By his own admission Peter Hopton was a pretty selfish person when he stood at the top of a Californian ski slope in 2019.
As the founder of two Sheffield-based businesses – Iceotope and VeryPC – he’d been very successful in his career but admits he was too focussed on his work.
“I was completed obsessed by them,” he told BusinessCloud. “I was egotistical about it. I got my head down and I was quite selfish.
“Looking back, I realise my obsessive nature was detrimental to the business community and other founders.”
What happened next on that ski slope near Lake Tahoe not only changed his life, it very nearly ended it.
Hopton skied off a cliff at 50mph and suffered horrendous injuries and only narrowly avoided death.
But it also changed his life in an unexpected way.
“I had a different mindset,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about me anymore but was determined to help other entrepreneurs and founders and give them a shot.”
Today he’s a chairman of a series of companies and on a mission to use his second chance at life to help other tech entrepreneurs.
Recalling his own story, Hopton said growing up in an Armed Forces family meant he spent a lot of his childhood in the US, Germany and UK.
At university he ran a pub in between his studies and launched his first business – VeryPC – with his brother Andrew and best friend Simon Bown.
VeryPC manufacture computers and customise ICT solutions for the education sector and have grown into a multi-million pound turnover business under the leadership of managing director Andrew Hopton.
Peter Hopton’s founded his next business – Iceotope – in 2005 to manufacture liquid immersion cooling technologies for data centres. Last year the company raised £30m in a Series B funding round.
Fast forward to 2019 and Hopton was a hugely successful entrepreneur when he embarked on a skiing trip that changed his life.
He said: “I’ve skied since I was a kid so I wasn’t worried. According to an app that I use I was travelling at 49.8 mph when I skied off the edge of the cliff.
“I can’t remember how big the drop was but it was big enough that I broke my heel bone on landing, consistent with falling from the second storey of a building.
“I remember the landing and being ejected from my skis when they got stuck in the ground.
“I had this realisation ‘oh crap, this is it’. I was just rolling and rolling and thinking ‘when is it going to end?’ I was convinced I was going to die.
“I came to rest on a frozen lake bed and everything hurt. I looked down at my left leg and it was at the wrong angle as my femur had broken.”
Hopton also suffered blog clots on his lungs.
“When I recovered I started to do a lot of work to support other people,” he said. “It really galvanised me.
“Then I went to the funeral of my mentor and there were loads of other people like me in the congregation. I thought ‘who would come to my funeral?’
“I now want to help people like my mentor helped give me. I want to commit to a founder I really believe in to help raise money or attain greatness.”
Hopton remains involves with Iceotope but is also the chairman of Sheffield-based robotics business BOW and a deep tech business called Productive Machines.
He always works with US computer hardware manufacturer called Simultac and predicted the ongoing rise of AI.
“I once had someone say to me ‘every golden age of humanity was built on a lot of hardworking people who didn’t get the credit’,” he said.
“It seems to me that humanity is now at a point where a large percentage of the work does not need to get done by people. I think we’re right at the edge of a new golden age.
“If done properly I think robotics and AI can substantially better our world and enable our appreciation of human life.”