Thursday, 2 August 2018

Looking like an Entrepreneur.

There is a look - the look of the entrepreneur. It is hard to define - a crystal-clear and steely-strong look, that comes with a calmness and a fathomless confidence. It's not bravado, it's not ego - it is the antithesis of both. But when you see it, it is worth recognising. 

I have just spent sometime meeting clients in London. After day two it suddenly struck me, as I was flicking back through the meetings flahbacks,  that all of these people had a similarity - they had that look. It is one I remember encountering first back in 1985 when I ventured out into the world of start ups. But I didnt recognise it then. It's unmistakable but hard to define and it cannot be simulated. I suppose my best attempt would be to describe it as like the perfectly still rock pool. Clear, calm, deep and powerful. Even after the wind removes the image, the calmness returns time and time again. It is immutable.

This is something you cannot recognise unless you meet someone face to face. Video doesnt carry it. A group meeting doesnt always reveal it. Eye to eye, one on one, close contact, is the only way. It bears no relation to physical looks, although it is clearly present in demeanour and presentation. It strikes you within a minute of meeting - or it is not present. Without that look, the chances of a start up succeeding on a scale that makes an investment worthwhile, is pure chance, with the odds stacked against it.

To make sense of this where we are now in the altfi world, you have to realise that most ECF investment is raised without any attempt to see if this look exists. When the wind blows and the look is disturbed - it doesnt return and your investment is lost.

When Crowdcube for example use referrals as a major source of new campaigns - handing over around 2% of their stated 7% commission to the referer, you can see why the platform is so chockablock with rubbish. People who work at CC, in senior management roles, are not experienced enough to know the look. How could they be, when they have had just a couple of 16 month jobs with the likes of Virgin Start Up. Misusing the Branson look is not helpful. Yet Virgin Start Up are one of CC's main referers. You can see the problem.

We can do so much better.


  1. Quite a bizarre post, but OK. One of the things I like most about CC is that you get to meet the people before you invest, although sadly they don't run as many events now. As for Virgin, they run a course alongside CC to get people ready to run an ECF campaign, which I think is a pretty good idea. With 100% funding rate, it has also been successful so far, but of course, you shouldn't invest just because a company is endorsed by them. They run their own nights, similar to the CC ones, for all their pitching companies - go along and look them in the eye. Following one of the events, I signed up to be a Virgin business mentor, and am now mentoring a great business near Aberdeen.

    1. Interesting rather than bizarre I think. One of the pluses from having been in this space for a while is that I have met a lot of people with experiences in it. Many have been on or near to the Virgin train but hardly any that spoke to me where happy with the experience. That might well be because if happy they didnt speak to me. My own experience of the calibre of people involved (of course not yourself!) is that it is piss poor. Likewise with many of the companies that then promote themselves as being Virgins. So my experience is very different to yours. Hope the Aberdeen company goes well - we may meet one day as that is now part of my patch.