Like many others who have pursued the entrepreneurial journey before me, mine has been one of structure and chaos, success and failure, but most of all it has been one of ongoing learning.
Most of the connections I have made in local startup ecosystem would have been through my recent venture, BrickX -- a fintech company that allows Australians to invest in residential real estate by providing proprietary technology and financial services solutions. But my career as an entrepreneur started long before then. In fact, my family would argue it began at the age of four, selling Smarties to friends, but charging extra for the blue ones! In reality, it was following my time as an investment banker at UBS.
The structured environment of investment banking allowed me to develop important soft and hard skills. The 18-hour days paved the way for rapid learning and progression. And while I worked with some very talented people, I was most inspired by the entrepreneurial clients whose businesses we were representing in an IPO or acquisition -- they were the true heroes giving it their all to create value, sometimes out of nothing.
Motivated by what I had seen, I diverted from my path to an MBA at London Business School to take a rather unusual step into the family business -- a high street sports store in London, with a small online offering. My father had owned the store for over 20 years, to which he had been wholeheartedly dedicated to ensuring he could provide for my mother, two brothers and I. But conditions were tough and I felt compelled to use my business acumen to help resolve the situation and secure my parents future, and that opportunity came in the form of the online offering.
What was initially a temporary move to help my parents soon became a fully-fledged career. I quickly became hooked to the responsibility of a joint business owner where I could make key decisions, fix interesting problems, but also feel the pressure to succeed. The safety of the corporate structure was gone, but the balance of opportunity and excitement far outweighed the fear. Yes, at times (usually the low points) I would doubt myself and wonder if I’d made a stupid decision, but ultimately, I knew that our team was smart enough and driven enough to identify the challenges and opportunities to work it out.
Seven years later, ActivInstinct reached nine countries, the revenue had grown to £35 million from £500,000, and we were sending around 800,000 parcels per year.
The business landscape was different to what it is today -- global competitiveness was far less pronounced and we wouldn’t have been able to replicate this success in such a capital efficient way. But the entrepreneurial journey was true. There were many ups and downs, near misses, a few near business deaths, but also many successes, culminating with the business being acquired by JD Sports Fashion Plc.
I learned about hustle, grit, and resilience. I yearn to learn and be agile in order to grow. I don’t know how many of these traits I had to begin with, but when the consequences of failure could result in your parents declaring bankruptcy, you do what you need to get better every day.
That was the journey that led me to Australia. The journey that gave me an opportunity to work from a blank canvas. Once here and exactly 88 coffee meetings later and I decided my next move would be into the property and finance sectors which were ripe for disruption. My thematic conclusion also happened to coincide beautifully with the opportunity to work with Markus Kahlbetzer to launch BrickX.
For 2.5 years I worked with some incredibly talented and committed individuals who worked tirelessly to deliver on our mission to succeed. As their leader, I felt the need to grow in my ability to delegate, and mentor. As a result, my team taught me how to become a better listener and trust more. Together, we launched a revolutionary business, raised a $9 million Series A round, grew to over 12,000 customers.
But I could feel my motivations and desire for purpose were changing. I found myself becoming more interested in sustainability, impact, enabling and giving. My opportunity to fulfill this passion came in January. I was offered the opportunity to work with Antler, a startup generator that helps talented people find co-founders, validate their business ideas and provide a clear and structured path to funding.
My relatively short experience to date has taught me that the most important ingredient to business success is the people. It took me a while to realise you can’t be compromising with talent, especially as it’s arguably the most common source of business failure. So to work with a company which truly democratises entrepreneurship, the opportunity to help ambitious individuals transition out of unproductive or unfulfilling roles to becoming a founder, to help these founders launch exciting scalable, backable and industry changing businesses is an honour and certainly feeds my desire to contribute and create impact.
So now, I have one ask: If you have ever dreamed of being a founder, or know someone who does. We want to talk to you. If you are, or know of an exceptional field expert who has dreamed of being a founder, we want to speak to you. If you are feeling frustrated, unproductive, or unfulfilled your current role and you have resilience, tenacity and a drive to change an industry, we want to speak to you.
This article was written by Anthony Millet, Partner at Antler.