I have just come off the FT’s Twitter Q&A, discussing how entrepreneurs can raise finance and succeed in founding businesses. Joining the social media discussion was Rod Drury, founder of New Zealand-based accounting software company Xero; Kaswar Al-Khatib, chief executive of Uturn Entertainment in Saudi Arabia; Tom Willemen, managing director of Aswebo, part of the Willemen Groep; and Maria Pinelli, global vice-chairwoman of strategic growth markets at EY, the professional services firm.
Much of the discussion revolved around the challenge of how to encourage more women to gain the confidence and/or cash to build fast-growing global businesses. Clearly some parts of the world are easier to do this in than others, as Kenya’s Jennifer Riria, one of two female finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year award, told the FT in a video interview earlier in the day. Asked about how easy women found fundraising in his native Saudi Arabia, Mr Al-Khatib told the Twitter chat this was becoming easier. There was, he tweeted, “at least one high- net worth business woman” in Saudi Arabia setting up a venture fund for Saudi women. “Stay tuned.”
I was most impressed at Ms Pinelli’s ability to pull a superb chart, explaining where along the cycle of your company’s growth you should seek different sources of funding. The finalists’ advice on how to implement this was sketchier.
What I learnt offline afterwards was that Rod Drury skipped the traditional cycle of fundraising by listing his business on the New Zealand stock exchange before the company had any revenue. The stock price gained 15 per cent on its first trading day and is now New Zealand’s second-largest company by market capitalisation.
It was a risk, Mr Drury admitted, but one that has evidently paid off.