Nine Months in by our cofounder Andrew Cuthbert

My 9 Lessons 9 Months in…

Time for my quarterly thoughts. I honestly thought to leave this exercise this quarter. I have been frantically busy as will become clear from the lessons.

I wanted to maintain this record as a testament to these early and difficult times involved no matter what new venture you start and even if it isn’t of value to a single other person, it helps me to take time, reflect and write it down!

I have been a terrible communicator over the last while, life has got in the way and I have sacrificed the joy of many a relationship to make this change in the world. The long lonely hours I spend now I hope enable me to take time in the future to engage all the more in the stuff I’m now sacrificing.

For anyone prone to worry all is good under the hood! It’s only because of my recent and recurrent epiphany that sometimes I need a little help from my friends that this blog is possible.

Thank you to all that contribute to #TheChange , thank you to all of you who make change in your own right. Most of all thank you to those who have helped shape me. I wouldn’t be here without you!

To those close people I haven’t caught up with recently I hope that too can Change!

Lesson 1: Lean on your team! Give them the trust and respect they deserve!

Often as an entrepreneur I don’t delegate the right things at the right time. That is usually because my job is complicated, and it can be hard to decouple tasks until certain processes have become more clear with practice.

Even though my MBA dissertation was actually on the topic of delegation in entrepreneurs I myself don’t always practice what I learned from the experience of writing it! Cobblers own shoes I imagine.

Helen Keller’s timeless statement hit me the other day. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Taking the weight of the world on my shoulders is my default position. Trying to move mountains with my own hands.

I’m finally part of a TEAM I can, should and MUST trust. These people are exceptional and align with my values of fair play, drive and determination to change the world.

Helen Keller Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much

Only together will we make it happen. For Keller she was both deaf and blind. It’s ultimately the case that we all are in our own way. At least we have very selective vision and selective hearing too!

The bottom line is that over the first 6 months I owned so much of the journey I need to listen more to my team and open my eyes to just how amazing these people around me are and how despite them having changed my world already. There is still such a huge journey we have to go on together. It’s time to fundamentally change myself. I already believe what we are creating has come about because some amazing people, who’ve been the right people, at the right time and at the right place come together and are ready to change the world collectively.

Lesson 2: Give it back. Pass it on!

Life is like a roller coaster. You have ups and downs. One day you’ll have a promising opportunity the next it will be gone. Perception normally 9/10ths of reality becomes 1/10th as practical outcomes take precedence over positioning. It’s time to have our FCA registration in place rather than shout about our applications around it. It’s time to deliver that term sheet rather than consider it. It’s time to put your name on the dotted line as accountable for the money or its application into businesses. Things start to get serious and as a team we have to take up a mantel.

Given we’re on such an ambitious journey little things can go wrong and we need a little help from our friends. There are days every and any member of the team need a pick me up. There is no chauvinism here. We are all virtually unbreakable, so we need that trust between us that when we need to open up that we take the time to support and care for our fellow change makers.

We will get tired, we will feel like imposters given our constant thirst for knowledge and radical change. We will all have days nothing goes right.

So, there will always be another one. There will always be an Agent of Change to pick us up and drive us on.

It’s a joy to be founding a community of deliverers who are passionate about doing not just talking. Pass it on every day where-ever you work.

When you see your husband/wife, partner, colleague struggle with tasks and you know you could give even 10% more don’t just self-indulge, dig deep and give a little back!

If you can help lift up someone else’s salary or horizon, just do it!

Be The Change…

Lesson 3: Always be closing ABC

Always be closing, mitch and murray, Glengarry Glenross

It’s so easy in an early stage organisation that is funded to fall into the comfort trap. Those that don’t acknowledge this are lying to themselves or just don’t know themselves very well.

We all have our ways to push ourselves forward. To drive our ambitions towards success and yet so few of us practice the basics every day.

That famous scene from Glengarry Glen Ross had an impact on me from the first moment I saw it. The need for contemplation and discussion is clear however it should not come at the expense of the purpose of an interaction.

