During September 2018, I interviewed Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, the founder and CEO of Venture Technology firm BlueChilli. BlueChilli connects entrepreneurs, investors and corporates together to solve the world's greatest challenges.
BlueChilli gives startup founders a complete digital team to build their technology, support through Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and US startup incubators, and training via a six-month accelerator program. Startups that complete the accelerator program and have technology platforms engineered by the BlueChilli product development team are eligible for matching seed funding through the BlueChilli VC funds.
Throughout this conversation there were many stories, insights, and takeaways. This post is to highlight three of them.
1. Get yourself a shareholders agreement
Sebastien spoke about one of the earlier businesses he founded which ended in his one and only business divorce. This was the result of an argument that couldn't be resolved. The way this concluded was by invoking a shotgun clause which is a last resort that helps to establish true value between two parties.
The way a shotgun clause works is one shareholder (party A) writes a number on a piece of paper, hands it to the lawyer and then to the other shareholder (party B). Party B then has a short period of time (In Sebastien's case the other party had 10 minutes) to decide whether buy Party A's shares or to sell their own shares for the amount on offer. If a decision can't be made their lawyers will often have power of attorney to wind the company up.
This takeaway is simple! Make sure you get yourself a good shareholders agreement. Check out Simmonds Stewart's templates: https://simmondsstewart.com/templates/
2. Drive culture from the get go
The culture of an organisastion is something people often overlook in the early stages. Sebastien outlines that you need to invest in the culture when you make your first hire. It's extremely important to do before you reach 20 employees as with company dynamics when you reach this size you end up with the culture whether you like it or not.
BlueChilli don't like saying culture fit (because it's a very narrow term) - if you only look for culture fit you'll end up hiring people like yourself. BlueChilli puts a lot of emphasis on looking for people that can add to the culture. Ultimately they are working with passionate entrepreneurs, people who are driven to succeed that might be risking everything. Therefore they need people who are passionate and can match the same level of intensity.
Culture is something you agree at the beginning, however it is not something that is tangible. The way BlueChilli established there values is taking a portable whiteboard to Hyde Park when there were only six people on the team, their values are as follows:
You can and should do things that create an environment which a culture can survive. Start by establishing your values so you've got culture alignment in your team.
3. Create a company vision not a goal
One of BlueChilli's first goals was to build 100 startups by 2016 (5 year window at the time) - when I asked Sebastien about BlueChill's vision and if it had evolved over time his answer was "yes, and I think visions should" - having a fixed goal isn't a good enough Sebastien said. The BlueChilli vision is now "Enabling entrepreneurs to do their lives work." - which is much broader and helps create a shared understanding of what coming to work every day is all about.
Check out the full video here: