A Founder to Back?

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back?

We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present.

  • He was technologically sound
  • Had built a robust platform relevant to the market
  • The market opportunity was significant with little competition at present
  • Was strategic in building relationships with potential customers
  • No paying customers on board to date
  • Was modest in his projections
  • Ran a tight ship
  • Knew his subject matter well
  • Was open and transparent about the challenges and setbacks faced

So, the market opportunity was there. The platform was sound. But the current configuration was not going to work. To penetrate the market and build the required scale at speed, a new team would need to be on board, including a new CEO. But would the founder’s ego get in the way?

His reaction was ultimately what made those gathered decide to back him. Positive and genuine, he knew this is what was needed to succeed and saw it as an opportunity to focus on what he does best – building and strengthening the platform.

He now had the backing and support of the right people vested in mutual success.

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back?

We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present.

  • He was technologically sound
  • Had built a platform relevant to the market
  • Was strategic in building relationships with potential customers
  • No paying customers on board to date
  • Was modest in his projections
  • Ran a tight ship
  • Knew his subject matter well
  • Was open and transparent about the challenges and setbacks faced

So, the market opportunity was there. The platform was sound. But the current configuration was not going to work. To penetrate the market and build the required scale at speed, a new team would need to be on board, including a new CEO. But would the founder’s ego get in the way?

His reaction was ultimately what made those gathered decide to back him. Positive and genuine, he knew this is what was needed to succeed and saw it as an opportunity to focus on what he does best – building and strengthening the platform.

He now had the backing and support of the right people vested in mutual success.

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back? We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present. He was technologically sound Had built a robust platform relevant to...

read more

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a...

read more

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging. A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working....

read more
Harmonising Co-Founders

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a cohesive team.

Conducting one-to-one and group sessions we:

  • Mapped out their backgrounds, experiences and geographic exposure
  • Profiled their styles of leadership and communication
  • Explored their drivers and ambitions, as well as their personal values and principles
  • Studied how they interacted and the shift in dynamics depending on who was present
  • Translated their experiences into their outlooks, standards, capabilities and expectations
  • Identified and aligned divergent perspectives and mindsets
  • Facilitated debates on how they should conduct their business and ironed out arising conflicts
  • Formulated agreed principles and modus operandi in delivering on their vision
  • Identified appropriate board members with the right balance of experience, credibility and affinity
  • Created institutional framework equipped to attract and safeguard 3rd party investor capital

 

Behind any successful venture is the dynamics of the people. In this particular case, there were three individuals who came together to form a new investment company. On the face of it, they shared a common vision and belief system, but coming together and delivering something tangible and sustainable is another matter.

The three individuals had different professional backgrounds and experiences, two from a corporate background, the other a serial entrepreneur. In addition, they had different geographic exposure. These factors meant they each had different perspectives and standards on how things should be done. We also had to factor in personalities and levels of dominance, whilst ensuring they all had an equal say, especially since they were equal partners from an equity perspective. So the challenge here was how to align them and shift their mindset from being sole operators to creating an institutional framework equipped to attract and safeguard 3rd party investors’ capital.

The work consisted of one-to-one sessions with each of the partners, along with combined sessions to create a cohesive way forward. Helping them shape and articulate the vision, values and methodology, we went a step further to ensure they could deliver in alignment with what they proffered to stand for. We tested their values and thesis on potential target investments which provided much debate and ironing out, without the complexity of outside shareholders. This gave them the opportunity to come up with solutions and align themselves as a united front prior to dealing with outside influence. We also identified appropriate board members who provided the right balance of experience, credibility and natural affinity to help foster and drive the mission and purpose of the organisation.

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back? We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present. He was technologically sound Had built a robust platform relevant to...

read more

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a...

read more

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging. A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working....

read more
Friction when Scaling

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging.

A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working. The speed and rate of change was further amplified with additional acquisitions that needed to be merged with the business. The core team was under increasing amounts of pressure to provide stopgap solutions whilst other parts of the business were integrated. This had a snowball effect on morale, diminished team spirit, lack of personal performance, all ultimately impacting on results.

Conducted individual and group coaching sessions encompassing a number of areas including:

  • Identification of core drivers, strengths, aspirations and areas they wanted to develop
  • Personal reflection on events and interactions – perception, reaction and subsequent influence on relationships with their colleagues
  • Awareness and adjustment of personal behaviour and communication to improve relationships with colleagues
  • Exploration and development of ways to tackle rifts with colleagues (e.g. identifies areas in which they could be each other’s mentors and role models, playing off each other’s strengths)
  • Realignment of roles with functions playing to strengths and areas of competence as opposed to titles due to length of service

 

The work resulted in:

 

  • A team consisting of committed, competent and collaborative individuals operating in a more positive environment, with less friction and positive results.
  • A more collegiate and collaborative work environment, with improved communication, transparency and higher levels of trust
  • Realising they were not in the right role or company, some team members resigned – some went on to become founders of their own startup

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging.

A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working. The speed and rate of change was further amplified with additional acquisitions that needed to be merged with the business. The core team was under increasing amounts of pressure to provide stopgap solutions whilst other parts of the business were integrated. This had a snowball effect on morale, diminished team spirit, lack of personal performance, all ultimately impacting on results.

Conducted individual and group coaching sessions encompassing a number of areas including:

  • Identification of core drivers, strengths, aspirations and areas they wanted to develop
  • Personal reflection on events and interactions – perception, reaction and subsequent influence on relationships with their colleagues
  • Awareness and adjustment of personal behaviour and communication to improve relationships with colleagues
  • Exploration and development of ways to tackle rifts with colleagues (e.g. identifies areas in which they could be each other’s mentors and role models, playing off each other’s strengths)
  • Realignment of roles with functions playing to strengths and areas of competence as opposed to titles due to length of service

 

The work resulted in:

 

  • A team consisting of committed, competent and collaborative individuals operating in a more positive environment, with less friction and positive results.
  • A more collegiate and collaborative work environment, with improved communication, transparency and higher levels of trust
  • Realising they were not in the right role or company, some team members resigned – some went on to become founders of their own startup

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back? We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present. He was technologically sound Had built a robust platform relevant to...

read more

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a...

read more

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging. A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working....

read more
Water and Wealth Creation

Water and Wealth Creation

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

On a trip to Kenya, we were faced with a village that required access to clean water. Their wish was to have water, to grow crop that would in turn provide them with the money to educate the boys and the girls of the community (traditionally only the boys were educated.)

In other words, a sustainable solution.

There were 3 key elements highlighted through our research:

1. The correlation between sustainability of wells and community involvement.

2. Most organisations measure track record in terms of wells drilled, not how many are still functioning after two to three years and no reference to the ongoing benefits e.g. economic development, creation of schools etc.

3. Main contributor to wells failing is lack of maintenance.

Applying our methodology, we searched for and identified a number of NGOs, charities and grassroots organisations. We screened them for their capabilities, track record, efficiency, transparency and ability to deliver. We finally chose a grassroots organisation whose model and capabilities were aligned with the needs of the village.

We worked with them to provide water to the village and other initiatives, providing the villagers with the means to become self-sufficient. One such initiative was using their mobile phone to create a maintenance alert and tracking system.

We are forever indebted to the people of Samburu for opening our eyes and the work of The Samburu Project for making a difference to people’s lives.

AMANI™ is in part due to their teachings.

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back? We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present. He was technologically sound Had built a robust platform relevant to...

read more

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a...

read more

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging. A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working....

read more
A Country Search for Innovators

A Country Search for Innovators

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta’s Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges – businesses that were purposeful and profitable.

