Mylo Kaye

Fast living led to Mylo Kaye being fired, losing his flat and job, and ending up in a hostel. But he used his tech savvy to turn his life around, build a successful business – and help others

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The path to entrepreneurship can often be perceived as one of privilege, but not all start-ups launch from venture capital, or scale off the back of business incubators and accelerator hubs. For Mylo Kaye, losing his job and having to leave his apartment were the breeding ground for his entrepreneurial spirit. His opportunity to move past homelessness to become a successful app developer was a library computer, and a world wide web of knowledge.

Born and raised in Wirral, as one of six brothers from a separated family, Kaye was something of the golden boy. Pushing past an average performance in school, with money at his mother’s home being tight, he recalls university never being in the picture.

“The police were called all the time and there were fights breaking out between the residents.”

Instead, working life came calling. After a job in retail, he became a customer support adviser for a cable company at Liverpool’s Albert Dock, then was promoted to the technical team, working on the development of what became Virgin Media’s first digital video recorder.

Still a teenager, “with all that money came a healthy social life”, says Kaye, now 31. A heady combination of success, fun-loving co-workers and urban living offered overwhelming temptation.

“I was almost like a deer in headlights. I was part of a young team of great people, all living in the town, and here was little old me from Wallasey. Going out a lot, meeting new people, it was all really exciting. Naturally, I was drinking, and the drink soon turned to drugs. You start hanging out with the people who do drugs, drinking no longer does it for you.”

Playing out over two years, Kaye describes that period in his life as a slow downward spiral. Warning signs of getting in late, taking days off work and spending too much were all missed in the excitement of living.

“With no perspective on the situation, I only realised something was wrong when I hit the bottom”. The bottom meant being fired, losing his house and having no idea what to do. “Looking back, I can see all the great times I was having, then out of nowhere, nothing.”

The rent was due and he was too ashamed to tell his mum, having always been the hard-working member of the family with never a day out of work. Fearful of ending up on the streets he turned to the local library instead. “I would never want to tell people I was
in this situation.”

Researching what to do when you become homeless, he found a hostel in Birkenhead. “Here I was, with this great job, then I’m at a hostel, asking for help. I was embarrassed.

Despite having a roof over his head, the stability and security needed to change direction wasn’t easy to find. “The environment at the hostel wasn’t great. With other people there like me, you can imagine what you did at the weekend. Sometimes, it was a bit chaotic. The police were called all the time and there were fights breaking out between the residents and doors being kicked in. The flip side was the routine you were provided.”

The structured side of hostel life slowly enabled his turnaround. A nutritionist on site and activity co-ordinator encouraged exercise and balanced eating, helping break the cycle of continued drinking and occasional drug taking. That, and Debbie. One of the hostel’s social workers and confidant, her belief in Kaye encouraged his questioning nature, and over the course of two years, the way out of his situation was mapped out.

Online research about educational opportunities led to him enrolling on a nine-month BTEC computer course at the City of Liverpool College and then a degree in web development at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“I just had no idea. Where I grew up, when you hit rock bottom, you pretty much stayed there. Your place on the social ladder, you stay at that point, and it’s hard to come out of it.” But a new life in Manchester meant a new start. “I felt empowered again.”

University wasn’t without its challenges. Having experienced homelessness, mental health issues have played their part in Kaye’s life. He had also not shared his story with his friends and family. “It’s unsettling. No one should have to go through circumstances like that. Nobody ever deserves to go through such uncertainty that you’re stressing and worrying about every day.”

But meeting his business partner Jack Mason through his degree provided the grounding he was looking for and the starting point to shape his future.

“My experience absolutely was the catalyst for my entrepreneurial nature. If you can get yourself out of that, surely you can do anything, right?”

Starting out creating websites for small businesses, the duo quickly spotted the gap in the market for building apps, taking Dreamr from a small start-up to an award-winning tech provider. Growing success brought about the call to give back.

The company dedicates 10 per cent of employee time to non-work related projects and volunteering, and Kaye has become a trustee at the Booth Centre – a Manchester-based day centre for homeless people. It is this once homeless entrepreneur’s way to help other people in similar situations to the one he found himself.

He helps the Booth Centre with its strategy, fundraising and digital engagement and marketing. And he has launched Pledge, which will advise other charities on digital and tech strategy, and donate its profits to other good causes.

“Technology was my way out, and that’s why for me technology is so powerful.”

Photo: Rebecca Lupton

Interact: Responses to Mylo Kaye

  • Judith King
    28 Jun 2018 15:44
    Inspiring story, Mylo.

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