MEET JOHNNY MAYO, PROGRAMME LEAD: FUTURE FIFTY
Ahead of the kick off of the Future Fifty in January 2024, we sat down with new programme lead, Johnny Mayo, to discuss his background, what makes the programme so special, and what the next cohort can expect.
I’ve worked in various tech and creative roles throughout my career, although my claim to fame was co-founding one of Asia’s first blockchain development ventures. We were also the first Malaysian-based team to be accepted into 500 Startups, joining batch 9 in 2014. After a stint organising Hong Kong FinTech Week, I went on to manage the SuperCharger FinTech accelerator in Malaysia before building a corporate led, deal focused accelerator in my home country of Wales, so I have experienced first hand the impact these programmes can have on both individuals and economies. I’m also a Forbes Asia 30 Under 30, which somewhat loses its shine as you approach 40.
What do you think makes the Future Fifty a unique programme?
I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it in the ecosystem. Accelerators are often associated with early stage ventures and typically focus on themes of learning and validation, but the Future Fifty is no typical programme. Being limited to only the most promising series B tech firms we instead focus on access and growth. That means opening doors, timely advice, and perhaps most importantly of all, creating strong peer networks around founders and their senior leadership teams as they navigate how to scale and build for that next phase of growth.
There’s also the halo effect that comes with being accepted on to a programme that has supported so many household names. Our alumni include the likes of Skyscanner, Revolut, Monzo, Cazoo, Deliveroo, Zilch, Funding Circle, What3Words, Starling Bank, and Just Eat to name just a few, with many of our alumni returning as mentors. By pairing the best founders with the very best of our ecosystem, we can create and expedite opportunities that may otherwise not exist.
Why would late stage companies want to be on an accelerator?
Although the failure rates of Series B companies are fairly low, it doesn’t make scaling any less complex than starting. Companies need to build scalable processes, hire the right talent, and cross that chasm from being co-founders to c-suite. All of a sudden you have to start thinking about things like company culture or international expansion. As P Diddy once so aptly summarised; more money, more problems.
The most frequently cited benefit of accelerators is the networking aspect. In the case of the Future Fifty, that’s about connecting founders and their senior leadership teams with those who have been there, done that, and have the hoodie to prove it.
What’s new about the Future Fifty this year?
Quite a lot! The main staple of the programme is now a monthly fireside supper series featuring some of the biggest names from the Founders Forum Group network. We’re also planning an international trade mission to Singapore to expose the cohort to one of the most exciting entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. The highlight, however, is arguably the first ever Future Fifty retreat. While the location and agenda is still under wraps, I want the retreat to start dialogue on subjects such as mental health, founder wellbeing, and neurodiversity in the workplace.
Another new element is a dedicated mentor network. Some alumni mentors include the likes of Gareth Williams (Skyscanner), Lisa Jacobs (Funding Circle), Katy Wigdahl (Speechmatics), Chris Sheldrick (What3Words), Husayn Kassai (Quench.ai), Doug Monro (Adzuna), Jacyn Heavens (Epos Now) with more to come. It’s becoming a virtuous circle that I hope the next cohort will similarly embrace.
What are you looking for in the next cohort?
The Future Fifty has always been an eclectic mix of the cutting-edge industries that the UK does so well – such as fintech, AI, healthcare, cybersecurity, SaaS, gaming, ecommerce – and the next programme will likely be no different. Generally speaking, I would say we have a definite preference for ventures that are either solving a complex problem, have the potential to dominate a market, or could be considered a force for societal good.
As a proud, patriotic Welshman I would also love to see more regional representation. Our pledge as part of Tech Nation is for 50% of the community to be based outside of London in the next 5 years.
What is the application and selection process?
In a departure from the norm there’s no open application process this year, but ventures who think they could both extract and add value are welcome to connect directly with me to get on our radar. Otherwise a shortlist is being created based on industry research and ecosystem recommendations from our select committee of investors.
What is your vision for the Future Fifty and what does success look like?
Short term it’s re-establishing the programme as the nation’s most prestigious pre-IPO network, and that means maintaining the momentum that Future Fifty has developed over the course of the past decade and doubling down on the elements that make it so special. ‘Moving the needle’ looks different for each organisation, but I hope post-programme we can say we made a tangible difference for each and every company in the cohort.
Longer term it’s taking the idea international and determining what a Global Future Fifty might look like. As I said, I don’t think there’s anything quite like it anywhere in the world. If we can operate the programme in multiple ecosystems around the world it creates all sorts of exciting new opportunities for our cohorts and alumni. Certainly a case of watch this space.
For more details on the Future Fifty or to arrange an informal chat with Johnny you can reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org