The challenge was two-fold:

  • Predominant perception that a business’s sole purpose is that of making money, with charity being the vehicle for doing good
  • Malta only has a population of 400,000 people, so a limited pool of potential innovators that would meet the criteria

Hence, in addition to the search, we needed to:

  • Create an outreach programme to educate stakeholders on what we mean by purposeful and profitable companies
  • Engage and encourage innovators, businesses and researchers to participate
  • Develop a mentoring networking to work with innovators that need guidance and support
  • Galvanise support from the investor and business community
  • Tap into the Maltese communities abroad to extend the search to innovators amongst the Maltese Diaspora
  • Use the opportunity to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem

Execution:

  • Mapped out the key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and included them in the process
  • Held one-to-one meetings with key members of the business community who saw the value and lent their support
  • Held information sessions on campus, startup events and business parks
  • Publicised the search through interviews with the press, social media and communiques to Maltese Consulates and Embassies
  • Targeted a variety of companies ranging from well-established institutions to startups to:
    • Further explain the criteria
    • Explore ideas they have in development
    • Determine their fit
    • Encourage them to submit a formal proposal
  • Developed a search specific site to capture submissions
  • Curated a panel of judges to review submissions and determine best ideas to present in person
  • Organised an event with a curated guest list
  • Held practice sessions with shortlisted innovators to prepare for the event

Key outcomes:

  • The winner will represent Malta in the semi-finals to be held in Estonia in November
  • Connected innovators with related ideas to converge their thoughts and explore ways of collaborating
  • AMANI has adopted one of the teams, providing them access to international markets

As part of a Ideas from Europe and Malta’s Presidency of the Council of Europe, we were mandated by the Government of Malta to identify Maltese innovators with solutions to global challenges – businesses that were purposeful and profitable.

The challenge was two-fold:

  • Predominant perception that a business’s sole purpose is that of making money, with charity being the vehicle for doing good
  • Malta only has a population of 400,000 people, so a limited pool of potential innovators that would meet the criteria

Hence, in addition to the search, we needed to:

  • Create an outreach programme to educate stakeholders on what we mean by purposeful and profitable companies
  • Engage and encourage innovators, businesses and researchers to participate
  • Develop a mentoring networking to work with innovators that need guidance and support
  • Galvanise support from the investor and business community
  • Tap into the Maltese communities abroad to extend the search to innovators amongst the Maltese Diaspora
  • Use the opportunity to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem

Execution:

  • Mapped out the key players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and included them in the process
  • Held one-to-one meetings with key members of the business community who saw the value and lent their support
  • Held information sessions on campus, startup events and business parks
  • Publicised the search through interviews with the press, social media and communiques to Maltese Consulates and Embassies
  • Targeted a variety of companies ranging from well-established institutions to startups to:
    • Further explain the criteria
    • Explore ideas they have in development
    • Determine their fit
    • Encourage them to submit a formal proposal
  • Developed a search specific site to capture submissions
  • Curated a panel of judges to review submissions and determine best ideas to present in person
  • Organised an event with a curated guest list
  • Held practice sessions with shortlisted innovators to prepare for the event

Key outcomes:

  • The winner will represent Malta in the semi-finals to be held in Estonia in November
  • Connected innovators with related ideas to converge their thoughts and explore ways of collaborating
  • AMANI has adopted one of the teams, providing them access to international markets

A Founder to Back?

An investor was considering backing a payment platform. But was this the right founder to back? We assembled a cohort of sector and geographic specialists and invited the founder to come and present. He was technologically sound Had built a robust platform relevant to...

read more

Harmonising Co-Founders

A new venture had three founding partners all sharing the same vision. However, in trying to deliver on that vision, it became rapidly apparent they had different views on how that vision should be executed. We had to figure out if and how they could best work as a...

read more

Friction when Scaling

Growth is great. But growth can also be challenging. A start-up was acquired by a private equity firm. The people involved from the inception of the company were still with the organisation and were experiencing a change in culture, direction and method of working....

read more
Ethics and Economic Performance

Ethics and Economic Performance

Ethics and economic performance are interconnected. To thrive, companies need to ensure the wellbeing and satisfaction of stakeholders. This includes investors, employees, suppliers and customers. Recent times have seen how bad conduct results in negative publicity, poor company image and a drop in share price. Here is the case for ethics in business.

