. Red Box makes sense of it.
Pet hate about life online… Any site that decides all passwords should contain eight numerals, two letters and an odd character. And when you forget your password and have to re-enter your email address. I think we are the only site in the world where you don’t have to.
Stand out online memory… When we went live for the first time and people actually bought stuff! It was brilliant. Since then we have had many more sales, but I always enjoy looking at who is buying – people from every town and village all over the country and the odd name we recognise like Sherlock or Charlotte Church. It is also great when we sell something to someone I have never met who lives just thirty yards away.