Vestd is the UK’s first, most advanced and only regulated digital share scheme platform for SMEs.
Basically, companies use it to issue shares and options to people who they want to incentivise, motivate and reward with a slice of the action.
We provide a secure, cost-effective way to share ownership with employees, consultants, advisors, NEDs, contractors… anybody who is important to the success of a company.
Our wider mission is to give everybody a stake in society. Business shouldn’t be the preserve of the super wealthy. Everybody should be able to participate and reap the rewards! And on the other side of the equation, if you’re a business owner and you give people skin in the game, you’ll be boosting your commercial strengths in just about every imaginable way.
Tell us about yourself?
I was always entrepreneurial when I was younger and I did attempt to set up ‘Computer Aided Real Estate’ in my earlier years – essentially a precursor to Zoopla or RightMove, but this was decades ago and I couldn’t secure support from the regional enterprise council who couldn’t see how it would work. I guess everything in business is timing!
I then got a job offer from BP and once you are established in a successful career, there’s no reason to get off that ride until life changes and you get driven in different ways. I was one of the youngest group leaders at BP and ended up doing some really interesting stuff as Vice President. It’s all journey and it’s all led me to where I am today.
After bowing out of the energy industry, I decided to set up my own business. I really wanted to do something to support startups today. I realised that my knowledge of contemporary startup challenges probably wasn’t in line with what founders might be facing. We therefore initially set up Vestd as a research tool, to find out what those challenges were.
But actually, we discovered quite quickly that the bulk of challenges came from managing equity and getting people to participate in a business that isn’t yet cash-rich. It’s not just cash that builds a business, it’s effort, talent, strategy.
This could come from consultants, advisors, marketing specialists, researchers…but how to get them to contribute if you don’t have deep pockets to pay market leading salaries? This is when we realised that Vestd had a use in its own right, and that it was the business that we were looking for.
At that point, it became clear that we needed to double-down on Vestd, and that’s what we did.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
There’s so many things I can think of….one piece of advice would be not to go so far down the road with my own money! But then every experience has benefits and there are definite benefits, looking back, at taking the route that we did, even though it felt difficult at times.
I guess it’s like the Sliding doors situation. If you change one tiny thing, everything would look markedly different. So while there are things that were maybe difficult to handle at the time, and seemed disappointing, the fact that those things happened have resulted in where we are. All of the detours and reroutes we have taken have led us to becoming the really strong business we are today.
What problem does your business solve?
The platform gives our customers the ability to distribute their shares without fuss, and gives all shareholders a simple way to check the value of their shares.
Prior to us coming along, companies had to pay thousands to solicitors or accountants to set their schemes up, and the process was pretty long-winded.
Additionally, giving somebody a shares certificate isn’t that impactful. But if they’re able to log into the app every day and see the value of their shares in real time… that’s much more incentivising.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
I’m personally really inspired by the concept of the ‘equity economy’ – basically a way of powering economic growth through the distribution of equity rather than relying solely on cash.
You don’t need money to start a business. You need a great idea and likeminded people.
If people want to know more about this, I’d recommend you’d check out Mike Moyer’s book ‘Slicing Pie’. It really resonates with the way I see the world.
What is your magic sauce?
Our product might be financial in nature, but in many ways, what we are actually selling is team loyalty, happiness and commercial success.
So that’s the magic sauce.
It’s about people, about providing opportunities and about fostering success that benefits businesses, individuals and communities.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We are already the number one equity sharing platform for SMEs in the UK, and the only one that is FCA authorised and regulated and fully (two-way) integrated with Companies House.
The next goal is to become the go-to facility for equity distribution, in the same way that everybody just gravitates towards Xero for accountancy these days.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Actually, the biggest challenge was getting to cash flow breakeven. It seemed at times like an eternal journey, like we were never going to get there. But we had a very clear determination that we would by the end of 2019, and happily, we achieved that.
Up until then it was just a case of trying to get as far as we could without digging too deeply into my own personal resources.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
Oh, well that’s simple! That’s our business.
WE GIVE PEOPLE SHARES AND OPTIONS!
Seriously though, research has shown that if a person has an equity stake in an enterprise, their relationship with it changes, on an emotional and psychological level.
If you accept this theory, then you would want everybody to participate in your share scheme. If everybody has an interest in the success of the business and your relationship is not just transactional (i.e. you are paid a salary) then that changes the dynamic to one of long-term shared reward.
If you’d like to see this in action and you’d like to supercharge your 2022 growth with a company share scheme, you can book a chat with one of our friendly team members here: https://www.vestd.com/free-consultation