Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
As MD I make sure the company works and that the strategy is in place and implemented to service our investor and business clients. In short I manage the team and ensure we deliver to a high standard. I also concentrate on building the business, creating new funds and working to attract new investors.
What is it the company does?
We are a venture capital management business, this simply means we manage investors’ cash to take equity and loan stakes in businesses with the aim of growing the businesses and making a return for our investors. We manage public as well as private capital and have a strong focus here in the North East but are expanding out into the rest of the North.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I’m a chemistry graduate and my first two jobs were in industry first in the refinery and metals industry and then in a specialist consultancy analysing semiconductor materials for micro-processors. My first real business experience was setting up and managing a start-up with a fellow founder at Imperial College London, again on analysis of materials in the mid-1980s. We went bust after three years, learnt valuable lessons and moved on to a career in technology sales and licencing complex materials and software at Harwell labs. This included 5 years selling into the technology sectors in Japan. I have also spent 3 years in the UK Government on secondment which lead me to work with universities and venture capital to exploit the results of university research and help build structures to invest in start-ups and spin-outs. I came to the North East 13 years ago and have now build two venture capital businesses and raised over £60m of capital creating Rivers Capital Partners with two others back in 2009, my second start-up! I now run the business.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who can turn a vision into something others understand and will follow. It’s not just about inspiring people it’s also about building a climate structure that allows others to thrive.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Balancing the demands of satisfying public sector investor clients who are concerned about regional development with private investors who are focussed purely on returns. Also it’s working with highly motivated entrepreneurs and getting them to understand what investors want, there is often a big communications gap to overcome.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I took up mindfulness mediation about 2 years ago and take about 15 minutes out of my morning and evening to meditate. It is great if it works for you, don’t knock it till you try it; I’m also a very active amateur photographer learning the art of portraits.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A fireman. Well I did sort of get there as I trained up and was a motor racing fire-marshal in my mid-twenties. I saw a lot of great motor racing at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and other venues and even put out a few fires.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?
Clutter and untidy office, my team please note. Attention to detail is crucial in my work and ensuring everything is in order is a duty of a fund manager. However, I have to remind the team that includes the desktops too.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Regardless of timescale we are a North East business on the road to being a global force in venture capital.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Follow your vision but stop to test it, take advice and don’t be afraid to adapt to the customer and market place. Arrogance kills too many driven leaders.
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