In the Company of Mavericks

In the Company of Mavericks

Conversations with entrepreneurs who dared to be different.

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Episode posted on 04/03/2022

Chris Bogart discusses how he started to dabble in litigation finance as a hobby, but the onset of the global financial crisis led to the formation of Burford Capital and a 12-year journey to industry leadership and a listing on the NYSE. Chris describes how culture, risk assessment and the adoption of data science have all played a part in helping Burford drive its competitive advantage in the developing market for litigation finance. David Seaman of Alpha Cygni Investment Management adds some in-depth questioning on key aspects of the Burford story, including the periods of investor scepticism, its culture and how Chris thinks about risk. Please enjoy. 

Episode posted on 03/02/2022

Gareth Evans of Progressive Equity joins me for a discussion with Jonathan Satchell, Founder and CEO of Learning Technologies. Jonathan talks about his early career, his passion for technology his journey into video training, eLearning and professional development leading to the creation of LTG and AIM IPO in 2013. He discusses how he and his partner, Chairman, Andrew Brode, chose to go the PLC route rather than use private equity. Jonathan shares some of his secret sauce of acquiring and refining businesses that he has acquired and how he got inspiration from the work of Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP. He also discusses how it is important to mix the differing cultures of product and service companies to meet the complex needs of his customers. In particular, he talks about the opportunity his largest and most recent acquisition offers LTG. Despite the short term margin dilution, he believes he has acquired a bargain for his shareholders. In the conversation, we also discuss the positive impact both The Great Resignation and the metaverse are already having on his business.  

Episode posted on 07/01/2022

In this fascinating discussion, Morgan talks openly about how his dyslexia shaped his early life and was foundational in his becoming an entrepreneur. He also talks about how the combination of technology and high-performance people can deliver the complex requirements of large companies and financial institutions. He also talks about why his recent decision to decentralise the business was the best decision he has made since the inception of the business in 2009. Morgan also says developing self-awareness is the best advice he could give someone. Alpha FX Morgan Tillbrook Andy Bryant

Episode posted on 16/12/2021

Hotel Chocolat Co-founder and CEO Angus Thirwell delivers a masterclass in how to develop a customer-led business. We begin with a chat about Angu's early life and the evolution of the Hotel Chocolat brand. Angus talks about the benefits of being a founder-led business which has among other things allowed Hotel Chocolat to build long term sustainable growth by doing the right things and not just the easy things. Armed with a long term strategic ambition to deliver pleasure by chocolate, Angus reveals a real passion for his product and the brand. Angus Thirwell Ben McKeown In The Company of Mavericks IntoFergus

The Episode Timeline:
1.11 - 3.51 Introduction to Angus's early life as an entrepreneur and son of Mr Whippee taking him to The West Indies as a 3-year-old. This was followed by boarding school back in the UK.
3.52 - 5.40  School Film Society initiative with a subscription model and the missed opportunity to start Netflix
5.40 - 6.49  Music and lyrics. Fergus singer-songwriter.   
6.50 - 10.52 From selling technology in France to meeting co-founder Peter Harrison and the formation of The Mint Marketing Company.
10.53 - 12.21  Being led to chocolate by their customers
12.22 -  16.43 The journey from B2B to B2C and challenging suppliers to be more creative. Discovering the gift-ability of chocolate with the Chocogram led to the discovery of the Tasting Club, a key tenet of today's innovative culture in Hotel Chocolat.
16.44 - 19.33 The difference between innovation and novelty. Looking for 10 out of 10 chocolates that excite customer tribes. Black Forest Gateaux drinking chocolate reappears from the 1970s.
19.34 - 23.21 Opening the first shops as a lesson in capital discipline but involved a new overarching brand to draw together Chocolate Express and The Tasting Club. The seductive appeal of chocolat and the delight of a hotel. A new world for consumers to discover the brand.  23.22 - 26.02 Manufacturing and the benefits of vertical integration including better IP protection.
26.03 - 27.59 The spat with Waitrose and the importance of long term properly invested business in control of its own destiny. Doing the right things not just the easy things.
28.00 -  33.03 Overseas expansion and its challenges. A long hard road, a decade in and only just starting to bear fruit. Understanding local consumer preferences. Multiple ways of growing in new markets.
33.04 - 35.36 The pandemic bringing out the best in Hotel Chocolat and the lessons from COVID. Adapting to the new order the benefits of integration and the use of creativity to discover new opportunities. Pledge to keep the Hotel Chocolat family together and keep the chocolat flowing.     
35.37 - 37.59 The development of subscription revenues. The win-win of a hotel Chocolat family supply subscription model. The podster re-cycling coffee maker.
38.00 - 39.20   Impact of supply chain issues and inflationary pressure. Using scale economies and other methods to mitigate cost pressures, but one thing customers require is a continued focus on quality.
39.21 - 42.15 Public listing and retention of independence. Importance of access to capital and the dilutive effect on the founders. Responsibility to maintain the long term provenance of the brand and its values. Has facilitated the funding of profitable growth. Less recourse to external capital in future will enable the business to develop on its long term growth trajectory undisturbed by outside influence.
42.16 - 43.26  The importance of being a founder-led company. In particular the competitive advantage of long term management tenure.
43.27 - 45.59 The 10-year vision for Hotel Chocolat. Pleasure through chocolate. Originality, Authenticity and Ethics are the 3 key pillars of growth. Evolution not revolution is the key. Widening the brand to encompass more categories. 
46.00 - 47.05 The biggest risk to growth is the maintenance of quality and not having too many balls in the air at any one time. The key CEO role is to prioritise projects to maintain quality and grow sustainably.
47.06 - 48.56 New treats to look forward to. The velvetiser is a core product. Coffee ranges and matcha drinks and biscuits of the gods, among others.
48.57 - 50.38 What have you changed your mind about since starting Hotel Chocolat? The big lesson is getting and retaining the best quality people possible. Amazing what can be achieved with a high calibre high performing team.
50.39 - 51.02 Thank you and goodbye. 