In a world of an entrepreneur you set your own objectives and when you’re managing other people’s money and influencing the lives of your founders you must work 10,000 times harder to deliver and succeed. That doesn’t mean work longer for the sake of it but rather ensure you put a stake in the ground at every step you take so as to push forward your enterprise a little further.

Closing the promise of an investor. Inspiring that founder and ensuring they are positioned for success. Engaging that individual so they are ready to deliver that small piece of the puzzle that readies them for success.

Lesson 4: Yes means no. No means Yes

In business unlike other areas of consent Yes often means no, No often means yes. Inshallah or a nod of the head doesn’t predict the outcome of a written agreement other than to add flavour to interaction between parties.

For investees its important to know that if we say we like it but you don’t hear from us again or get a polite not at the moment it can often mean you haven’t inspired us enough.

For those we challenge and question and argue with. It is often because we have a passion for you. We believe you might have what it takes to make a change in the world and we are excited to know more and to ensure you land on the path that gets you to your prospective destination.

Don’t be blindsided by a current no. Be opportune about the reality of a yes. See opportunity when it’s there and drive forward. Be open and remain passionate. We aren’t testing you for fun. We believe in you and know you could be the one. Only you can challenge yourself…

When you say yes but mean no, Leslie A Perlow

Lesson 5: Invest your love as well as your money!

So during half term break despite amazing amounts of work pilling up. I took my family away for a break.

The truth was it was a torment to find the time. That said I had made a promise to do it so I did.

Once I was away from it all, I genuinely switched off!

I got time with each of my amazing daughters and helped a little more with Brody, our youngest just born last summer, than perhaps work would normally allow me to do.

With Sophie I got some time to talk about life the world and everything. To listen to her thoughts. Thoughts she doesn’t express late on a week night when I come in, or during our daddy daughter days on a Sunday!

With Olivia I built a little forest hut, (It did get better than the wide open spaces in the pic) we enjoyed every second, so much so that it got dark and the others left us there. Olivia went a step further and wanted to build a closing door. Without tools or time to fashion them it wasn’t going to happen BUT I saw the extent of her personal determination. Despite looking most different to me my Olivia is indeed the much improved mini me in how she thinks. 😊

With Imogen my littlest and most quirky princess we spent lots of time. I am sure I carried her a good solid 10 hours a day for the week. The observations she makes on life. Every little silly idea we share makes us both laugh! Even the little boat we were on potentially sinking wasn’t a worry as we searched for crocodiles and fairies laughing all the way.

Brody too small to talk as yet has hit 6 months! Despite the odd moment as with any baby he has to be the happiest and cutest little guy going.

Every person brings a smile, something I had been known for myself back years ago.

I said while on the trip that “loosing Olivia would be like loosing my right arm”. Big parental faux pas! So Sophie asks what would loosing her be like. I thought quickly. “Probably like losing my brain!” Olivia gives me a questioning look. “Your brain is more important than a right arm daddy?” Imogen asked so I said “my eyebrows.” We both laugh. “Eyebrows aren’t important Daddy!”. Still disconcerted with the body parts it all must end in a tickle fight of course!

Its been a hard few years. With many a woe. Almost constant anxiety. Fighting this urgent pressure or that. The truth is the scale of the challenge ahead in my business and in raising these amazing little people will never let up.

Planned regular breaks are important and valuable as they spark the imagination and bring back that fun version of the self that existed outside of years of a workaholic attitude. It’s through planned goals and thoughts that we succeed in a rounded and healthy way. I had forgotten that!

So when back into a work context my ideas are shaped by the play I enjoyed with my children. Unicorn’s of course being an obvious influence! Outside of that though when inventing concepts my best team of testers for an idea are always my three girls! If I can’t explain it so they get it and can explain it back then it’s not realistic to assume others will get it. I did once bring my girls in (paid handsomely of course, Sophie wouldn’t have it any other way) to give me their professional advice!

Life is like a box of chocolates tomorrow could bring CORONA Virus, a bus incident or a plane crash. It could also bring in but a few months wealth that neither myself or my co-founders could spend excepting on building a new future for those we work with and those they employ.

The truth is each adventure could also fail, with age we expect the unexpected even while planning for success.

