If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?
Today we bring you the second instalment in our series of founders’ letters to their former selves. Advice, regrets, things they wish they’d known – we think everybody wishes they could give a little advice to who they once were. Enjoy these letters from Trade Ledger and GoodBox (and make sure you read to the end!).
Read the first in our series.
Martin McCann, Co-Founder
You’ll find this difficult to believe, but this letter is to you from you. No joke! A bit like in Back to the Future, I was given the chance to pass some messages to my younger self, so here goes…
First, let’s cover the good news. Most importantly, you keep your hair! You’ll still have plenty of long, thick hair when you’re CEO of your own company. Which brings me to the second piece of good news: you go on to found a ground-breaking company called Trade Ledger together with Matt Born, a friend you’ll meet at SAP.
What is Trade Ledger? Trade Ledger helps banks to lend money to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). It’s a software solution, but not like those you might have heard of. It’s a solution for a new paradigm. Basically, the internet you’re using to send email at university, well that really takes off. People start to use computers (and mobile phones) for most communication and also to consume digital goods, like films and music. What Trade Ledger does it provide a platform for lending in this new digital world because banks are still using paper processes and, worse, they don’t know how to lend against intangible assets like accounts receivables and inventory. So, we fix all that for them using new technology and new data sets. It’s a great business and it’s serving a big societal need by getting money to the businesses that create employment and growth. You’ll love it and hopefully feel as proud of it as I do.
Now, for the less good news. About 15 years from now, you’ll own a waterfront apartment in Sydney, with view over the bay in which you’ll surf most mornings before walking to work. What’s wrong with that, you’re asking. Well, you go on to sell that flat when you move to London to set up Trade Ledger UK. So, my first Marty McFly intervention is to say: don’t sell the flat! Moving to the UK is absolutely the right thing to do for the business because London is at the heart of international trade finance, but you’ll be flying back and forth a lot and you can still use it. Plus, it’s a great investment (with a lot of sentimental attachment!).
You also won’t have nearly as much time as you do now. That’s not to say that you won’t love running Trade Ledger. I’ve never enjoyed anything as much as building something from scratch and solving such an important challenge. Only, with all of the flying and prospecting and raising money and hiring and coaching great people, you won’t have as much time as now for some of your passions. So, take that VW camper van around Europe while you still have the chance, surf as much as you can and you sign up for that Italian class!
I’ll finish with a few words of wisdom (I hope) and some encouragement. Making mistakes is ok, as long as you learn from them. Surround yourself with the brightest people you can, ask them lots of questions and learn from them – you never know as much as you think. You can change course as often as you like, what will become known as “pivoting”, provided you stay true to the company mission and you never compromise on the quality of the platform you build. This is the most important takeaway. And lastly, you’ll want to work 24/7 because it’s your baby and your dream, but don’t forget to keep fit and reward yourself. Capitalizing on the opportunity to transform business lending is a marathon, not a sprint.
All the best my man, I’m rooting for you!
Francesca Hodgson, Co-Founder and Managing Director
A note for my younger self, these are the things I’ve learned:
Don’t be limited by what you know. Sometimes what you don’t know will provide the opportunity for you to do things differently.
Have confidence in yourself and your ability to create change.
Problems are not indicative of failure, merely an indication to try again with a different approach.
You will fail, time and time again, founding a company is not for the faint hearted.
Surround yourself with those whom you can learn the most from.
Understand your why and what it is that motivates you.
Working smarter has huge value and only goes to super charge all your hard work.
Communicate well and put in place processes and platforms that will help you scale.
Never underestimate the value in clearly defining roles and responsibilities with yourself and your team.
Respect yourself and others around you.
You can do it! Being a female founder with a family is challenging, but don’t be limited by society or anyone else who tells you otherwise. It is possible to combine a start-up/scale-up with a family. You know what is best for you.
That said it wasn’t necessary to take that conference call whilst in labour!
Co-Founder and Managing Director of GoodBox