Henrik Ottosson has recently exchanged his City investment banking job for the entrepreneurial life, and is loving it. He is currently working for Invesdor, a Northern European crowdfunding and investment site with more than 8,000 investments so far, averaging €170,000 per round.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I studied Banking and International Finance at Cass from 1995 to 1998, back when the school was based at the Barbican. I must say that this building here in Bunhill Row is lovely, it really feels like an investment bank! Coming to study at Cass was the first time I’d been to the UK and I’ve been here ever since.
What have you been up to since then?
I went into investment banking in the City, and then two years ago I decided to become an entrepreneur. I am now the UK manager for the Nordic crowdfunding website Invesdor.
I understand that another Cass alumnus is part of the Invesdor team as well?
Invesdor started in Finland two and a half years ago, by Lasse Mäkelä (Banking and International Finance, 1997) and a few others, focussing on the Nordic region as there were no crowdfunding sites in the region. I actually came to the business as an investor. With crowdfunding it’s easy to move from investor to getting involved in the companies, and a year ago became part of the team, charged with expanding into the UK.
In April they became the first crowdfunding company to be regulated in all of the EEA, and are now looking for more entrepreneurs to bring into the portfolio. They want entrepreneurs both who are starting out and who are looking to expand. But it’s not just about the money, it’s about the marketing. Running a crowdfunding campaign is a great way to both get investment and increase recognition of your brand.
What are the benefits of crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding has removed that distance between the investor and the recipient. Traditional private equity investments involved a middle man who managed the money and the relationships, and the investor just sat back and watched the money grow. Now, with crowdfunding, there’s that closer connection, and in fact there are many more cases now of the investors actually getting involved in the company, like I did, bringing contacts and expertise, and really helping it grow as well.
Do you attend many alumni events?
I am increasingly going to more alumni events. When I was in investment banking, I had my own network which worked for me, but as an entrepreneur you really need to reach out much wider. The alumni events are fantastic for this because you already have that connection with people. It’s also much easier with the social media that the alumni network has, which really adds to the community feeling. I’ve also just taken part as an advisor on the City Starters weekend.
What is your top tip for entrepreneurs?
Start early! It takes much longer than you expect for things to get going. Most companies that we work with usually want to get up and running straight away, but it’s more important to get the marketing, network and funding in place first.
With the benefit of hindsight, what would you tell yourself in the past, when you were thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?
I became an entrepreneur two years ago and I have never looked back! You’re never really ready to strike out on your own, but if you have an idea you really should believe in yourself and get on with it. I could have done it earlier, but there is a time for everything.
What’s next for you?
Invesdor already number 1 in the Nordic region, and are launching in the UK, so we are busy building their entrepreneur network. The UK as it has the largest crowdfunding market in the EEA and we want to make an impact here.
Personally, I want to carry on being an entrepreneur, it’s really interesting to meet lots of people from different industries, and I’m really excited to be part of the emerging FinTech industry. It’s really disrupting traditional finance and London is the best place to be if you want to be part of it.
Crowdfunding, social media, networking and brand awareness are all part of starting up a new business today and it’s so exciting to be part of the process.
Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London? Churchill Arms in Notting Hill
Favourite holiday destination? Lebanon
Must-check every day website? Invesdor
Dream travel destination? There are too many to choose from! Greenland would be amazing
Cheese or chocolate? Cheese
For more information on Invesdor click here.
Read more Cass-related blogs here.