Simon Dixon on the crowdfunding revolution
13 September 2013 -
The BankToTheFuture boss tells us about the democratisation of investment, and why a de-institutionalised economy could be poised for success
In his previous career at the coalface of investment banking and corporate finance, Simon Dixon rubbed shoulders with business leaders and quickly caught the entrepreneurial bug. As well as establishing his firm BankToTheFuture.com as one to watch in the thriving field of crowdfunding, which has brought investment to the online masses, Simon has (somehow) found the time to write two books: Bank to the Future and Student to CEO.
Simon spoke about his financial passions at the CMI National Management and Leadership Conference on Thursday 10 October 2013.
What does your business do?
In the simplest terms, we’re an investment platform that aims to democratise investing. Anybody can be an investor, and what we provide is a route similar to Dragon’s Den on TV, but for everyone. There is a tax advantage for people who invest in a business, and when businesses seek finance, the result is often that other people get employed. We’re saying that these tax savings should be available to anyone.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?
I was originally an investment banker, and one of my first jobs was working as a trader. Eventually I saw that there was more to businesses than just the numbers, and I set out to understand more about those numbers. Later on I worked in corporate finance, helping venture capitalists to take businesses public, and met a lot of CEOs whose companies were on the stock market. Very quickly I realised that I was on the wrong side of the desk. From that point on, things moved fast – I handed in my notice and started my business straight away.
What do you think is the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed in people management right now?
The biggest issue that I see at the moment is people who are working for the wrong companies. When you’re working in a small start-up, you need everyone on the mission. I’ve seen many people with the right skillset who aren’t suited to that kind of role, but because of the climate we’re in, people really want jobs and can sometimes talk their way into the wrong posts. That process of matching a personal vision with a company mission is really, really challenging. I’m completely happy to work with people who want to evolve their skills, whether graduates or non-graduates – but passion is the most important quality.
What do you hope conference delegates got out of your talk?
I hope that people left with a few more questions about what happens with their money. People have an impression that their money just sits in a bank account, safe and sound, but actually quite a lot happens to it, and I hope that the session will make people more conscious of where they allocate it. Although we are in a challenging economy, innovation is producing opportunities, and we’re a long way from an unrecoverable disaster. Finance is entering a de-institutionalised future based upon people, not big organisations.
What single legislative change would you bring in to improve prospects for entrepreneurs?
That’s easy: a current hot topic is that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is about to start regulating crowdfunding. We’re really committed to helping the FCA understand the field, and to make sure that the regulations are drawn up in such a way that we don’t lose the crowd from crowdfunding. Keeping the field is as open as possible will be the ultimate gift to businesses, as there are not enough sources of money right now.
If you could manage one blue-chip company for a day, which would it be, and why?
I’d love to manage Apple, because there would be so much to learn about two things: marketing and innovation. I’ve just read Steve Jobs’s biography, and one of the things he said was that Apple is the largest group of start-ups in the world, under one roof. It would be interesting to learn about its management structure and how it creates efficiency despite huge pressure to deliver. How do you maintain start-up culture in a blue-chip?
What piece of advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
This is a team effort, and you’re going to have to find people to share your entrepreneurial journey with you. At the very least, you will need someone to create a product, and someone to sell it. While we have the internet and outsourcing and other modes of distance working, there’s no substitute for having people alongside you.
Also, a lot of entrepreneurs are very protective of their ideas. But pitch to as many people as possible – you won’t get far being in charge of a secret that never matures.
Your fantasy leadership dinner guests are…
Mark Zuckerberg, Larry and Sergey from Google, Richard Branson, and Dave Fishwick from the Bank of Dave.
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