Whatever occurs in business the only people will probably even remember the Andrew Cuthbert who existed inside at all are my kids for good and bad they know me and what lies beneath creating billions of value won’t matter a hoot if I sold my soul to do it.

For people who know me like they do that was never going to happen! Hard work, working smart, using the brain to create true value to the world and being with people you love are all fundamental to a successful and contented life whether building a £1bn company or building a little wooden hut!

Lesson 6: Discuss plans with those you aspire to have, even as a small part of your journey.

Ideas are free, execution is everything!

Fundamental to success and happiness is spending time and working with those you enjoy the company of, and ideally aspire to be like. Ensuring values that align is more critical than even skills or attitude when it gets to creating world change.

There is no sense in starting something without that alignment so that in 3years when you’re getting some wins and you’re pushing on for more that you’re in bed with someone who just wants to live up those wins, rather than mark a small celebration and kick on again!

In the context of The Change it’s critical rather than believe my own rhetoric, that I get to the stage I can articulate an investee’s proposition with clarity. Clarity has to be on point and it’s critical that you engage with those who are capable enough to add value through their challenge to an idea.

Any pundit can pull apart an idea, just as any pundit can build it up. You have to put yourself in the shark tank with the best of your target audience and see where you fit. Then of course you better demonstrate your money and your product are where your mouth is.

At a personal level I am lucky to have so many people who have often appeared in my life through happenstance who truly inspire me and fire on my sense of purpose.

Make the jump, what we are, what we want to be, leap of faith

Often those who share skills with me are outliers, mavericks, one offs, and yet those I aspire to be like are those who are perhaps solid parts of the institution. People who make real change and have the political understanding of how that is done.

It’s important that I give myself a reality check, as a frequently as possible, through conversations with one of my trusted mentors.

It’s only through challenge that I will grow to be that person I really want to be. The truth is I have never been given push back on a request for help. For some weird reason people see potential in me and help. It’s those who know me longest who have seen from the side-lines or first hand my quirks and faults whose insight I hold dearest. Those friends for life who I hope one day to give back to have passed it on to me and I hope to continue the tradition when I find the level of success I aspire to provide to our supporters.

Last but not least, on the point, never be wasteful of other people’s time. Be respectful of everyone you ask for advice. When they give you advice take it! Grow and develop from every conversation show them that you value their time through how you use yours!

Be humble, be hungry, dwayne johnson, the rock

Lesson 7: Goals don’t matter, outcomes do!

I need to be up front. I am a very hard person to work with. A genuine stoic at heart. I am a cog in the wheel, a piece of the puzzle. Whether I write a patent or change the future of a product I am involved in I give myself very limited self-praise. Yet even without internalising that suceess I fire on most, if not all cylinders, on a constant and relentless basis. Most people who work with me long enough see me as a machine. Hence if they aren’t confident in themselves and their own standards it can cause at the very least short-term problems where they feel they have something to prove! NOT SO!

life isnt about finding yourself life is about creating yourself George bernard shaw

Core in my self-understanding and what I propose to others is that I am completely non-competitive or dogmatic in regard to what others contribute. I challenge myself internally to create from the parts I’m made of, to become the person I aspire to be.

Even though it’s a work in progress, which I don’t always get right, I work constantly on my ability to praise others and let them know just how much value they add! Just how great and critical they are! My curious demeanor will often revert to a focus more on what we might achieve than what we have achieved already. Even on the moment of the summit, and it’s a natural flaw I must overcome, I will be looking to the next rather than taking time to acknowledge or celebrate. I will continue to work on this, and not accept this gap in me.

One thing I do find in a world of everything from NLP, to mindfulness and many self-help tools out there for personal development is that more and more people set goals. Goals are useful stakes in the ground. These can often act as the optimist’s playground. But goals can get bigger and bigger while the appetite for delivery shrinks and shrinks.

stake in the ground

Because I have planned for an extensive part of my life I see goals as necessary BUT I see hitting objectives as the lifeblood of life. Playing out imaginary scenarios in the brain won’t cut it at The Change. We need people who bridge the gap between aspiration and perspiration and produce the goods.

We need to do this ourselves so that we can model and improve our plans and stake out the next steps to success.

