Choosing who you pick to join you on a business building journey is one of the most important considerations. Joining forces with James Caan again, Faisal Butt talks Real Business through his new venture and explains why he thinks it has the ingredients to succeed.
(1) Please tell us a little about your business background
I come from a property family, so I grew up with business and property lingo at the breakfast table. But I’m also a total tech enthusiast at heart – what I enjoy reading in my free time is more tech and innovation oriented.
After an MBA at Oxford University, I set up as a private equity investor in Mayfair right in the midst of the global financial crisis. The timing was right, but I also have some very supportive business partners, who have played a key part in my success to date.
Since I landed in London in 2009, I have worked hard to establish myself as one of the most active investors in the UK focusing on new property businesses.
(2) What about the new venture – what will it be doing?
My latest investment, POD, has a vision to be a property manager that puts the customers first. The management of blocks in the UK is a clunk and old industry, and customer service is often poor. Tenants of multi unit buildings currently have a poor customer experience, and POD aims to change that. The founder we have backed, David Goldberg, is a visionary with a track record of execution, and has a concrete plan to pull together the best team in the sector to create a superior offering for his industry.
(3) Why have you decided to go into business with James Caan?
James Caan has been a mentor and a big supporter of mine since I came to London in 2009. We have co-invested together in a number of property related businesses including 90 North, Accouter and emoov.
I decided to go into business with James Caan because he’s been a great mentor to me and we share a common ambition to back the next generation of property entrepreneurs, and it’s been a fruitful partnership for both of us.
(4) How far back does your relationship date?
We met when I was doing my MBA at Oxford in 2009.
(5) What have been the key entrepreneurial learnings during your career?
It’s important to surround yourself with smart people that inspire you and keep the bar high with regards to who you will go into business with. I also believe in only doing business with people who share your personal and business values in life.
Be very supportive of entrepreneurs you back – being an entrepreneur can be gruelling and unrewarding at times – and investors need to be nurturing and empowering.
(6) What do you most wish you’d known, in hindsight, about business when you started out?
Nine years ago, when I first set up as an investor in London, I wish I had the instinct I have today with regards to identifying excellence. When you’re younger and less experienced, you don’t know what good likes like.
My instinct today is my guiding light, but it has been developed by facing many hardships and going through hundreds of business plans and entrepreneurs.
(7) How has getting a new venture off the ground changed over time?
There is plenty more capital available. Anyone with a decent idea can probably raise capital via the many routes that are available now days. This is probably good for entrepreneurs but makes an investors’ life more difficult as we need to sift through many more business plans to identify the winners.
(8) Of your startup investments, what excites you enough to part with cash?
I am inspired by people that think big but also have the execution capability to bring a big vision to life. I am very focused on investing in businesses in the property sector, so people who share my focus excite me. Outstanding management teams excite me – I cherish being surrounded by super smart people.
On a personal level, I am naturally excited by technology, and this shows if you were to get a sneak peak at the pile of magazines on my bedside.