Don’t be afraid of rapid experimentation – yes, you will fail sometimes, but this will ultimately set you on the right path.
Nish is the Chairman and Co-founder of blockchain group Finboot, the SaaS company behind MARCO, a unique enterprise-grade suite of blockchain applications and middleware solutions for value and supply chains. MARCO is blockchain-agnostic and can be deployed by a wide range of sectors, including Oil & Gas, Chemicals, Consumer Goods, Automotive, Travel & Tourism and Healthcare, and has been designed to enable quick configuration for multiple use cases.
Finboot recently signed contracts with the energy giant Repsol (as well as securing investment from the company) and tech start-up Minexx, which addresses mineral sourcing issues in artisanal mining (to verify it’s not funding conflict or child labour) – and will be announcing more exciting projects soon. Finboot was also recently named one of Europe’s 25 most promising growth companies by Deep Tech Summit.
Nish has nearly 30 years of professional and entrepreneurial experience in technology, retail, impact investing, healthcare and social entrepreneurship. As well as Finboot, Nish also founded Geosansar, a financial services enterprise aimed at India’s 600m ‘unbanked’.
Where did the idea for Finboot come from?
My co-founders and I were very interested in blockchain from following bitcoin and saw an opportunity to build a business around blockchain technology, as we felt there were multiple business areas that could benefit from its application – particularly supply and value chains.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day early. I generally wake up at 6.30am and go for a cycle ride to clear my head for the day ahead. I am then in my home office working from about 8am. My first call of the day is to our CEO Juan Miguel Pérez in our Barcelona office to catch up on any essentials. It works really well with me being based in London and Juan there, as it means we can double team and pass things back and forth. I then tend to head out to meetings, which start around 10/10.30am and can last for the remainder of the day. In my opinion, there is no substitute for meeting people as you make far more progress in face to face meetings. Then I head back to spend some time with my family, before spending another hour or two in my office before bed. To round up the day, my last call is also to Juan; at weekends, we make sure we have at least an hour long catch-up to make sure we are ahead of the coming week. The way the world is now, you can do everything on the go as long as you have a decent internet connection, so I live on my laptop and mobile phone.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a very creative team and whether ideas are generated in London or Barcelona, they get discussed very quickly by Juan and myself and decisions are taken immediately. It is both necessary and beneficial for start-ups that the decision-making process is agile and quick. If something doesn’t seem like a great idea, we don’t ponder on it for a long period of time. That wastes time and effort that can be spent implementing good ideas. We also encourage a rapid experimentation approach. If you are going to fail, it is better to fail quickly!
What’s one trend that excites you?
It’s got to be Industry 4.0, where data is the new oil. The questions that flow from this are focused on how we store, access, use and analyse data, and blockchain is the core part of that entire equation.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have always been a 24/7 person – much to the frustration of my family! I was brought up with a very strong work ethic and that has stood me in great stead as an entrepreneur when long hours are part of the day job. To me, work ethic combined with a ‘fire in your belly’ are the most important characteristics in entrepreneurship because they allow you to do more and experiment more: of course, failure is a part of this but failing quickly helps you find the right path. We should celebrate those risk-takers who have failed alongside their success, it’s all part of choosing a career in entrepreneurship.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Give back. You are lucky to be in a place where you can shape your own life and hopefully success. There are many in this world who are not. I strongly believe that you need to balance your life by engaging in a social cause while undertaking a commercial one. The right balance gives perspective and helps you to stay humble throughout your career. In my case, I have spent the last 20+ years creating, supporting and leading NGOs on a pro-bono basis. Currently, I am a Main Board Member of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chairman of the London Chamber of Arbitration.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Being Chairman or CEO of a company requires a very large dose of humility. In order to succeed, you need to be able to learn from your team; if you’re not willing to listen then your business is over. We have four leaders at Finboot and our main role is to listen to, promote and support our team. You can’t just bulldoze in and tell everyone how to do everything; if you aren’t listening to your team then you aren’t listening to your customers and the entire business must be focused around the customer.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
At the start of every week, I make a list of tasks under different categories, both commercial and pro bono activities, to make sure nothing falls between the cracks. Both require the same degree of professionalism. I ensure I try and deal with these ‘to-dos’ before they become urgent. This way, I can track every week what has been done and what needs to be done imminently. This must be coupled with dedicated strategy time, and here we aim to have a founder discussion at least monthly.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As you become more experienced in building businesses, you really learn how to work together as a team using a “divide and conquer” approach, rather than just delegation, and this is especially true in a start-up. The great thing about Finboot is that we genuinely take tasks on as colleagues, irrespective of our positions, rather than by strict delegation. This interchangeability allows us to be agile and cover more ground simultaneously.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I started out in my career, I had to quickly learn that not everyone thought and operated in the same way as me – i.e. at a very high-octane pace! You need to be able to understand and appreciate people’s different ways of working in order to take them on the same journey as you.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve always thought there should be an app which tells you how long the security and immigration queues are at airports, as that’s the biggest unknown when travelling. It could be as simple as a green, amber and red traffic light system and it could alert you of the queue status when you’re approaching the airport. That way, if you’re running late for a flight you know whether to even bother trying to make it!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We recently took our puppy to a pet shop and let her run around to “choose” her own gifts – that was certainly the best $100 spent in terms of the happiness it brought to all of us!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Given I am travelling the majority of the time, I use WhatsApp as my primary source of communication because it is so much more instantaneous than email. It saves time, makes conversations quicker and helps move things on faster.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It was a little while ago now but I really enjoyed “Intellectual Capital” by Thomas A. Stewart. It’s all about how knowledge is the most valuable commodity in business.
What is your favorite quote?
If you had asked me as a teenager, I would have said “Life is just a party” by Prince as I am a lifelong fan – may he Rest in Peace: I even had a poster of him in my dorm saying that!
More seriously though, there’s a great quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning”. I think this is all about work ethic and confidence: if you work hard and are committed to learning, then ultimately you will be able to achieve your goals. It will even help you avoid the many potholes in life when others are trying to divert your focus.
• Make sure you are always listening to and learning from your team.
• Balance your life: give back to society in addition to pursuing your commercial goals.
• Don’t be afraid of rapid experimentation – yes, you will fail sometimes, but this will ultimately set you on the right path.
• When you are part of a small business, recognise that it’s all hands on deck and you will be required you to perform a whole range of roles, from leader to bag carrier. Humility will ensure you are fit to succeed in whatever task you are undertaking at the time.
• Work ethic is fundamental: If I don’t know, I will learn but only if I am prepared to work hard.