Lesson 8: Yin Meets Yang – Investor Mandate meets Investee Mandate

Yin and Yang, Yin is stronger with Yang and Yang stronger with Yin

Investors need to be matched with investees on timing, aims, timeframe and returns. It all sounded so methodical and simple. Something myself and @GavanWall would do in our spare time outside of coaching founders back in day one when we hatched our crazy masterplan to Change the world.

NOT TRUE!

Investor matching takes knowledge, experience and an ability to get to the point of what someone is looking for quickly. You must be able to work out who does and who does not support you.

It’s a game of Xiangqi and one I had not played sufficiently to see the moves emerge!

Firstly I have quickly realised I am not “That Guy,” today. Yes, I’m told I can strategize beyond almost anyone else, and I’m aware of that. But I cannot apply tactics or negotiations as firmly and as positively as many I know. So our team has had to grow, and is now a formidable force with both executive and non-executive mavens with experience in these areas. We reached out to only those we felt could handle the job and have as a result of multiple conversations begun developing The Change into what it needs to be to make the change. As with any exercise some said no, some didn’t get back. BUT today we have what it takes to make our first leap, and we can always pivot and re-structure again as we grow.

So then the challenge for me, having delegated what I am not the king of, is the following…

The design of The Change Tech and Science Fund One. BIG CHALLENGE. Firstly, if we designed a VC for the majority market, we would identify companies making strong profits, or at least turnover, or on the turn of same and in a position to leverage debt. We would have the same model as most firms and be seen as a smaller risk. By design it’s not what we have done, we don’t like to make things easy for ourselves! But due to our aspiration we will kick on and do that after we have cut our teeth on the more difficult challenge we’ve set ourselves. Raising what are generally pre-revenue start ups to success and significant returns.

The risk level is high. Had we not put our stake in the ground, about what Tech and Science Fund 1 looked like before we started we probably wouldn’t have started it. As per Steve Jobs, it’s for this reason focus groups don’t work. When creating something brand new, a radical rather than incremental change YOU have to nail your colours to the mast and be bold believing in what you set out to do.

Five Pillars guide this Fund, all of which have required explanation to even those on our journey:

– Transformation

– Agent of Change

– Capital

– 18-36 Month valuation accelerator

– £billion mindset

When we do the next fund, I have no doubt we will select an easier space than this very early stage. It’s the stage government programs such as Crescent, Ignite, Co Fund and Tech Start step in! It’s the stage government provides additional support for in the form of SEIS/EIS relief because this stage loses -12% per annum. So why do we think we have “secret sauce,” what’s makes us different?

I was shocked by statistics over how few business concepts hit £1m revenue in their lifetime. I was also shocked by how bad returns are in NI despite so many amazing people here. I myself work in businesses that consistently hit that mark perhaps 10-fold. I know individuals who have created more than one £1bn success. Why do so many businesses fail? The truth is it’s in the team!

Our founders are the best and the brightest. More so they acknowledge their gaps and we recruit talent to fill them. We don’t simply look at a black book of jobs for the boys. It’s a competitive process bringing in the best of breed for our investee.

We apply then a consistent team together with an industry lead to set the bar and aspiration. We aren’t waiting for you to succeed we are pushing you towards success and a significant raise or trade sale dependent on your next stage aspirations. We are creating a conveyor belt to create significant outcomes or exits in 18-36 months. A process that will showcase the exceptional talent we have in this small country and push that talent out further afield to a global market, upon which their ingenuity can make a genuine impact.

In Northern Ireland today a few businesses out of every 100 backed by VC achieve success. Money is given back to the UK exchequer every year because of the status quo and lack of entrepreneurial thinking. The Change will transform all of that.

Mixing entrepreneurs with those with significant M&A and Corporate experience, within £billion companies, will over time begin to shape the landscape.

This might look to some like an experiment in a petri dish! Fund 1 is composed of some of the most challenging sectors possible. Genetics, AI, Pre-Clinical Devices, profiling, new sources of energy. You name it all are being considered. Despite considering many amazing people and companies, less than 5% have made it through to Term Sheet. As we push forward that percentage is only set to decrease. After an intense and rigorous process which truly tests the metal of even the most robust founder we make our selection and get behind the company 1,000% applying practical support and advice where it is lacking. And additional support in both vision setting and just in time practical support.

