Frederick Achom, is a British-Nigerian serial investor and tech investment entrepreneur with offices in London and New York.
As CEO of Rosemont Group Capital Partners a venture capital firm which specialises in early-stage investments, he operates within a wide range of sectors from; financial services, luxury good and services, renewable energy to emerging technology companies – in markets across Europe, South America, East Asia and Africa.
Speaking to us from his family home in Paris Freddie explains why he will be continuing to cast his investment net far and wide in 2018, with blockchain and fintech areas of continuing special interest.
The 44-year-old, who has spoken of his commitment to giving back and ensuring, ‘that the less privileged can have a shot at succeeding in life,’ explains why his new foundation is supporting the next generation of “bright young things,” including entrepreneurs.
In this illuminating Q and A session, he shares the secrets of his success – and some predictions for the future.
What’s your focus for 2018 and beyond?
Wherever you are, blockchain, the distributed ledger technology, seems to be the focus of business conversations and it’s becoming more and more important to us too.
It’s the new Internet. Internet 2.0 so to speak! It isn’t something anyone in the sector can ignore.
More and more start-ups and founders are tokenising their businesses with the idea to create secondary or alternative commercial value, so there is real opportunity here for those that have a sound technological underpinning. This is the year that many are recognising the future importance and the need to explore this avenue when deciding on how and where to raise seed or growth capital for their businesses.
Many start-ups are exploring this avenue and looking at it very closely. Soon it will be a very crowded space but we have a lot of experience in related sectors and therefore feel we can carve out a niche for ourselves, particularly within the emerging market arena.
We focus predominantly on finance-related tech and virtual currencies may well fit into that.
At this moment we are very involved with at least three blockchain-based technology companies and I am sure there will be more in the very near future as our deal flow, which is predominantly relationship-based, seems to be growing with more enterprise solutions based on this tech.
Are you targeting any particular markets?
We as always continue to focus on the fintech sector but will aim to build on our plans to be a strong presence in emerging markets like South America, East Asia (India and Pakistan) and Africa.
Of course, we do already have a presence in these markets but we would like to be more active as we see huge potential for growth and oversized returns in those markets.
What motivates you as an entrepreneur and CEO?
I find being part of the creative development that an early stage company goes through still offers the same excitement as it did when I started my first business. A new idea or solution, getting involved at that early stage, advising and guiding the founders is a real motivation for me.
When we engage with founders, depending on their needs we can get quite involved if needs be.
We can be quite hands on! We can find ourselves becoming virtual co-founders, being part of that process, developing ideas and concepts – and I love that!
Your Rosemont Foundation works with young people to promote new talent – why is this so important to you?
I grew up believing that I could own my own business. That I could aim high and achieve. I never felt I had a limit, I could see my future.
That was my norm but sadly I know that it is not the same for everyone.
Many young people, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, feel cut off from the business world but that should not be the case.
The Foundation tries to bridge that gap and show that there are opportunities for all within the corporate world. We need and want more diversity in the boardrooms. There is still a lot of work to do to level the playing field but I like working with people, with new talent, helping people to develop and realise their potential.
Self-belief and aspiration are both very important, so we need to help young people develop both of these qualities.
When I see people on the TV show Dragon’s Den sharing ideas, they are often great ideas that they have developed while working for someone else.
I think it’s a little heart wrenching that they have not been able to share this within their current roles, to access or implement that creativity as an employee.
Most are living and helping to implement somebody else’s dream and they need a push to branch out.
Yes, there’s a lot of sleepless nights and stress that comes with setting up your own business but it can be extremely satisfying too and we need to flag that, to promote that positivity and the potential benefits.
What role can schools play in nurturing this talent?
When I was at school I didn’t feel that there was enough encouragement. For me, it was very limiting.
Education then seemed to be more about pushing you towards finding a career that you could do for 40 years.
That idea was never of interest to me at all and so school was not particularly interesting or relevant to me and what I have become.
No one ever really asked what I wanted to do or advise me in much depth as to what may be required to achieve my ambitions.
So we definitely need more and better education around business and entrepreneurship.
Unless you happen to have a very good teacher, the system we have at the moment does not lend itself to producing the kind of young entrepreneurs we know are out there.
You must get pitched to a lot…Do you have any advice for start-ups looking for investment?
Yes, being sharp, concise and demonstrating the depth of your knowledge is a must. I advise people to use these six ‘killer questions’ as a guide:
Do you have in-depth understanding of the user problem (pain point) you are attempting to solve?
Who are you and why do you care?
Can you explain clearly and succinctly your unique and compelling value proposition?
Do you understand the landscape of what is out there?
Do you have a way of distributing your solution effectively, positioning to your target customer – why they should care, and why it’s better and worth adopting (versus what is already available/the competition)?
If and or when others follow suit, what are the barriers to entry – what are your moats (and how do you propose to overcome them?)