Tell us about yourself?
I have always been interested in computer science, and completed my Master’s in Artificial Intelligence at Imperial College London
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Execution is so much more important than the idea. I see some entrepreneurs being secretive and not wanting to tell people what their idea is – this is mostly unwarranted.
As Elon Musk says, you have to have a high pain tolerance to be in the business of building businesses. It’s hard and a lot of people are against you but it’s a rush when you get it right.
Secondly, there is a great advantage to be had in being underestimated in certain circumstances. It allows you to learn much more as people don’t perceive you as competition or as a threat until it’s too late. Finally, it’s all about discipline.
Keep pushing even when there is no clear path – the harder you work the more opportunities you create and only a very small percentage of them end up converting.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
The vast majority of the world is run by people no more capable than you are, so be bold and go for it. Experience is not everything.
It needs to be supplemented with fresh ideas to achieve the best results. Focus on diversity of thought. Make sure to surround yourself with people from different backgrounds and perspectives to yours.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
It can be a challenge, but it’s important to focus on all aspects of life to be able to perform at optimal levels. For me, this is: Health – working out, eating well, sleeping enough.
Work – spending enough time and prioritising high value items. You need to be very clear at all times what the 2-3 north stars are, then rank everything on your to-do list in line with their value-add to those north stars.
It’s inevitable that you won’t always be able to get round to everything on your list. Resources are not infinite, and it’s important to compartmentalise. So often, high value results come from unexpected places so you have to allow for a degree of creativity, not just rigorous process.
Personal – spending time with friends, family and loved ones. Striking the right balance keeps motivation high and performance high. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important to fuel your body and mind to set yourself up for long-term success.
Of course every now and then, there are short bursts of imbalance where work demands a large portion of your time – but a healthy body and mind leads to fast recovery from these too.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
My influences for Aventus are mostly people. While I was completing my Master’s in Artificial Intelligence at Imperial College London, I met Professor William Knottenbelt, Director of the Cryptocurrency Research Centre at Imperial. He introduced me to the world of Ethereum and guided me onto the path that eventually led to the conception of Aventus.
Once I completed my Master’s thesis, Will gave me top marks and introduced me to Daniel Masters, Executive Director of CoinShares – a crypto company that was running some projects in collaboration with the Imperial Blockchain Centre – and a pioneer in bridging the gap between traditional finance and the crypto space.
Danny has been an advisor to Aventus and personal mentor to me since, introducing me to the world of business and fundraising at the top levels. More recently, I met Chas Dabhia, whose wealth of experience in asset management and corporate finance has taught me valuable lessons around the value of having a strong network, and helped drive many of our earlier large deals.
In addition, Mark Cachia, the founder of Scytale Ventures helped to guide us to the vision of true blockchain interoperability via integration with the Polkadot ecosystem, and has made invaluable introductions at the highest levels to make this possible.
Finally, the team at Aventus – my leadership team. Andrew Shackleton, our Chief Services Officer, and Andrey Brozhko, our Chief Product & Technology Officer, who I work side by side with on a daily basis, as well as our wider teams, who are on the front lines making the vision a reality.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
The crypto and blockchain industry has developed somewhat of a bad reputation, because a number of players have built their communities up largely based on hype, relying on the power of the internet to spread the word and get people involved without the robust tech to back it up.
We’ve always put fundamentals first over hype. While others were spending all their dollars on marketing, we were working on building tech that added real-world value, and letting our products and their applications speak for themselves – trusting that our community would grow organically as those involved in the space saw our utility.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
It’s all about relationships. Focus on building them, spend time in person having drinks and be very decisive because a lot of time can be wasted going down the wrong paths.
Find people that are hungry and whose incentives align with yours, and make sure you work primarily with good personalities. Desperation can be sensed and leads to decisions and compromises that can damage future good deals.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
So many I can’t single any one out – they all feel like the biggest when they occur until you have a bigger game plan! But here is one example.
We needed to raise funding for a business which we had ready to go, but we had to complete a group restructure before the investment could be completed, which was dependent on tax authority sign-off.
We had started the process months in advance and the tax authority had 30 days to come back with a response, which they did three times asking questions which had already been answered to buy time, pushing our business to the brink of insolvency.
We got creative and managed to bring capital into the business short-term which did not count as a material transactions, and in the end we got approval just in time anyway. So I would say planning and having a plan B and C for mission critical aspects is always helpful. Give yourself time!
What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?
There are a lot of great people that still reside in or frequently travel through London, making it a great place to build, network and do deals.
Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?
With Brexit, the employment market has become significantly limited and it is not possible to hire contractors who do a large weekly allocation of business, so this has not been ideal for the rollout of our business.
While employers of record are a common workaround, they are very expensive so it’s made the job market significantly more costly and the general trend is you get lower average quality in employees for money paid.
How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
Since COVID, we are actually a completely decentralised team, so office and travel costs have not materially effected us. It’s a strange time because despite rising inflation, there is also rising unemployment as a result of the struggling economy, so salaries are not increasing at the rate of inflation.
Overall, we have had to tighten our belts and ensure financial diligence to protect the future of our business, but we remain focused on building and driving fundamentals to weather the storm as the market turns around.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
I would probably go offshore before going to another UK city – I honestly don’t think anywhere else has the value-add for us in our sector the way London does.
How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?
As previously alluded to – the job market has contracted significantly. It’s much harder to find the same quality employee for the same price.
What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?
In the near future, our next goal is to become a Parachain on Polkadot. This will entail migrating the current Aventus Network onto Polkadot from Ethereum, and then collaborate with other Parachains to offer our clients the combined functionality of the entire Parachain ecosystem.
Our ultimate goal is to ensure widespread blockchain adoption, and that the most effective way to do that is to do that in the public markets. So the goal for the next 5 years is to IPO and take the company public, to bring our vision to as many people as possible.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
Those that believe in our vision and want to support the growth, functionality and security of the Aventus Network can become part of the community by joining our Telegram (t.me/Aventus_Official) or Discord (https://discord.gg/Q4MmEfdjMp).
They can also visit www.aventus.io/news/ and for the latest updates from our team, sign up to our newsletter on our website.