We are a 10year fund but one of our first 3 investees, has the potential to exit in 3 years for a really significant value. The other 2 are longer term plays. If the first works well investors will have the risks of their investment hedged in 3 years and still have 7 opportunities which are pure upside. That’s right Tech and Science Fund 1 only has 5 more places available. Any more would stretch our focus and support for our investees as we develop and grow both our team and our model. If you have a big idea in your head, or know of one, get in touch now.

If you like the idea of investing in some stellar world changing ideas, balance the risk with huge potential upside supported by SEIS/EIS then this is for you. A single success at the level of the companies we are involved in offers huge opportunity. If you’re a risk taker, but one who likes the deck stacked in your favour by a kick ass team then Tech and Science fund 1 is for you and you should contact us for the details. Don’t worry it’s not me leading the management of this fund it’s the Experienced Dr Laura Bond (IP Group, Boots) under the guidance of some solid big hitters.

Bear in mind the level of risk around this! You must be a sophisticated investor to apply!

Bringing people together with like mind and belief in Northern Ireland, who shares our values is core to the plan. So on top of a good investment becoming an investor in fund 1 will enable you to expand and strengthen your network as one of our founding Agents of Change for NI.

If you’re applying as an Investee, we’ll be ready for serious work. Sacrifice is mandatory, you won’t create a £billion company, if you’re really just working towards buying a BMW or a big house. You’ll be working for a long time through multiple rounds to get there! Being driven by our heavy hitters isn’t going to be a walk in the park and it’s not for the lifestyle entrepreneur BUT it will unlock a new future for you as a leader amongst equals.

Don’t worry for the more risk averse investors or later stage companies out there future funds will emerge from The Change. That said you are going to miss out on some amazing companies and the chance to be part of our formation if you aren’t in there from the beginning!

It took a while to get together our FCA registration but the process has produced a stronger team which is experienced in the delivery of outcomes and is poised to create them here.

Lesson 9: You need the right diligence

Wouldn’t it be great if ideas came fully formed and without baggage? NO, because opportunity comes from anxiety. Opportunity comes from those who have itches they need to scratch from those who don’t accept the status quo.

Benjamin Franklin diligence is the mother of good luck
The Change may back later stage companies in the future but our first venture is in the early stage space. Some of those may be phoenix companies’ baggage! We back those who are new and fresh, we back them all knowing the particular risks that come from each person and we identify these through a rigorous and intense systematic series of meetings, written applications and data room formation that pushes our founders further from the outset.

You aren’t joining our program because you want to make a few £s you are joining our program to shape the future of the planet on your terms!

Due diligence is a per company process and tailored accordingly. Working with some exceptional departmental and sectoral experts we are intent to execute on a process that creates the greatest returns in the sector, in a consistent and managed way.

Part of our due diligence is a unique transformation step. The Change as an executive take personal responsibility for delivering key outcomes for our founders allowing them to move significantly more quickly. For investors that means we personally put our names to the challenge. When an investment fails WE have failed… We take ownership of every business we back and failing is never going to feel like an option with your money!

Watch this space for the experience of some of our founders through the process. We take time on each and every company.

Already there are 3 entering Fund 1!

There can be only 8…

Every one of our companies has to count… To prove this model.

Would you pass the test that to date 60 or so companies have not?

Conclusion:

What a journey this quarter has been. This is all very real and awareness of risk and reward has kicked in. Focus will bring huge success beyond the extent of my previous imagination. Failure will bring a life I would struggle to get used to after visualising such peaks of opportunity.

A discrete few may only read this message, perhaps most may know me already. Now is the time to put your time and money into Andrew Cuthbert, the same Andrew Cuthbert who has been on a long journey back after creating so much for others but not always for himself. Now I will put every ounce of what I am to become #The Change, it’s a transformation I want and need to make quickly and you can mold me to get there! #Rocketman signing off and going back into orbit until next quarter 😊