Episode posted on 25/11/2021

A Conversation with Alasdair Haynes, founder and CEO of Aquis Exchange. AIM-listed Aquis is a process innovator in the field of share trading and stock exchange technology. In offering the World's first subscription-based pricing Aquis offers its customers a marginal cost to trade of zero. The platform also reduces toxicity, or the impact cost of trading, improving execution efficiency. Aquis also runs a primary listings business called the Aquis Stock Exchange which competes with the LSE's AIM market for listings for smaller growth companies. Additionally, as a technology provider, Aquis offers services to exchanges and trading venues in other geographies and product markets.

Over the last four decades, stock market trading technology has changed completely. National stock exchanges have become more focused on data provision creating an opportunity for newer more adaptable businesses to emerge that can focus directly on the needs of their customers. The Aquis platform offers demonstrable improvements in efficiency as well as cost savings for market intermediaries and their customers (investors) which has driven market share gains over recent years. Aquis already provides 22% of market liquidity in European equities but has just a 5-6% share of the volumes traded. This provides significant scope for further market share gains over time.   

Alasdair has a long history of innovation in the exchange technology sector from his early beginnings as a trader with Morgan Grenfell and subsequent leadership roles at ITG, Chi-X and now Aquis. Our discussion covers the role of change in presenting opportunity, how liquidity improvements drive volume gains and how there is an opportunity in primary listings to create the NASDAQ of Europe via the Aquis Stock. Exchange.

Guest, Alasdair Haynes,

Guest host, Ben McKeown, Director at Dowgate Wealth

Episode posted on 09/11/2021

In today's episode, I am joined by Ben McKeown of Dowgate Wealth and we learn about the UK water buffalo, the importance of family values in company culture, what Gandhi said about customer care and how regular exercise stimulates creative thinking. Oh yes, we also learn about the amazing story behind the Amazon of cream cakes and how naughty but nice is returning to a high street near you after an absence of 30 years and some humbling examples about the importance of giving back. Please enjoy our conversation with the maverick, Sukh Chamdal.

Sukh Chamdal  Cake Box
Ben McKeown
Jeremy McKeown

Episode posted on 01/11/2021

James Crawford UK MD of Naked Wines talks about his decision to join the unprofitable business in 2014 after the relative security of Diageo. He explains why his love of wine and his love of Naked's unique business model attracted him to take the plunge. He talks about the challenges of navigating the acquisition by Majestic and then the later sale of that business which allowed Naked to focus its resources on the biggest prize, growth in North America. Gareth Evans is the Founder and Managing Director of Progressive Equity Research.
Jeremy McKeown Inthecompanyofmavericks 

Episode posted on 30/10/2021

In the Company of Mavericks is a series based on interviews with people who dared to be different and succeed. Along with a guest co-host in each episode, I talk to a maverick entrepreneur in an attempt to understand their journey, what makes them different and what we can learn from them. In the first couple of episodes, I talk to the people behind the Netflix of wine and the Amazon of cakes. Episode 1 - A Conversation with James Crawford of Naked Wines drops soon.