‘Start-ups need the right mix of great management and secure funding’

17 Nov 2020

Moray Wright. Image: Parkwalk Advisors

Moray Wright of Parkwalk Advisors gives his advice for start-ups, highlighting the importance of timing, collaboration and diversity of thought.

Moray Wright is the CEO and co-founder of Parkwalk Advisors, which backs technology companies coming out of UK universities and research institutions.

Prior to starting Parkwalk in 2009, Wright spent more than 20 years working for Hoare Govett, JP Morgan, Lazard and Mirabaud. He has also helped advise companies on acquisitions, fundraising, restructuring and strategy.

‘Not every person with a great idea will automatically succeed – it’s rare for an entrepreneur’s first idea to be their biggest success’

Describe your role and what you do.

As CEO, I am responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of Parkwalk. I am also an investment director and sit on the board of a number of our portfolio companies.

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

It is hard to pinpoint one area but we have recently invested in a few new cell therapy businesses and we’re seeing some interesting developments in that sector.

Another couple of areas are quantum computing, the application of tech to mental health, and other areas in deep tech – especially ones that are in the spotlight due to the pandemic, such as the use of AI in drug discovery.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

I think that the initial drive to strike out as an entrepreneur and set up a business is inherent, but I also believe that entrepreneurs can, and should, learn and grow with experience.

Not every person with a great idea will automatically succeed – in fact, it’s rare for an entrepreneur’s first idea to be their biggest success. They will encounter challenges and experience failure along the way, and it’s often how they deal with that and adapt in their next venture that dictates whether a good entrepreneur becomes a great one.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

The most important quality in a founder – or, more broadly, a management team – is the ability to both understand the need to commercialise their idea and identify a viable way of doing that. Often we see teams with amazing technologies, but without a clear focus on how to commercialise it and make the company profitable.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

The most successful entrepreneurs I know are very focused, they have great drive and they also listen. It isn’t always about being the loudest person in the room, but being able to collaborate with other people and listen to others in your team.

How do you assemble a good team?

Diversity of thought is important – too often founders build management teams that look, sound and think exactly like themselves. But picking people from different backgrounds with complementary skills who will challenge your thought processes will make your team better at problem-solving.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

You need the right mix of great management and secure funding, but timing is also vital. Products that come around too early or too late won’t sell – you need some serendipity as a start-up.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Founders can tend to be over-optimistic about what their business can achieve in a short period of time. We see businesses not raising enough funding to execute plans, and then scrambling for more funding too quickly.

While it is admirable that they have great faith in their technology, it can seem foolish and unsustainable to an investor.

What are your views on mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor?

When looking for a mentor, make sure they have relevant business experience and will be able to offer you the insight you need to take your next step. Mentorship can be really effective, provided objectives are made clear at the beginning, but the downside is that often the mentor is very busy. Make sure that anyone you line up as a mentor is willing to make the commitment you need.

What’s the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Don’t try to do it all yourself – you need a good team around you.

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