At first glance, Nick Reade could be just another corporate suit climbing the banking ladder. As general manager of small business banking at ANZ, Reade is the man who oversees the bank’s lending to start-ups.
But Reade isn’t a dispassionate number cruncher who has no empathy for the struggle of entrepreneurs looking for funding.
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He is an enthusiast for all things entrepreneurial, having a stake in two web start-ups and a larger, more direct involvement in a third – Jedo, a social media-integrated directory of events.
So how does he manage to mix his dual roles as sober business banker and start-up investor? And what is he looking for when he’s assessing which SMEs to back – in both his day job and his private sideline?
StartupSmart spoke to Reade to find out:
How did you first get interested in the start-up world?
Start-ups have been a passion of mine for some time. I’ve had a career in financial services, but I’ve been interested along the way in the areas of technology and innovation.
I was at SMP in Sydney when I was headhunted by CommSec at a time when the internet was just starting to take off. I saw in that boom, in the late 1990s when I then went on to work on ANZ.com, that there was a huge opportunity around the internet and start-ups.
The entrepreneurial spirit is always something I’ve liked. I like people who have a go and back themselves.
I’ve been working on SME banking now for five years and there’s nothing better than being involved with new businesses. I feel I have the added benefit of understanding where they are coming from when they are looking for money.
I’m involved in Jedo in my spare time. I spend about three or four hours a week on the business. And then there are two other web businesses which I’m more passive with – one in the online storage area and the other in retail.
Why did you decide to be hands-on with Jedo?
Jedo is really one that I can help be successful. Anneliese (Urquhart, the founder) is very good and I feel I can help her with various things to ensure the business can grow.
I have a stake in Jedo of around 30%. I get about five to 10 proposals from start-ups each week from various sources, but I really liked the concept behind Jedo.
Anneliese grabbed me while I was on my way to a function at Crown and pitched the idea to me. The concept behind a business is always very important, but a large part of it is the people and I was very impressed by her.
She proved to be a very strong entrepreneur – she spent 18 months working on the idea in her own time for no income. She has skin in the game, which is the kind of thing you look for.
For me, I wanted to help create something big. We are forecasting earnings of $10 million-plus within three to four years, valuing the business around $80 million to $100 million.
And that’s just the Australian numbers. We should be able to get into the US market, which is about 20 times bigger than here, fairly quickly. Sites like Eventbrite sells tickets whereas Jedo can operate in the middle, facilitating others like Ticketmaster to sell tickets.
There aren’t many others in that middle space and there’s global opportunity there. I want to play my role; I’m not in it just for the short term. I want to help it get to a good level.