The Entrepreneur: Jamie Waller, Firestarters
Having sold previous companies JBW Group and Hito for more than £40m, Young Gun Waller has built a £13m fund to invest in "everyday businesses"
Founder: Jamie Waller
Company: Firestarters Investment Fund
Description in one line: An investment venture building company with a focus on early stage businesses
Previous companies: JWB Group and Hito. Both sold in 2016 and 2017.
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- Firestarters is an investment fund for entrepreneurial businesses, run by an entrepreneur and not a banker
- Firestarters is not looking for the next Facebook or Twitter; it’s looking to invest in good standard everyday businesses
- The Firestarters investment fund of £13 million is Waller's own hard earned cash
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Building two businesses from scratch and selling them for over £40m.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Now, I'm looking at other business' key performance indicators and P&L.
For me it’s all about a business' ability to forecast correctly that makes a good investment. I don’t want to see forecast growth of 45% that is never achieved.
I want to see low double digit growth that is over achieved.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
The investments made are into domestic and international trading companies. It makes sense to have a split of geographical regions for risk management purposes.
Describe your growth funding path:
Firestarter is an early stage venture fund with 100% funding from me.
We do however take on debt to fund deal costs and re-finance some equity from time to time. Over the next few years we do expect to take on further funding and investment to form a larger fund.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Docusign.com – I can sign non-disclosure agreements, Head of Terms and even Share Purchase Agreements from anywhere in the world and avoid mountains of paper. I love it.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
I would like to have invested the current fund fully and be in the process of investing fund number two.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Swapping out most of my senior team as the company outgrew them. It’s difficult to remove those people that were there when it all started. It’s necessary though.
What was your biggest business mistake?
I don’t have one. Mistakes are just bumps in the road for me and if you learn by them they should not be feared.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
None. I am supportive of the Conservative government and their business focused strategies.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Overvaluing their businesses when seeking early stage investment.
Even if they do get some initial money the requirement for them to perform like a superhero is too great and normally kills the business.
How will your market look in three years?
Brexit may reduce the deal flow but that’s not a bad thing. A new leadership race in government will affect the stock market and probably delay a market correction further.
That’s not good for those like me that are trying to get cash working in many different investments.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Keep going. It takes grit and determination to succeed.
My yacht in Mallorca.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
I learnt on the job but enhanced that learning with a course at Cranfield School of Business and Stanford University. These were great courses and were worth every penny.
What would make you a better leader?
More time to dedicate to the business. However, I have a wife and two small children so time needs to be divided carefully.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
If you don’t measure it, it does not get done. KPI’s are king.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
For business: I listen to Jonathan Moules’ Start Up Stories
For person: I use the app Coffee Break Spanish
Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don't by Jim Collins.
Learn more about Waller's business success story here.