Risk Mitigation

Ethics-related news influences a company’s share price for better or worse by 0.5% to 3%.*

News related to unethical behaviour negatively impacts the level of trust and confidence in management, key factors that influence shareholder sentiment. Negative shareholder sentiment does not attract investment.

This is also relevant to private companies, especially family businesses, where reputation and standing of the company impacts the family name. Family businesses also have other stakeholders to bear in mind – other family members used to dividend payouts.

Engagement and Retention

Employees prefer to work at companies where they will be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Creating an environment where employees feel valued further encourages the creation positive customer experiences. However, if employees see, hear or experience negative behaviour, their trust in and loyalty to the company will erode. Hence ethics = higher engagement + retention.

Customer Satisfaction

Would you want to do business with a company you don’t trust? Other customers wouldn’t either.

Companies with high levels of customer satisfaction tend to generate a higher degree of customer loyalty, repeat business and greater market share.  Moreover, businesses that genuinely contribute to their community and maintain good relationships with other businesses tend to be more successful in the long run.

However, there’s a caveat to this. Companies who have corporate social responsibility initiatives but poor business practices, are in danger of breeding cynicism and mistrust. This is counter-productive to building brand and customer loyalty.

Creating Value

The purpose of business is to focus on producing quality products and services that enable positive financial results for the company. Unethical practices are more likely to open a company up to unwanted distractions such as lawsuits. Why would a business engage in activities that detract from the mission and purpose? Ethical business practices are sound business practices.

Financial Health

Beyond regulatory requirements, accurate financial records are key for sound decision-making and long-term success. Financial records provide an overview of return on effort. This is an essential tool for a business to measure the effectiveness of market initiatives.

Sound and timely financial records are essential in determining the trajectory of the business, as well as the means to course correct where and when necessary. They also provide the ability to respond quickly to opportunities that arise, without adding strain or unwarranted risk.

A clear picture on the financial situation of the company ensures there is the cash flow required to fulfill its commitments. This is great news to employees and suppliers.

Green Practices

I was once told ‘whether you’re chopping trees or hugging trees, people look for returns.”

The fact of the matter is if you don’t keep an eye on your bottom line, the business will be unsustainable. The bottom line is affected by people’s perception, belief and likeability of your company. The internet and social media have provided stakeholders with greater insight into the impact businesses have on our environment and society. Customers seek to do business with companies that reflect their values. Suppliers and investors would be wise to follow suit.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Waiting until a crisis strikes to instill and encourage good behaviours is a poor strategy. It takes time to overhaul embedded systems, beliefs and practices. It is far easier to set off on the right foot than trying to course correct once calamity hits.

When bad news hits delayed decisions fuel negative public opinion. This causes a downward spiral in relationships with stakeholders. Not good practice for any business that needs customers, employees, suppliers and/or investors to thrive. That said, genuine errors and unforeseen circumstances do happen. The ability for a business to respond appropriately and speedily speaks volumes in the eyes of stakeholders.

Counteract Apathy

Some may still argue why change when some are getting away with it. Others may wait for regulatory bodies to force them to clean up their business practices. But the fact of the matter is, we can no longer ignore the impact business has. We can no longer exonerate our actions through corporate social responsibility. We need to challenge the status quo bred under the guise ‘but this is business’. It’s smart to start right – acting responsibly in the first place.

As featured in Fresh Business Thinking

  • According to a study by EIRIS
What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People

The right people are essential to a company’s success. In our view this is not limited to ‘staff’. Rather, it is the entire ecosystem of value-creating people – founders, teams, mentors, partners and investors. Through our experience, the greatest challenge is not finding the right people. It is finding great companies you want to find great people for. This is what a company needs to attract the right people and create value.

