The young petrolhead who set up a hit car website
- 26 January 2015
- From the section Business
Adnan Ebrahim jokes that when he started to drive a series of high-performance cars, his parents' neighbours thought he had become a drug dealer.
Three years ago, and aged just 22 at the time, he began to get shiny new sports cars delivered every week to his family's home in leafy Virginia Water, in Surrey.
But far from the result of any nefarious earnings, Mr Ebrahim was being sent the vehicles to test drive.
This is because Mr Ebrahim is the founder and boss of a popular car website called Car Throttle.
Aimed at young car enthusiasts like himself, and filled with videos and articles, he started it in his bedroom back in 2008, while doing an economics degree at University College London.
The website soon built up a loyal following. And thanks to selling advertising space, it was ultimately making enough money for Mr Ebrahim to choose to run it full-time upon graduating in 2011.
A year later the big carmakers were impressed enough to start sending Mr Ebrahim their sportiest vehicles for him to put through their paces.
Today Mr Ebrahim and eight employees run Car Throttle from an office in east London.
While its website gets four million unique hits each month, Car Throttle has more than two million followers on Facebook, and 250,000 subscribers to its YouTube channel.
With advertising revenues now also coming from the making of custom branded videos and articles for car firms and other companies, and a share of the payments for adverts carried on its YouTube pages, Mr Ebrahim says Car Throttle's turnover should exceed £1m this year.
He puts the success of the business down to its very focused targeting of young people, which manifests itself in fun or entertaining videos, and allowing readers to interact as much as possible, be it posting comments, joining discussions or uploading their own photos and clips.
Mr Ebrahim says this has given Car Throttle a head start in the online marketplace over rivals who are still preoccupied with selling physical magazines.
"The most exciting thing is we're doing something new [in motoring journalism]," he says.
"Five years ago established [car magazine] brands like the BBC and Haymarket had the motoring titles, but they didn't make the right jump to grab that online generation of young petrolheads, and that's what we're targeting."
Yet for all Car Throttle's success, Mr Ebrahim almost decided that he wouldn't pursue it upon leaving university, instead giving real consideration to going into the financial sector.
"In my final year I realised I could get a job in the City like 99% of the people on my course," he says.
"But I wasn't sure it was for me, so I went to see an economics tutor I hugely respected. He said to me, 'Don't follow the herd, let your passion guide you.' That's stuck with me ever since."
However, after deciding to commit himself full time to Car Throttle, Mr Ebrahim admits that the first year, based in his old bedroom at his parents' house was tough.
He kept a work diary during that initial 12 months, and he would often write down how he was feeling. He realised that a lot of his comments were about how anxious he was.
Yet ultimately he was able to rationalise the worry away.
"As soon as I realised I was just worried about telling people I'd failed, I knew the chances were they'd be more concerned about their own lives, and wouldn't care," he says.
"The worst that would happen is I'd go and get a 'proper' job."
As Car Throttle has gone on to grow, so, says Mr Ebrahim, has his confidence.
"I've got a lot more confidence and self belief [now]," he says. "A lot of the time people think achieving something that's out there is too out of the question, but it's about taking that risk and going for it."
Until last year Mr Ebrahim was the youngest person at Car Throttle.
Rather than struggle with the responsibility of running a successful business aged just 24, he says he has to guard against being "a bit of a control freak" who can't switch off.
He says: "I think about Car Throttle when I'm in the shower, on the way to work, before I go to sleep."
But he adds that he is now able to switch off a lot more than in the past.
"The first couple of years my work-life balance was really hard," he says. "I struggled to see friends and drifted into becoming anti-social, but I've been there and done that, and you'd go insane if you thought about your business 24/7.
"Thankfully most of my friends aren't in the tech world, so it's a relief to see them and talk about something different."