A small key to a Big door
1 September 2017
How did you get your idea/concept for your business?
We initially looked at trying to solve ‘identity’ but everyone else was trying to do that, without looking at the root of the problem. I always go by the ‘thinking from first principles’ which physicists (and Elon Musk) use, which allows anyone to look at things from a deeply logical approach. When I met my Co-founder we found the answer: identity needed to be ‘solved’ somewhere that you find the highest concentration of ID requirements…and if ID is carried in documents, which you always need to travel internationally.. the airline industry is the obvious start.
What is unique about your business?
my Co-founders and I bring together a combination of expertise (In both cryptography and the airline industry) in a unique way, ‘Aviation Technology’! Having initially focused on our first 2 patents in order to prove and protect the tech, we then pushed on through growing our business with real focus and clarity on aviation needs.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Everyone wants to go after low hanging fruit, but we are in it for the long haul. We focus on clients and projects that require both patience and a big vision. The air travel industry is incredibly difficult to break into but we were determined and our execution is in full force! So far its all very challenging but working well.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Choosing to go after the first aviation accelerator ‘Hangar 51’ in 2016. It is the first of it’s kind, and purely focuses on the largest corporates in the airline industry. This allowed us to gain great mentorship and understanding from inside of the corporates. It reminded us that you simply can’t do everything at once, even if your technology has the potential to do so – you need to focus on a niche and be careful about your go-to-market strategy.
If you could time travel back to day one of your company, and have 15min with your former self, what would you say?
Get the book ‘Venture deals: be smarter than your lawyer and Venture Capitalist’ by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson. You can’t know everything and as a founder looking for investment, this book helped bridge the gap and understand the process.
I would also tell my former self to get proper advice on how to structure a company. Cheap ‘startup’ advice is not always the best. However, there is a lot of good free advice available – in fact, the bigger the firm, the more professional services advice they give away for free, so get plenty.
What are some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way you work.
AT VChain we have a 20min ‘Cup of Tea’ every day, when I speak with each member of our technical leadership team about absolutely ‘anything but work’. If they are sick I want to know, if they have any external pressures or issues I need to know, if they are having personal challenges I want to help. We support each other, not just regarding work issues but any ‘life’ issues. We also make sure to celebrate successes, both work and personal.
I always say that as CEO I am both ‘Cash extraction Office’ and ‘Value extraction Officer’, it’s my role to build value into the company – and our people and the way we work is our biggest value.
Do you have any tips on how to manage work life balance? Do you have any hobbies that help you switch off?
A supportive partner is key to anything in life, and especially for the Founder of a growing company. I’m very lucky as my partner chooses to be a hugely supportive part of my journey every day! My daughter also helps to keep me grounded and I consciously take time to be with her. She forces me to find balance, and take time off – which I know I wouldn’t do without her.
What is the best advice you received, that you still follow?
People are human first! No matter who you are, we all need to be treated with humility – and that goes for driving both personal and business growth.
If you had one piece of great advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Be prepared to say NO to everything else in life, in order to focus enough to have a successful business. Don’t be a victim of your situation, enjoy what you do and own it. Finally, ruthless prioritisation for everything is the only way forward!
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
I would like to call out 2 women who I admire:
1) Wendy Tan White, who is just no-nonsense get-on-with-it believer in pure hustle – and with her cofounder also being her husband + two kids who are both older than my one, I take my hat off to her – and learn a lot from her whenever we get a chance to catch up. Despite her demanding schedule, she makes time for people – and I admire that greatly.
2) Bindi Karia, head of Bindi Ventures www.bindiventures.com who is a dear friend and a great advocate for women in tech and entrepreneurship in London, the UK, and beyond – she often gives me advice and, as the most connected woman in tech I know, she also advises politicians in Brussels and several government agencies on fostering innovation. She is also my daughter’s godmother and someone I am proud to call a part of my family.