PURPOSE

A company needs to present a compelling purpose and proposition. A purpose candidates can relate to and connect with. Companies whose sole objective is to make profit with no sense of meaningful purpose, will attract a particular breed but not top talent. Purpose doesn’t have to be complicated but it has to real. And the company has got to be committed to it in practice.

PRINCIPLES

People want to ensure their own personal values will not be compromised through their work. Hence companies need to ‘walk the talk’. It is pointless and counterproductive to brandish a set of values if this is not reflected in decision-making and day-to-day business practices. For instance, an investment company that espouses high ideals may attract great people. But if in practice its investment decisions are made solely on the level of return, regardless of impact, it will not keep them.

PEOPLE

People starts with great leadership. People in positions of power may have the title but they may not necessarily be great leaders. Great leaders understand the value others bring. They also have the ability and desire to bring out the best in people. This includes: providing access to tools and resources required to succeed; a conducive environment where people feel they can contribute, where they feel safe to try, make mistakes, learn and grow; where their experience will help them excel and thrive.

People ultimately need to form a team. The team needs to consist of colleagues that resonate and have a balanced mix of different yet complimentary capabilities to get the job done. An optimised team harnesses people dynamics and fosters collaboration, trust and mutual respect. We call this the FIT – Finding Interconnecting Talent.

PERFORMANCE

High ideals are great but for a company to be successful it needs to deliver. Failure to do so will result in poor financial results and the inability to support the employees. There is no point in hiring people if you hinder them in getting the job done. So get clear on the mission and the deliverables. Moreover ensure you have the willingness and appetite to allow people the latitude they need to deliver.

PACKAGES

Companies need to ensure alignment between financial performance, desired behaviours and rewards/recognition. Whilst I would ward off any company from hiring anyone who is interested solely in the financial package, it is important for people to feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Some companies have pay bands, compensation packages linked to a particular rank. Although these may be useful to HR in setting a guideline, but they are often a hindrance to the heads of the business unit who are ultimately held responsible for results. It is far wiser and more effective to view a person in terms of the value they add, adjusting the pay accordingly. So for instance a base (which can fit the bands) with a fair and measurable bonus component. This in effect shifts people away from job titles and focuses them on adding value. Companies also need to ensure the metrics they are using are in alignment with the business’s objectives and principles. Mismatched incentive programmes are a sure way to create conflict, demotivate people and create an atmosphere of resentment.

PRODUCTS

The company needs to produce or provide products and/or services that add value in terms of financial and social returns. For instance, a financial institution that provides project funding for power, water, telecoms and other infrastructure projects, thus enabling the advancement of society and a sound return. Companies also need to ensure they are mindful of the impact their product or service has along its entire lifespan, from sourcing and production to its use and disposal. Mechanisms needs to be in place to identify, eradicate and avoid negative practices.

PARTNERS

Who a company aligns themselves with and how they treat them speaks volumes about them as an organisation and as a group of people. Regardless of an organisation’s success, a level of humility, respect and fairness are essential. Companies that demonstrate arrogance based on their brand, size and supposed standing tend to breed a similar level of arrogance amongst their people. This is not the type of environment people of character opt to work in. Yes they want to work for respected organisations but acting superior is not a great way to earn respect – positive results and a proper manner of doing things are.

PROCESS

The process through which a potential candidate will be taken through is also essential. From interviewing to induction, companies need to ensure the company puts its best foot forward. It also needs to be open and honest about the challenges the company is facing – a reality check if you will.

A process which gets bogged down in HR processes is a sure way to turn off top talent. Talented individuals want to get a handle on the business environment and if they can add value. They need to understand the vision and the task at hand, and will be looking for data points that will enable them to determine if this is the type of company they are best suited for and if they are the right person to take it on.

Companies should ensure they have the ability to understand a candidate’s capabilities as well as their character – what makes them tick. Only in this way will you ensure you have people on board with the right FIT – essential for people to thrive in and add value to your business.

What a Company Needs to Attract the Right People